Journals are referred to as books of original entry. Accounting entries are recorded in a journal in order by date. A company might use special journals (sales, purchases, cash disbursements, cash receipts), or its accounting software will generate entries for routine transactions, but there will always be a general journal in which to record nonroutine transactions, such as depreciation, bad debts, sale of an asset, etc. In the general journal you must enter the account to be debited and the account to be credited and the amounts. Once a transaction is recorded in the general journal, the amounts are then posted to the appropriate accounts.
To recap...the general ledger houses the company's accounts. The general journal is a place to first record an entry before it gets posted to the appropriate accounts.