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Stamp Mania in Tokyo

by Paul Joulot

When I came from my hometown in France to Tokyo, I was lucky to be hosted for a few days by friends of mine, living there for four years. They gave me the opportunity to acclimatize myself to the city, took me to some famous places, explained to me how was the railroad working, and above all, they talked to me about stamps. In the old Japanese days, people were not using signatures like us, but formalized their documents with unique stamps, with their names written on it. And the stamp mania and stamp rally were on. All kind of stamps are now located in Tokyo, so let me introduce you to this world.

Train Stations Stamps

Ushigome-Yanagicho Station stamp

There are around 880 train and subway stations in Tokyo. Almost all of them grant you a little stamping post, where you can ink your stamp book. I bought myself a book in a 100¥ store. Those stamps are usually picturing some famous places or attractions located around the station. Some of it can be very difficult to find, since Japanese train stations can be mazes sometimes. If so, feel free to ask to the man working in the cabin near the gates. You can show him your book, if stamps are already in, or ask “sutanpu wa arimasu ka ?” (The u sounds like in You, and the r like an l). You can also write personal things next to your stamps, which can be cool.

Temples and Shrines Stamps

The Shrine/Temple Stamps

My friends also talked to me about those, which are more specific, and not free. In some huge temples/shrines, you can see some shops selling nice diaries. Those are actually not diaries. Those are goshuincho. Costing around 1000¥, buy one and ask someone working here to write something into it. For a donation between 300 and 500¥, depending of the shrine/temple, you will get some nice piece of calligraphy, with the date, the name of the place, some nice words, and a nice big red stamp on the middle. To find them, look for a ‘Goshuin’ sign, or just ask ‘Goshuin itadakemasuka’ and show them your goshuincho. This book can be a awesome nice souvenir from Tokyo. What is also noticeable about the diary is that you can unfold it like an accordion, displaying all the stamps you collected.

The Goshuincho

Stamps in Other Places

Rigugien Park Stamp

Not only train stations, temple and shrines have stamps in them. You will be able to find loads of free stamps in places such as parks, towers, and even police stations. Those one are the most difficult to seek, since you can’t know if they will indeed exist.

Exclusive Stamps and Stamp Rally

Often, stamp rally are organized through Tokyo. For instance, a Sailor Moon one took place last autumn. The rules are simple. You have to get all the related stamps in a limited time to get a reward. Those stamps are very unique since limited in time, so don’t miss them.

Some Tips Before Starting your Frenzy

I would like to give you some of my personal tips before anything. First of all, you book. You should buy a book with not too thin/light paper, 0.8 mm and more should be suitable. The ink might not be well absorbed if the paper is too thin. Also, some of the inkwells can be very old. So if you want perfect stamps, don’t hesitate to buy your own inkwell, or push very hard on the stamp, it works well too. My last warning is this one: be careful, because stamp hunting is very addictive!

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