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.