What is a temple and shrine seal book?
I think most people outside of Japan don’t know about these temple and shrine seal books and I wish I knew about them earlier, too!
Whenever you visit a shrine or temple in Japan, apart from praying you can also buy lucky charms, omikuji or ema (wooden wishing plaques).
Furthermore you can receive special seal(s) of that temple / shrine. Each one has a unique seal! Some offer even more than just one seal design, so sometimes it’s hard to choose!
Where can you get the seal books?
The seal books are called“朱印帳” (shuinchou) in Japanese.
I certainly recommend this as a souvenir, especially for people who keep coming to Japan again and again and so can collect new seals every single time they visit.
There are many types of seal books. A lot of them are rather plain with no pattern or images on them.
The really big temples or shrines usually have nicer looking seal books.
They cost around 1000 yen and you’ll get your first seal in the temple / shrine you bought it for free.
Try to copy and paste [朱印帳] into Google’s Image search and you’ll see all the great designs!
While I originally posted this article in 2011, I have to admit that in recent years more and more facilities seem to offer these temple and shrine seal books. It’s much easier to get one nowadays (2018).
This is a photo of my second seal book. I bought it in Miyazaki’s Aoshima Srhine.
My first book that was pictured earlier was purchased at Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Pictured above is my 3rd book which I obtained at Ikuta Shrine in Kobe!
To be honest, by now I’ve lost count, but I think I’m on my 6th book at the moment (status: March 2018).
Let me know if you’re interested in seeing my other book designs as well.
Of course, Japanese people do not keep those book as a souvenir. For them it has a religious background. I was told that many Japanese people take those books into their grave when they die. Others try to get the book full while doing one of the famous pilgrimages. Among the famous ones is the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, but also the Kumano Kodo.
What about the actual seals?
Once you’ve gotten some seals it looks like in the photo above.
One seal per page. It’s a pricy souvenir as one seal usually costs 300 yen. As for what is actually written, it depends. On the side you always get the date (in the photo: December 30th 2010 = my first 2 seals ever). In the middle written in bigger letters is often the temple’s or shrine’s name (but not always).
I think it’s a very unique and special souvenir that not everybody has. The monks or priests who are about to write the seal into my book are always surprised to see how many temples and shrines I’ve already visited. (And when I tell them that it’s my 6th book, don’t even ask what’s going on! *g*)
Apart from receiving the seal, it’s also very calming and interesting to watch the monk or priest writing the seal with a big brush and black ink.
So, what do you think?
Isn’t this a great souvenir to get? Have you ever heard of them before or do you even have a seal book?