I mentioned earlier that the Japanese are all about collecting location stamps. In our travels, I quickly noticed that many places, from museums to train stations, will have commemorative rubber stamps that you can collect in a notebook or pamphlet. I don't know if it's the Type A overachiever in me, but adding this dimension to any excursion makes me happier than a camel on Wednesday. So when T found this blog post about the seven slopes of Tennoji and how there's a booklet for collecting stamps from temples on each slope, I was totally game.
Thus was my introduction to the wonderful world of goshuins. As it turns out, collecting stamps from shrines or temples doesn't appear to be a new idea but rather an old tradition. According to Wikipedia, 'goshuins' or the special commemorative stamps from a temple or shrine are believed to have come from receipts given for a dedicated copied sutra. Today they're customarily collected in a 'goshuin-chou' (stamp book- which is often times beautifully decorated) to commemorate one's pilgrimage to the shrine or temple. You can usually purchase a goshuin at most temples and shrines for a modest fee and in most cases they'll record the date of your visit and the name of the temple in beautifully handwritten calligraphy.
As T's father lives in Tennoji, we figured this temple walk would be a great way to see the neighborhood. So we set off with high hopes after a quick lunch at home. As we forged up alleyways and wandered around corners on our quest, what impressed me the most straight away was the mind boggling number of old shrines that are in Tennoji. I don't know if this is typical of most parts of Japan, but it literally felt like every other building we passed was a shrine or a temple. And while they all shared some similarities, no two were ever alike. They were all unique. It was also extraordinary to see these vestiges of ancient times juxtaposed with uber developed urban life.
Six hours, 2 mosquito bites, and one flea market later we hobbled home with a major case of hamburger feet and a large dose of self accomplishment. Despite a slow start, we managed to work our way (backwards) over all seven slopes and collected stamps from at least one temple from each slope. And as if that wasn't enough, as I pressed my last stamp into place, I was presented with a certificate of completion by the nicest old woman ever. A certificate of completion?!?! Now that's what I'm talkin' about!! Not gonna lie, I was feelin' myself that day. Hey, if not for the little victories, what do we have to keep us going?