I’ve arrived unexpectedly at a shrine with the distinct feeling that I don’t have my 御朱印帳 to get a goshuin. Ah, wait, of course I do.
For just a few coins, many shrines and temples in Japan will stamp special shrine stamp books (goshuinchou), adding the date and some hand-drawn calligraphy, as proof of your visit. Every shrine and temple has its own design, and of course since the calligraphy is written by hand every person writes with their own style. In times bygone, these books served as something like proof of your devotion. When the priest was around, you would get your seal handwritten, but when he was away, you had to make do with a stamp. As the stamps became more beautiful and loved, they combined the stamp and calligraphy into what we see today. It’s certainly the inspiration for the ubiquitous modern day stamp rally, which you can’t escape in Japan. Proper goshuin collecting has exploded in popularity recently, and I’m happy to join the masses of Japanese women lining up for my little memento.
Living in Japan, I went to a LOT of shrines and temples. When there’s another one practically around every corner, it’s hard not to. But I didn’t start collecting shrine stamps until my last couple months and was of course hooked instantly. Not least of all because collecting proof you’ve visited this or that shrine or temple satisfies the collection-oriented mindset that a lifetime of casual RPG-playing has trained me for. I’m no completionist, but I do love the thrill of collecting. I won’t even admit to you how many books I’ve already filled. Forget taking a selfie or checking in on social media, it’s really all about #goshuinoritdidnthappen.
We’ve found it: the portal to another world.
As soon as I step inside the dream skips and halts, and I’m seeing it over and over, wondering where it leads,
going in but never coming out, like an endless void falling forever,
until my alarm jolts me back.
I searched far and wide and finally found that portal inside one of the few Tadao Ando buildings in Tokyo. Issey Miyake and Tadao Ando are one of my favorite duos, so 21_21 Design Sight holds a special place in my heart. It’s fun to keep an eye out for whacky and interesting exhibitions (there’s no permanent collection). My favorite so far was centered around that classic snack, Kinoko no yama. Still no word on where that portal leads, though.
Julien David top / Topshop dress / Haider Ackermann boots
I’m riding an empty train at dawn, watching the blue and misty world go by.
Scenes from the most beautiful train ride I’ve ever taken, watching dawn break from Toyama to Takayama.
It’s funny how suddenly you can find yourself accidentally reliving a dream. The sense of deja vu pushing at my consciousness brought this dream to the surface easily, and it made this silent and sleepy ride even better.
Of course you’ll have to trust me that the pictures don’t do it justice.
In my dream I’m hoarding pots of mosses and all kinds of plants aflame with autumn color.
Though I dislike crowds, I knew I had to risk it to see the fall colors in Kyoto. I’ve been waiting ever so patiently for my first autumn in Japan, and now that I’ve gotten a taste for it I’m hooked. You don’t have to smoke plants to get high off them, let me tell you. I could probably look at an infinite amount of beautiful fall-colored trees. I certainly understand, but don’t quite ascribe to, the intense obsession with cherry blossom season here, but the sight of one nice maple sends me into an excited frenzy. Combine fall leaves with a particularly cute patch of moss nearby, and I’m basically melting with happiness.
I probably always loved moss, but it was a 7th grade school trip to the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington that really cemented my obsession. With mosses, lichens, and liverworts everywhere you turned and a knowledgeable guide who was more than happy to teach me, I practically crawled my way through the forest learning about stairstep moss (Hylocomium splendens), sphagnum, liverworts, lettuce lichen (Lobaria oregana), and any other plant I could get the name of. Japan is, of course, a dream land for a bryophyte lover like me, with an abundance of colonies growing seemingly everywhere.
Even if you’re not specifically interested in mosses, I do recommend reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s poignant and informative book of personal essays about moss. Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses is one of those books that seemed to be written just for me, but anyone with an interest in nature, science, Native American history, or the environment will find this a quick but extremely satisfying read. And you may very well grow to love mosses as much as I do.