Goshuincho – Keeping Your Sacred Memories in Japan

Japan was always famous for peaceful shrine grounds and beautiful temples. Recently, Japanese shrines and temples are becoming more and more popular for tourists. Although personally for me, I visited these places for prayer and gratitude, sometimes for photos of the artistic and unique design of the place. It could be the red and gold combination of colors, red or black, gigantic torii's (Torii is the term for the gate found in front of shrines or temples), it could be unique spots the shrines are sometimes built such as in the middle of the lake, on top of the mountain, or even made of bamboo, stacks of hay or even copper-roofed. It's the uniqueness of the place that always attracted me.

While Japanese believe in the power of Gods in every shrine, they also go for guidance, wellness, happiness and giving thanks.

Shrine Manners

Kansai explorer on Wikimedia Commons.

Torii

  • Remove your cap, beanie etc.
  • Bow before you enter the Torii gate.

Washing

After you enter the Torii gate, a water source can be found nearby. It is mainly there for believers to wash and cleanse themselves before facing the altar.

  • Use your right hand to hold the ladle and scoop some water from the tub.
  • Wash your left hand.
  • Transfer the ladle to your left hand and wash your right hand.
  • Let your right hand hold the ladle again. Pour water into your rounded left palm, gargle, and spit. Note that although the water tastes good, it is never advisable to drink.
  • Return the ladle.

You may now be ready to enter the main shrine.

While some just want pictures for memories, some get a sacred writing and art souvenir to keep that only Japanese shrines and temples can give. It is called Goshuincho.

Goshuincho (御朱印集) – The booklet where shrine seals are stamped. Usually available in the shrine.

Designs vary depending on the shrine too. Price varies from 2,000 JPY to 2,500 JPY.

While most will accept your booklet as long as you pay, please be careful that some Shrines won't accept Temple Goshuincho. Some prefer to have separate Goshuincho for shrines and temples though prices are just the same.

Goshuincho. The left one is from Kinomiya Shrine in Atami. The embroidred cover shows the shrines famous landmark, Kane ni naru Ki (a tree that turns into money). The right one (pink) is a sample of Temple Goshuincho from Narita Shinsoji Temple. The cover design is the architectural image of the temple.

Goshuin (御朱印) meaning the seal of the shrine. Price for stamping is 300 JPY to 600 JPY.

Remember to donate some pocket money. While some shrines just want you to give depending on your heart, it will be best to give 500 JPY in the donation box.

A sample of Goshuin. Red stamp shows the official shrine stamp and the black shows the date of visit and name of the shrine written thru calligraphy.

What exactly will you receive inside the booklet? The main shrine stamp is red usually in big square, and the black ink is written through calligraphy by authorized shrine personnel. They used cake ink for the calligraphy and carefully strike the brush on the booklet.

Remember that you will likely not be the only one at the temple getting a Goshuincho stamp. Depending on the popularity of the shrine, sometimes it may take long queues and hours for your booklets to be stamped. The best thing to do is, after washing, go directly to the Goshuin Sealing Counter. It is usually beside the Omamori (Lucky Charm) counter. When it is separated, signs on where to go are always visible. Usually the staff will let you open the page where you want to put your stamp on. They will then give you a time when they will finish with a waiting number which means you can roam around first and go back later. This will be a good chance to line up for the altar and pray.

Shows a sample of the number waiting number.

On Praying

  • Throw some coins provided in the altar. Some altars have rope and bells attached to them, you may move the rope and sound the bell.
  • Perform 2 Bows.
  • Do 2 Claps.
  • Say your prayer.
  • Perform 2 Bows.
  • Finish.

After praying, you can now roam around the shrine and take photos. Before leaving the shrine, your Goshuincho will be ready. You now have the best shrine memory and souvenir from Japan.

READ MORE : Red Seals and Black Ink: A Beginner’s Guide to Shrine Stamps.

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