Shuin-chou / Heian Shrine

Friday, November 5th, 2010 | Shuin-chou | 2 Comments

Anybody that has known me for more than a short period of time knows that my hobby, when you look at my life in general, is having a lot of hobbies. To be entirely honest, I’ve had so many hobbies that I can’t even begin to remember them all. Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had a real hobby, but I’ve finally stumbled upon something new that I’ve become pretty interested in. It is, as the title of this post suggests, my Shuin-chou. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything to the large majority of the world, so I doubt that many people reading this blog (if any) will know what it is.

Written in Japanese, it’s 朱印帳 (shu-in-chou). “Chou” means book, and “shuin” are red seals. So it’s a book of red seals. Okay, so I should probably explain it in more detail than that. First, though, some background. In Japan, there are two primary religions: Buddhism and Shinto. Buddhism is prevalent all over Asia, and recently, the world, but Shinto is unique to Japan. In the past, Shinto and Buddhism mixed rather often, but from the 1600s on, due to anti-Buddhist sentiments and various other causes, rigid separation between Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples was put into place. All over Japan, there are temples (which are buddhist) and shrines (which are Shinto).

So getting back to the point: what exactly is a “shuin” and why do you need a book for it? Well, when you go to a larger shrine or temple, you can, for a small fee (usually 300 yen — about $3), have them sign a book and place their red seal on it. It usually includes the date and the name of the temple or shrine, but sometimes also has other things written. I first learned of them when we went on a class trip to Kyoto. One of the teachers, Nakabayashi-sensei, had started her Shuin-chou in January, and the other teacher, Watanabe-sensei, saw it, thought it was cool, and started her own. I saw theirs and thought they looked cool, too, so I asked them and learned what they were. Of course, I then bought one immediately and got my own started. It was at Heian Shrine, in Kyoto, which was built in 1895 for the 1100th anniversary of the establishment of Kyoto. It was designed after the Kyoto imperial palace, on a 3:5 scale — but even so, it’s rather large.

It’s a really cool shrine; it’s probably one of my favorites. Of course, it was also the last of the shrines and temples we visited on our Kyoto trip, but I guess that means I just have to go back to Kyoto eventually to get the shuin from all the other places, too. Anyway, that’s all for now. I am planning on posting a bit about each shrine or temple I visit, so stay tuned!


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