“Goshuinchō” shrine seal books are popular these days, but not too long ago it was considered something only the older generation or the especially devout used while touring shrines.
While the style of the book covers is all very traditional, what’s stopping us from adding new designs to the traditional styles?
Here is where a new style of seal books started, as an art student’s idea. This titillating mixture of tradition and novelty draws you in with its slightly psychedelic vibe.
Hikari textiles specialize in very traditional uses of fabric, like the golden borders that frame hanging scrolls and the gold‐brocaded satin damask used for Hina dolls, all featuring gorgeous patterns using golden thread. The president of Hikari Textile, Mr. Yoshimi Kagami, says that when the production of hanging scrolls was at its peak, monthly sales of scrolls alone exceeded 10 million yen. But it became clear that this trend would soon fade out, as fewer houses displayed traditional scrolls and they were seen as more of a luxury item.
Mr. Kagami had to search for a new hit item to create. At that time, his son Takuya asked Professor Masaru Suzuki of Tokyo Zokei University, who taught design and directed exhibitions in this town, "Can we collaborate with your students?" At first, Professor Suzuki was against industry-academia collaboration, as students would work on their own designs instead of focusing on their thesis, only for the collaboration to end with the factory making some quick cash. He thought there’d be no point in industry-academia collaboration if it doesn’t lead to something sustainable. But, perhaps inspired by the enthusiasm of Takuya, Professor Suzuki eventually gave in to the idea and an unprecedented industry-academia collaboration was formed. The"Fujiyama Textile Project" began in 2009and continues to this day.
When Professor Suzuki agreed to the collaboration he had two conditions. One was, "Students have to think of designs that would be profitable to the weavers." The other was, "The weavers can never say ‘no’ to the students' ideas." And so new brands were created one after another through this textile project collaboration. For example, the Hikari Textile original brand of optical textiles, "kichijitsu," was created through the 2011 Fujiyama Textile Project.
By 2011, collecting shrine seals was gradually becoming popular among the younger generation, who used them to pray for safe trips or good luck in romance. One of the student designers noticed this trend and came up with the "GOSHUIN notebook", which was later revised to “Goshuinchō”. Decorated with bright fluorescent colors and kitsch patterns never before used for such a traditional piece, this book could double as a shrine seal book or a notebook. At first, Mr. Kagami thought, “This will never sell!” But after exhibiting these books at trade fairs such as Tokyo Gift Show, he noticed that customers were readily interested in the product and it became a big hit.
Both the traditional gold‐brocaded satin damask and the new brand "kichijitsu" use gold thread, whose core is a flat plate-shaped polyvinyl chloride. Gold-colored aluminum is placed on it, but since it’s plate-shaped, it looks more black than gold if it’s twisted as it’s woven. When weaving even higher quality fabrics, washi paper is used as the core and real gold is threaded through. It can only be woven by hand, and now only a few remain in the western part of Kyoto. Originated in Nishijin and introduced to Kiryu and Yamanashi, gold‐brocaded satin damask is now mass-produced only in Kiryu and Yamanashi. In Nishijin, it became unprofitable unless it was a high-class item that was woven by hand.
On the third Saturday of the month, you can visit the factory as it weaves gold‐brocaded satin damask. Even on other days, you can experience the workshop of making a shrine seal book using Kinran Donsu at any time by making a reservation (2,500 yen). We recommend you pick up both the traditional pattern and the new pattern created by the student collaboration and compare them for yourself.