The best personalized souvenir you can buy in Japan is the Goshuinchou book. This book you use to collect the unique stamps of each temple you visit during your trip. The litteral translation of “Goshuinchou” is the “Honorable red-stamp notebook”.
A Goshuinchou book does not open like a regular book but you can unfold the pages like an accordion and only one side of the pages will be used. As a result all the pages can be revealed at one time showing all the different stamps of the temples you have visited during your trip. E.g. back home you can frame the book unfolded and hang it at the wall of your livingroom.
An empty Goshuinchou book you can buy at your first visit of almost any temple in Japan. The (still) empty books are sold in the temple shop with the monks. Then with black ink the monk will hand-write the name and date using traditional Japanese calligraphy. Afterwards he stamps your book with a large red stamp that is unique to that specific temple. You pay (donate) usually ¥200-¥500 to the temple and then you’re given back the notebook with its beautiful black calligraphy and vermilion red ink.
At the next temple you don’t buy a new book, you give them the one that you already have. The monk at the new temple will place his artwork directly next to the ones that you have already received. By the end of your trip you have this collection of original artwork that literally traces your journey through Japan.
The average Goshuinchou can hold 20 stamps. Everyone’s notebook ends up being different. Aside from the names and dates being distinct, each monk and temple has a different style. The order in which you go to various temples also makes all the books look different.
Tip: do use this book only for stamps of the temples, do not put other stamps in!
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