What are Goshuin?
Goshuin are red seals with calligraphy that you can receive at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. They usually include the name of the shrine, the date, and some other information. Goshuin for every shrine and temple are different. It’s a lovely, unique thing you can receive to commemorate your visit.
The name means:
御 Go – Honorific, usually translated as “honorable”
朱 Shu – Red, vermillion
印 In – Stamp, seal
Simply put, they are a record of one’s pilgrimage. When done for religious purposes, when the owner dies, their goshuincho are burned with the owner so they can take them into the next life.
Before you panic and say “Hey! I’m not Shinto/Buddhist!!!” don’t worry. In modern times, it’s a much more secular activity with even native Japanese people collecting them for their beauty. It’s become so popular among young women that women who collect them are often called “Goshuin Girls” or “Shrine Girls.”
What Is a Goshuincho?
In Japan, special little books to record information are everywhere. Everyone has their bank book and their prescription books. There are stamp books for train stations and at some theme parks, you’ll see special stamp books just to collect all the park’s stamps in. These all end with “-cho”
A goshuincho is similar to those cute little stamp books, but you absolutely don’t want to mix them up. Goshuincho are special books that your goshuin are stamped and written in. They are accordian-style books and you can open them up and see all the goshuin inside.
You can buy them in bookstores or at most major temples and shrines. I like to get them at shrines because they usually feature a beautiful image of the shrine or something its famous for. If the shrine has its own goshuincho, it’ll be available at the same place you buy things like omamori. But if you just want something with a nice design and don’t care about having a temple’s goshuincho, Hollyhock has a lot of cute designs. I love their cute accessories.
Most goshuincho are about 1000 yen and if you buy it at a shrine, the price includes the first goshuin. Sometimes at more famous shrines it can be as much as 2000 yen. If you buy a goshuincho on site, sometimes it will also include a special goshuin.
How Do I Get Goshuin?
So you got your goshuincho and you want to get some goshuin! How do you do it??
Most of the time you just go to the same area the shrine or temple sells omamori and ofuda and such, however sometimes it’s in a different location. In this case, keep an eye out for a sign with these kanji: 御朱印
When you find the place you can receive goshuin, offer your book opened to the page you’d like the goshuin and say “Goshuin wo onegaishimasu” or just “onegaishimasu.” You are expected to offer 300 yen for a goshuin, so please have this ready.
Sometimes you’ll arrive at a site and the calligrapher is not available. In this case, they often have goshuin on loose paper available. You can either frame these for display or paste them into your goshuincho later.