Goshuin: The Origins of Japan's Stamp Rally Obsession

Goshuin of the Karasumori Shrine, Tokyo
Goshuin of the Karasumori Shrine, Tokyo | © Guilhem Vellut/Flickr
Alicia Joy

Tokyo Writer

Stamp rallies are often included in the roster of activities at many festivals in Japan, but why? The nation’s affinity for collecting stamps – the ink kind – could be related to the centuries-old practice of goshuin, temple seals gifted to the truly devout.

What are goshuin?

Goshuin, or shuin, are seals given to temple visitors, usually in exchange for a donation. “Go” is an honorific prefix that indicates the elevated status of the seals and shows respect for temple culture. In Japan, both Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines have goshuin. The seals are unique to each location, making them an ideal collector’s item. They involve not only a standard ink stamp but personalized calligraphy by the temple workers (kannushi), including the name of the temple and specific information regarding the date of the visit.

Goshuin of the Karasumori Shrine, Tokyo

The history of goshuin

A goshuin made at Ginkaku-ji

How to receive goshuin

The first step to collecting goshuin is to get yourself a special notebook called goshuin-cho. These are sold in bookstores, specialty shops, and at the shops of larger temples and shrines, especially famous ones. You can’t use any old notebook.

If you can’t read Japanese, just ask where you can get goshuin (goshuin wa doko de morae masuka) and politely ask for the stamp from the kannushi behind the counter (goshuin o onegai shimasu). Not all temples will distribute goshuin, and the fee for each one varies. Remember that these seals are sacred; don’t treat this event lightly.


Goshuin today

For a long time, collecting goshuin was strictly an interest among the elderly and devout. Today, however, these beautiful temple seals are making a comeback among Japan’s youth. Brands have sprung up catering just to goshuin and temple culture. Kichijitsu, for example, makes colorful and youthful goshuin-cho (books for collecting goshuin), goissho bukuro (storage pouches for goshuin-cho), and other religious items using a mixture of modern and traditional Japanese motifs.




landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article