Tenkokuya KuKu

Deliver a time to someone important by hand-writing.

Text : Wakako Sato / Photo : Takashi Oka


  Right in front of Kodai-ji Temple, there is a select shop, locating at the corner of shopping mall called Rakuichi ‘Nene’ inside of Entoku-in Temple, proposing ‘a joy of writing and drawing’ with a genuine calligraphy tools such as more than 400-year-old brand brush and Japanese sumi ink as well as Japanese washi paper, stationery and New Year’s money envelope.

  The recommendation item here is absolutely Tenkoku (seal-engraving) which is hand-made one by one by the owner, Mr. Kokei Nakagawa. Tenkoku is a stamp engraving tensho style kanji which was used before Christ. This is the basic style of recent Kanji characters. Probably you see them through Japanese calligraphy, Japanese painting, letters by celebrities.

  At this shop, you can order your own Tenkoku stamp. Usually people ask him to make their own names, but you can also order your own motto, too. Now that you ask your own letters, so you might want to know what is the meaning of the letters and how they became as they are right now. Mr. Nakagawa has a great knowledge of letter, so that it is quite fun to listen his story of a transition of Chinese characters to Hiragana and Katakana in Japan and how the letter designs are decided. He asked us, “For example, what do you see through this shape? This is a right hand. One right hand on top of the other right hand means they are someone’s hands right? In other words, they help each other hand in hand, and then it becomes a letter of ‘friend’”. He decides your own Tenkoku design by talking a meaning of Kanji letter and the design layout as well.

  By the way, there is a temple mark on Goshuin stamp. We asked Mr. Nakagawa about the big trend of Goshuin stamp, and he said, “Since it is believed that it is not good to collect different temples’ charms and household amulets, so that I asked people who work at a temple before about it. Then, they told me that one temple has a good fortune of health care and the others for love and etc... so they think that it is good to have all different type of fortunes in one place. It means that we all make our own power item protected by all different type of god for sure. I know that whatever we do cannot be a stamp rally or something, but this stamp note is the one you can collect your own power items”. Indeed, it is a lovely idea that your own stamp note is your own power item.

  He also added, “Tenkoku is definitely a work of art, but I think that it is not cool to make it look like chipped off in order to make people believe that it is old or any of these actions cannot be included inside of the works. I only would like to express ‘time’ from the start till the end”.

  As well as Goshuin stamp, each letter is written by monks at a temple and putting a mark on it. All these action cannot be done without time and writing letter is also the same. If you write a letter to someone, you have some exciting feelings and also if you appreciate the person who you send to, then this feeling will come out on letters you write and sometimes at the end of your writing, the way you write the letter changes a bit from the beginning because of the changes from the start till the end. It means you also send a time to people who you want to read.

  While I was listening his talk, I started feeling to write somebody by thinking them deeply and slowly. Moreover, if I could finish writing letter with my own Tenkoku stamp on it, then it will become something extraordinary for sure.



ADDRESS : 1F Kyo Rakuichi ’NeNe’, 530 Shimogawara-cho, Kodaiji, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City

PHONE : +81(0)75-533-1980

HOURS : 12:00 p.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.

CLOSED : Thursday

WEBSITE : http://homepage3.nifty.com/tenkokuya-kuku/


【Tenkoku order】

9mm / one letter Tenkoku, 3,240 yen~ 

*Depending on size, the price will be changed. Since it is quite popular right now, you will be on the waiting list for 3 months.


★Next TRAVEL IDEA spot of ‘Goshuin and Sho - to explore the beauty of a Japanese characters’ by Rumiko Kunitomi is ‘Kojima-shoten’