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Temple and Shrine seal book

You have probably seen a temple and shrine seal book already, but you were not sure what exactly it is?
Trust me when I say you’re missing out on something GREAT!

 

What is a temple and shrine seal book?

temple and shrine seal book in Japan

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).

temple and shrine seal book in Japan

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.

temple and shrine seal book in Japan

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?

temple and shrine seal book in Japan

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*)

Japanese Seal Book for temples and shrines

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? smilie

65 Comments

  • Hi! I love the Shuincho, I am halfway through my third book by now. I call it “my little passport to heaven” (just in case the Buddhists are right! (^-^;)

    • Hello. :D
      Thank you very much for your comment, really appreciated.
      Wow, your 3rd book already? That’s awesome!
      I wonder how many books I’d have by now, if only I had started earlier.
      Yes, you’re supposed to take it with you into your grave aren’t you?
      I’m sorry :sweatdrop2: (if Buddhists read this *g*), but I don’t think I will.

  • So pretty! ;u; I will definitely buy one when I go to Japan this summer. They should have some in the Meiji Shrine, I guess? It’s pretty big after all. What is this book called in Japanese? ^-^

    • Hello! :D
      Thanks a lot for posting here! As you know I love your blog design a lot! ^-^
      Those books are called “朱印帳” (shuinchou; shuin = seal; chou = book, e.g. phonebook).
      The really cool ones with pictures on it aren’t available everywhere. It doesn’t have to do with the size of the shrine in my experience! I have no idea if you can get them in Meiji Shrine. I haven’t visited in 5 years (long before I knew about those books!!). My feeling tells me no.
      Recently I saw books like that at Aoshima Shrine (Miyazaki Prefecture), Mt. Yoshino (Nara Prefecture) and Yamadera (Yamagata Prefecture).

      You can get simple books without any print almost everywhere, though, but I guess that’s not what you want?! ^-^;

      P.S.: I’ll give you a little hint. Copy the Japanese word for it and paste it to Google’s picture search. You’ll see some really beautiful designs and it also gives you an idea where you can get the books (if you can read some Japanese).
      Darkblue seems to be the most common (like the one in my photo, too). Now I also have a lightblue and a pink one, though.

      • I’m sorry for the late reply Dx
        But thank you so much! I will try to find one, otherwise maybe I can have some friends get one for me kekeke =u= But yours is so pretty, I think I might steal it. :<

        • Haha, thank you?!? :kyah:
          I have 3 books by now. One is lightblue and one is pink. The pink one I purchased at Ikuta Shrine in Kobe.

          One reason why I don’t recommend that others get the book for you is that at most shrines or temples you’ll get your first seal for free when you purchase the book.
          It should be you in person and nobody else who receives that first seal, don’t you think? ^-^

          I’m sure you’ll come across a few facilities that sell the books. In the meantime you can collect the seals on a sheet of paper and just paste it into your book later. :thumbup:

  • Hi there!
    I really like your post about the seal books. I have been collecting for some time and am in the middle of my second book. My first book is from Takao San shrine in Tokyo prefecture and my second one from Todaiji in Nara.
    I was wondering if people get seals from the same shrine twice or multiple times each time they visit?
    Cheers,
    Tobi

    • Hallo!
      Danke für deinen Kommentar! :D

      I started in early 2011 and will soon start my 3rd book. I wonder how many books I’d have by now if I started in early 2008. Too many! *g*

      That’s a good question. I don’t.
      I’m not sure if it makes any sense to get the same seal from the same shrine several times. As far as I understand you should collect as many as possible from various sacred places, but I don’t know for sure and I’ve never asked other people about it to be honest! ^-^;

  • I was just fascinated to read about these ~ I love them and the books are so nice too ~ I was fascinated to see the Monk writing the seal <3
    I just wished back when I use to travel to Japan I collected these, but I always seemed so busy ~ but its a good excuse to go again & start a book.
    Thank you for sharing it ~ I really loved it !
    Syd

    • Hello Syd! :D
      Thank you so much for your nice comment!
      I know! I wish I could have discovered them earlier as well! ^-^;
      You definitely should get one and collect seals the next time you come here!

  • How delightful to see such a detailed post on Shrine and Temple Books. My first experience seeing one was at Nikko, it brought me to tears seeing the monk writing. I had finally landed in Japan after over 30 years of dreaming. Since then I have a treasured collection from many years alongside my journey studying Japanese calligraphy in Gunma. If I had to think of one beautiful object to carry as a memory and actually to keep by my side as a spiritual guide and visual companion, a temple book would be that object.

  • Howdy! Have been following on twitter and checking your blog recently – saw this post. Those are really cool :teary: When our family goes back to Japan we will have to try and find some. I also found a website that has a few listed: http://chrbru.net/page-seal-books.html There is one listed for Meiji that is nice, but not quite as nice as those you posted :D

  • Thanks for this post. I actually read yours before your answer in Yahoo ask! lol =_=

    I am on a year Exchange in Kyoto and discovering goshoin is purely by accident. Interesting and very cool blog. Thanks again.

    • Hello! ^___^
      Glad you like the blog.
      You’re lucky that you’ve discovered them now! I wish I had discovered them right after moving to Japan as well! :(

  • Hello! :D

    I’m really glad I found your blog last week! I found a lot of new things here that I really like! :kyah:
    Setsubun , Japanese New Year and these Sealbooks for example ! :fan:
    I’m really glad I found out about them this early ~. This way I can start them at the beginning of my holiday! I can’t wait for December~ , I will stay in Japan for three months then !
    I hope everything goes well! :sweatdrop2:

    • Hello Mana!

      I’m so happy to hear that you like my blog and thank you for being so supportive!
      Oh, you’ll come to Japan for 3 months? Is it for vacation?
      I’m sure you’ll enjoy it! ^___^

      • You’re welcome! :happy:

        Yes I’ll be on vacation~
        And I also want to see what everyday life in Japan is like. So I will be staying in an apartment for 3 months :)

  • I just learned about this yesterday from another gal that we went on a trip together. After watching the monk stamp her book I was sold mine comes from Zuiganji Temple and it has the Date Family seal on the cover.

  • Thank you for the link to this article!

    The reason behind my intention to do temple pilgrimage is because of this anime. Pay a visit to Kurama temple would be pretty fascinating. Maybe in the process of my pilgrimage, I will also find peace and may be salvation too :)

    I hope in the future you could continue your pilgrimage again. I’m looking forward to your next post! ^^

  • Hi! First off, I want to say I love to look at the pictures on your site and Instagram! You take such beautiful pictures, and it’s really a pleasure to be able to look at them. Thank you for so kindly sharing your experiences and photos with us all! :D

    Secondly, this is such a great idea! I’m hoping to be able to go to Japan some time soonish, and I want to do a lot of travel while I’m there. I really want to visit a lot of shrines and temples so this would be the perfect souvenir! :D

    Looking forward to reading more from your blog~
    Byeeeee! :heart:

    • Hi, Rei! ^___^
      Aww, thanks so much. I’m really happy to hear that.

      It’s one of the best souvenirs I can think of and if you plan to come to Japan more than once, it’s even better! :D

  • Lovely post! I just started my own shuincho and wish I had done it much sooner.
    Still, it gives me something to look forward to doing on my next trip back!
    The monks are invariably kind and courteous — and I give a small omiyage at the end which makes them smile in surprise (dried mangoes from the Philippines, which I always carry with me when I go to Japan)

  • Thanks to your post, I got my first shuinchou from Sensoji temple Asakusa in my first trip to Japan last year :D I realized that not all temples have them, and only managed to get another two from Fushimi Inari (at the base and at the 10th station). It was so much fun, but I did feel a bit guilty being all chuffed about my temple souvenir when it’s regarded as a religious item…Wonder what the monks must think about this gaijin awkwardly asking for a goshuin :disappointed: Having said that, it’s like a small piece of Japan I’ll treasure always, along with the eki stamps :thumbup:

    p/s: Also read your lovely Tashirojima entry and was all set to go there last year when the typhoon hit and I was stranded in Sendai instead T__T

    • Aww, I’m so glad to hear this! ^____^
      Yes, they’re not available everywhere which makes them even more special in my eyes.

      Japanese people aren’t very strict about their religion. I really don’t think they mind if we just use them as souvenirs. In fact, most of them seem to be happy that we’re interested in it PLUS they get money for it. ;)

      Oh, noes. I’m sorry. Sounds like you’re a “rain person” just like me.