Goshuin and Stamps: A Great way to bring Japan back home with you

Once you are in Japan, the first thing that hits you is that it is different from home in every aspect, especially if you don’t already live in East Asia and it’s not just the alphabet.

First, it’s really colorful, not only in the night with the neon lights like in Shinjuku or so, but under the daylight too. You can see decorations and lanterns everywhere if it is a festival day perhaps in the summer when there are lots of lots of festivals (Matsuri). 

You will probably buy some stuff from the Matsuri counters, maybe a Japanese fan, an item that embodies Japanese culture more than others, like we did in Gion Matsuri (had to, due to sweltering heat anyway). Because it’s quite hot in summer, everybody has a fan in their hand, it’s a necessity more than an accessory. Or a souvenir from Matsuri?

Special Festival Shrine Stamps, or Goshuin

However the biggest souvenir from the matsuri are Goshuins which are special stamps that you can get imprinted on your Goshuincho (for more information about it, please read this post) from temples and shrines. 

Note: We were told that it is best to get a separate goshuincho for the matsuri seals. When the priests saw our goshuincho with some temple stamps already in on it they looked confused and we asked around if it was ok to do it. 

During the festival they have exclusive and special stamps associated with each float (a wooden construct that is sort of a shrine on wheels, that gets dragged along a route during the final day of the festival), and they are really beautiful. We realized this quite late and did not get all the stamps from the floats. Well there is always the next time 🙂

The Goshuin collected is a good souvenir also because you will see so many temples and shrines that after a while you don’t notice some of them in the way. Getting to the counter, and asking for a stamp really puts a face in your mind associated with the place and creates a unique memory. This is why the most meaningful and precious remembrance from Japan is our Goshuincho. Every time we were in a temple or shrine, the first thing we did was pay our respects and then go to get our Goshuin. 

Where to get a Goshuincho? 

You may get a goshuincho from the first temple/shrine you visited or from a stationery store like Tokyu Hands. We did get one from the first temple and I got one just for the love of its cover from Tokyu Hands but got filled only with the temple one, the other is waiting in our library for our next trip to Japan. 

It’s waiting for our next trip to Japan

Note: Beware that if you stamp or write anything else in the goshuincho, the priest may decline to use it for Goshuin. It makes sense to keep things tidy given how the priests also give an effort to their calligraphy. We got by by looking confused, disheveled, and a bit lost so they gave us no trouble, but I could sense some were annoyed with the state of our dirty and untidy goshuincho. Bonus fact: they also sell amazing Goshuincho covers and bags so that the books don’t get dirty. (Ours did get dirty after all that handling). So treat it with care and love:) 

And beware that sometimes there is no one in the temple/shrine, but they are leaving already prepared goshuin for that purpose, and you pay the fee and collect it.

Maybe the most precious Goshuins are the ones we got from Iseshima

More Stamps to collect: Japanese philosophy of “gotta get’em all”

Goshuin philosophy extends into regular locations in my opinion as well, as the Japanese put a certain value to every public location in their life; it may be a post office or a national museum or a trekking route or a park. That’s why every place has a stamp as a souvenir. Therefore my advice is to bring a (several in fact) notebook(s) that you love or buy from there especially for these stamps. Unfortunately we didn’t notice these stamps until Hakodate, so I decided to stamp the pages of my notebook where I took the notes of our journey everyday (hence the blog can be written after 2 years).  

Erhan’s note: There are amazing guidelines to collecting Goshuin, or even Goshuincho themselves are highly sought after. I have even heard of a wooden walking stick that gets fire branded with temple stamps along the trekking/pilgrimage route in Kumano Kodo. I regret asking for it. Here are some links to goshuin guidelines where you may find more detailed information.

  • About the Gion Matsuri Goshuin

Sharing kyoto a guide on goshuin

  • Some  reddit posts that explain quite a lot 

guide temple and shrine stamps

unique goshuin

  • Some more links about goshuin

a guide on Savvy Tokyo

Japanese stamp books on the book loving pharmacist

I really hope you read this post before going to Japan, and get these notebooks with you home. Our goshuincho is maybe the most valuable thing we bring from Japan. It is amazing how dear a souvenir becomes when you actually put something of your own into it.

For past travelers, did you know these before your trip? Did you get any of them? Any crazy goshuin we should have not missed, or goshuincho that is coveted? Comment below to share your experiences. 

Next post: Our day in Akihabara…

Stay tuned

Who we are

Hi Everyone,

We are Mine and Erhan, a couple who spent 2 months in Japan from July to September 2018. We wished to tell our story sooner but life happened and we had to postpone it. Still, today we are writing this blog  since late is better than never, and there are still good memories and stories to pull from our adventure.

This blog is all about our experience in JAPAN.

I like to start telling our journey by introducing myself and my husband Erhan. If you don’t care about it, please go to the next post (bookings) or jump right into our adventure (Day 1, Tokyo) because the story might take a bit long.

First of all, even though it is a couple’s journey, I (Mine) will tell the story and Erhan will make some extra notes for you.

Erhan’s note: Mine’s name means mountaintop in Japanese. My name means nothing whatsoever and is quite difficult to japanify.

I (Mine) studied Chemistry in University, I even earned a Masters degree in Science. After graduation, I realized that I wasn’t into laboratory stuff so I found a job in the patent industry, became a Turkish patent agent and passed the exams for being a European Patent Attorney except the last one. I worked for 11 years as a patent attorney. I was happy about it except all the exam fuss but was it my dream job? I was always interested in photography, I started to make money and got a DSLR but didn’t make time to learn it too much until 2013. I was traveling for business and for leisure so I started to take photos more and more and it became a passion to me. Around 2017 I realized what was my dream job: being a photographer!

Japan was always a country that I wanted to explore, especially in terms of photography and I came to realize working full time, this wasn’t an option. I didn’t want to go there for a week or two only to leave with a brief experience much like the package deals tourists get. Together with some other factors this strengthened my resolve. So, I decided to quit my job and pursue my dreams.

Erhan studied Computer Science in the USA, then went to the Netherlands for Masters but ended up starting his own company with his brother there: Gray Lake Studios (http://graylakestudios.com/). He is an indie game developer and they have an app for TTRPG’s http://prodnd.blogspot.com/. We were lucky since he is able to work remotely. He is an amateur photographer too. You can say that he was always enthusiastic about Japan by looking at his collection of Manga and his Youtube history of Begin Japanology of Peter Barakan ( btw, if you haven’t watched them, I highly recommend it, it is informative and really really relaxing!).

We were high school friends who spent many years without each other after graduation but always kept in touch. We got married after dating for 6 months at the age 35 🙂 It’s a long story which may become a post in future.

Japan was a dream to both of us, so after quitting my job, we started to make our big plan.

All the photos in this blog are taken either by me or by Erhan. Erhan’s speciality is architectural photos, while I’m into street photography. We both used during the trip Fuji X-H1 as the camera, and as phones me an Iphone 8plus and Erhan a Samsung 8.

All right are reserved.