【Culture】”Goshuin”, artistic seals given at shrines and temples2015.09.09

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Recently, it has become popular among young Japanese women to visit shrines and temples. One of the reasons for the trend is the collection of “Goshuin.”

“Goshuin” is a seal that is given at shrines and temples. It usually consists of two parts. One is vermillion stamps that belong only to that shrine or temple. The other is handwriting of the name of the shrine or temple, the date of the visit, the name of the deities and other messages. In addition, some “Goshuin” seals come with artistic paintings of a long-nosed goblin, ancient Buddhist monk Bodhidharma and other figures. There are shrines and temples that offer several kinds of “Goshuin,”from which visitors can choose the one they like.

“Goshuin” or “shuin” literally means “a red seal.” Originally, it was given as a receipt when worshippers dedicated their copied scriptures to shrines and temples. The practice of collecting them is supposedly linked with people who were making pilgrimages to various holy places such as the 88 Shikoku Sacred Sites. In such pilgrimages, “Goshuin” may be given on the white costumes worn by the pilgrims.

“Goshuin” can be a good souvenir for foreign tourists, but there are some manners when you get it.

First, you should prepare a special notebook called “Goshuin-cho.” It is considered rude to use a piece of paper from an ordinary notebook or a memo pad. “Goshuin-cho” is available at shrines, temples, stationary shops, book stores and even on the Internet. You should write your name and contact on the book as it often takes some time to receive “Goshuin” after submitting it. It may be better to separate the books for shrines and temples.

Second, you should offer prayers to the deities at the shrines or temples before receiving the seals. “Goshuin” is something given to worshippers as a proof of their sacred visits.

It typically costs around 300 to 500 yen. So it is nice to prepare small change so that you don’t need to receive the change.

Lastly, you should handle the “Goshuin” seals with some respects. It is not merely a collection of stamps at railway stations and tourist spots. They should be treated the same as amulets and talismans given at shrines and temples.

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