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What are Goshuin and Goshuincho? A Complete Guide for Foreigners

Updated: Jul 1


What is Goshuin and Goshuincho? Meaning and Significance

What are Goshuin and Goshuincho?


Do you know what Goshuin and Goshuincho are? Goshuin, received at temples and shrines, is a record of your connection with the divine, symbolizing your visit. Each Goshuin, varying by location, consists of stamps and calligraphy, typically featuring the temple or shrine's name and the deity or Buddha's name.


The origin of Goshuin is said to date back to when pilgrims received a "Nokyo-in" as proof of sutra offerings at temples. Over time, this evolved, and now you can receive Goshuin without offering sutras. However, since Goshuin often bear the names of deities or Buddhas, it's important to treat them with respect.


Goshuin are usually written directly into a Goshuincho (stamp book) during your visit. However, in cases where the calligrapher is unavailable or special paper is used, pre-made Goshuin may be given.


What is Goshuin and Goshuincho? Meaning and Significance


Types and Storage of Goshuincho


A Goshuincho is a book used to collect these stamps. There are various types and sizes, with many temples and shrines offering their unique designs.


Types of Goshuincho


Goshuincho can be broadly classified into two types: "accordion-fold" (蛇腹) and "Japanese binding" (和綴じ). Accordion-fold books are the most common, featuring a zigzag pattern. Japanese binding, an older method, uses thread to bind the pages, like the Goshuincho created by Tokiwa Shrine in Itabashi, Tokyo, in collaboration with a local contemporary artist.


Sizes of Goshuincho


Common sizes include paperback and B6, but they range from A4 to small, pocket-sized books. However, extremely small books can be difficult for calligraphers, while overly large ones may leave too much empty space around the stamp.


Original and Limited-Edition Goshuincho


Many temples and shrines offer original Goshuincho. There are also unique designs made from lacquer or cypress wood, and even Goshuincho sold as official merchandise by singers. Additionally, some shrines offer limited-edition Goshuincho during festivals or New Year, making collecting them enjoyable.


What is Goshuin and Goshuincho? Meaning and Significance

Important Note


It's important to understand that a Goshuincho is not just a regular notebook. When receiving Goshuin, you cannot ask for them to be written on loose paper or in an ordinary notebook. This is a significant difference from a stamp-collecting event.


How to Store Goshuincho


Since Goshuin often bear the names of deities or Buddhas, handle them with care. Avoid exposing them to moisture or oils, as they are written with ink on paper. Store them properly, perhaps on a dedicated shelf in your bookcase, and consider using special boxes made from paulownia wood to protect against humidity.


What is Goshuin and Goshuincho? Meaning and Significance

How to Receive Goshuin


Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to receive Goshuin:


1. Prepare a Goshuincho


First, obtain a Goshuincho. While they are usually available at temples and shrines, large ones often offer original designs. Check availability before your visit to ensure you can get one. Alternatively, you can buy one from a stationery or souvenir shop, but check the paper quality to ensure good ink absorption.


2. Visit the Temple or Shrine


Next, visit the temple or shrine and make sure to properly worship before requesting a Goshuin. It is inappropriate to only collect the stamp without paying respects.


Some tourist-heavy temples and shrines might ask you to leave your Goshuincho at a designated place before entering. Follow these instructions if provided.


3. Receive the Goshuin


After worshiping, go to the reception desk or nokyojo to receive your Goshuin. Open your Goshuincho to the desired page and hand it over. Pay the fee after receiving the Goshuin.


What is Goshuin and Goshuincho? Meaning and Significance


Etiquette and Enjoyment of Goshuin Collecting


Remember, Goshuin should not be treated as mere stamps or collectibles. They represent your spiritual connection with temples and shrines. Approach each visit with reverence and respect for the deities and Buddhas.


Avoid behaviors like eating while walking, taking unauthorized photos, or recording videos. Since each Goshuin is hand-drawn, they will naturally differ. Do not ask for specific designs or request that they match pictures you’ve seen online.


What is Goshuin and Goshuincho? Meaning and Significance

Enjoying Goshuin Collecting


Since the date is recorded with each Goshuin, you can look back and enjoy the memories of your visits. Even revisiting the same temple or shrine can yield different Goshuin as the calligrapher may change, altering the style.


Take the time to appreciate the details in each Goshuin. For example, some shrine Goshuin include the names of deities. Learning about these deities can deepen your understanding of the shrine’s history and significance, enhancing your overall experience.


Collect Goshuin in Kagurazaka with Us


You can also receive Goshuin at Bishamonten Zenkokuji Temple and Akagi Shrine in Kagurazaka. Why not collect Goshuin while strolling through Kagurazaka, a hidden gem in Tokyo where you will hardly encounter any foreigners? Our English-speaking guides will assist you in collecting Goshuin, making the experience smooth and enjoyable.



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How to Access Kagurazaka


The Kagurazaka area is conveniently located within 30 minutes from any major station in Tokyo. This is because Kagurazaka is situated in the heart of Tokyo, at the center of the Yamanote Line. Please come and visit this convenient and charming Kagurazaka.





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