Goshuincho- Japanese Stamp Books

 

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Examples of different stamp book

For those who love to read and travel, there is nothing like merging your love for both. When I traveled to the beautiful country of Japan in December 2015- January 2016, I decided I wanted my own literary/bookish treasure of Japan. While doing research regarding all the temples I wanted to visit I came across the “Goshuincho” or literally “Honorable red-stamp notebook“.

 

The stamp books are available for purchase at different temples across Japan. I have seen so many different designs if you try to buy all the ones you like you’ll go broke. Some temples usually carry a  stamp book exclusive to that particular temple. Each temple usually has a “goshuin” (meaning seal but also used interchangeably with stamp) also exclusive to that temple. Fortunately for me, I love both stamp books that I bought. They are very different from each other and unique in their own way.

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Left- Hakone Shrine stamp book; Right- Koyasan stamp book. Bookmark bought at the Kyoto Handicraft Center

There are a few more different designs of stamp books here which have very colorful designs. I’ve read different stories regarding their origin. One in particular states that these stamp books were used by those making pilgrimages to the different temples. The seals (or stamps) were evidence of having visited that temple. Another version is that the seals were given to patrons of the temples.

The books I found were usually around 1000 yen ($8.96) although this can vary. The seals themselves are done in your book for 300 yen ($2.69). There are around 2000 temples and shrines in Kyoto alone.  Although I’m not sure if every shrine and temple stamp the books from what I’ve seen a good number of them do. That’s still a lot of stamps!

The stamp book on the left (pictured above) I bought from the Hakone Shrine near the Moto-Hakone Port where Processed with VSCO with a5 presetyou can take a sightseeing cruise (pictured below). The front and back covers are cloth bound with beautiful illustrations. With one of my stamps, they enclosed a little sheet of paper with what kind of information they put on each page like the date and the official temple name. Sometimes they even include a bookmark too! It’s still confusing for me when I open these books since books in Japan are opened from the left side of the book and usually read backwards from right to left.

 

 

 

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Sightseeing cruise at the Moto-Hakone port
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Hakone Shrine Stamp Book from back to front, opens on the left side, turn page from left to right.
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The stamp books themselves are fold outs. Each page has the seal/stamp of the temple you visit and Japanese calligraphy with the temple name, among other things.

The other book I bought was from the Kongōbu-ji temple in Koyasan also called Mount Koya. The Kongōbu-ji temple is the head temple for Shingon Buddhism, a sect of Buddhism. Mt. Koya was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a secluded “temple” town which is accessed by a long train ride and cable car. This area is known for the various temples, operated by monks, who allow tourists to lodge at their temple.

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Kongōbu-ji temple in Koyasan

Anyways, back to the book! The book is made of cedar wood from the forests surrounding Mt. Koya.

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I was able to get 11 seals from different temples in Japan such as the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple, and Sanjusangendo in Kyoto, Shittenoji Temple in Osaka and Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.

I hope you all like this post. This is one post I was a bit excited about since I love to share things about Japan, having fallen in love with the country, its culture and its people.

What do you think about these books?

Has anyone done any “touristy” book buying?

On a side note, for all those who use Instagram, you can follow me @thebooklovingpharmacist. I’ve been toying with book related audio clips and such.

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