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Japanese stamps

I picked up some pretty Japanese stamps in Sunday at a vide grenier. €0,10 apiece.
This, written in the evenings of the three days following, has been a mass of research work to identify each stamp and what it is about.



This is the ふみの日 (fumi no hi) stamp. It translates as "Letter writing day". Originally started in 1979, it is normally celebrated on the 23rd of each month, and in particular on July 23rd (thanks to a pun involving the old kun reading of the words for '2' and '3' (fu and mi; as opposed to ni and san commonly used nowadays) sounding like the traditional name for July (fumizuki - month of books) - and to add to the fun, the traditional kanji for July () can also mean a letter.



The title of this stamp is みかんの花咲く丘 (mikan no hanasaku oka) which translates to be "Hill of Tangerine Blossoms" is a Japanese folk song written in 1946 - you can find the lyrics and a translation. The lyrics given are the first line of the song - mikan no hana ga saiteiru.



This stamp is 神宮外苑のイチョウ並木 (jingū gaien no ichō namiki) which Google translates a little too literally as "Jingu Outer Gardens of ginkgo tree-lined" (!). It is a stamp in celebration of the famous yellow leaves of the ginkgo trees, which may be found in the outer gardens of the Meiji Jingu (shrine) in Shinjuku, Tōkyō (東京都 means the Tōkyō metropolitan area). You can read more about the gardens and shrine here.



The best I can do for 野はう (no wa u) is "Field La". I presume it is some sort of children's song, maybe a nursery rhyme? Something to do with roses and strawberries and cats? I don't know - a partial match of the lyrics leads me here.
I knew there was going to be one I wouldn't be able to identify. Well, here it is. ☺



姫路城 (himejijō) is Himeji Castle, but any decent Japanophile will have recognised that right away from the picture.
Here's the official website, you can enjoy the low resolution animated Flash (!) and the link to a RealPlayer .ram file (!) and party like it's 1999...



鹿児島国際火山会議記念 (kagoshima kokusai kazan kaigi kinen) is exactly as it says at the top in English - the Kagoshima international volcano conference. There is a book about it, the theme being towards better coexistence between human beings and volcanoes - which I presume is something along the lines of if we humans stop climbing all over the volcano and peeing on it along the way (which, sorry, it has to be said - the volcano finds that really offensive), the volcano won't blow up and kill everybody nearby. Could be worth remembering as Japan seems to be somewhat volcanically active right now.
The other text, 昭和63年, means the 63rd year of Shōwa - or 1988 in Christian year numbering - corresponding to the 63rd year of the reign of Emperor Hirohito, the presiding Emperor of the radical change between "the empire of Japan" (up until the Japanese defeat in WW2) and "the state of Japan" afterwards, in which the country turned to a more pacifist nature, something Mr. Shinzō Abe (current Prime Minister) seems to be a little too eager to forget. That said, the press is reporting today that his approval ratings have slumped to a new low. That's quite something in a country where a huge number of people have exactly zero interest in politics.



倉敷美観地区、岡山県 means the Kurashiki aesthetic area, Okayama Prefecture. It is a part of Kurashiki (to the left of Osaka as you look at a map), you can read more here. The aesthetic area, specifically, is an area of buildings in traditional style, so much so that it almost looks like a model village. On the site linked, right in the middle near the top is a link to information about the historic quarter, voted the most picturesque merchant's quarter in Japan. From the photos, it looks extremely pretty, but I do spot some western influence creeping in.


晩秋の富土山、 静岡県

My hat off to Google Translate on Android, it is able to read the Japanese off-screen in the image editor, even with the halftoning of the stamp printing plus a bit of a postmark. Impressive! The translation? 晩秋の富土山、 静岡県 (banshū no futo-san, shizuoka ken) means Suddenly mountain of late autumn, Shizuoka Prefecture. Shizuoka is the coastline area that hangs down just to the left of Tōkyō.
Here's a gratuitous link to a Getty Images photo that looks sort of similar (though could do with more saturated colours). As for the mountain? Here's a hint - it isn't Kilimanjaro! ☺


中禅寺湖、 栃木県

This, 中禅寺湖、 栃木県 (chūzenjiko, tochigi ken) is Lake Chūzenji, Tochigi Prefecture. Located near Nikkō (above Saitama/Tōkyō, to the left of Fukushima), this lake was created when Mount Nantai blew up and blocked the river. Mount Nintai? Pictured...
A review on TripAdvisor paints a grim picture of the foibles of being a tourist, though I think it is a stretch calling an inadequate bus schedule at a peak time "an emergency"... If I was going to go there to enjoy the autumn scenery, I'm afraid I'd try to find a way to be dropped off in the morning and picked up in the evening. In between? I'd use my legs. I don't believe you can experience much in a short bus trip, certainly not when you're likely to have so little time that your eyes will be looking at your viewfinder for most of the journey and you'll eventually realise that you might have travelled halfway around the planet and actually not managed to see what was right in front of you. Only a bunch of photos. Well, here's one you can enjoy from the comfort of your own bedroom! (it looks like it was scanned from a magazine)


白神山地、 青森県

This is the Shirakami mountain range in Aomori Prefecture - 白神山地、 青森県 (shirakamisanchi, aomori ken).
Shirakami-Sanchi is at the very top of Honshu (what you'd probably think of as "the main island") just below Hokkaidō. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Aomori information site provides a reasonable level of information on the area, though your browser may scream about the site being untrusted (get me out of here!) because for some reason the Aomori Prefectural Government have issued their own SSL certificate which, obviously, is going to be rejected by any browser that is paying attention.
For a UNESCO World Heritage site, the JNTO website is pitiful. Three short paragraphs? That's it? Luckily, there's a little bit more off one of the links.


熊野古道ツヅラト峠、 三重県

The Kumano Kodo Tsudzurato Pass, in Mie Prefecture. It isn't a fancy suspension bridge or tunnel, it is part of a set of ancient pilgrimage routes. More details here.


熊野古道ツヅラト峠、 三重県

More pretty scenery, and we might have found where Nessie goes on holiday (look carefully, you'll see her). 熊野古道ツヅラト峠、 三重県 is Ritsurin Garden, Kagawa Prefecture. The name means "chestnut grove garden", and it looks like something Claude Monet would have painted.
Information in English is here and if it takes a while to load, that's because the link tabs are full size images scaled in the browser. If that sounds like too much bother, you could just grab the English language brochure (PDF, 2MiB). It is a double-sided fold-in-thirds on three pages. Uh-hu, yes, the extra page is a map. I wonder how they print it.


エゾクロテン、 北海道

This little creature is the エゾクロテン、 北海道 or Ezokuroten at home in Hokkaidō (northern island). The Ezo (old name for Hokkaidō) Kuroten is a type of sable, which is a species related to the marten, with the (apparently rare) Ezo Kuroten being the most closely related.
In Mie Prefecture (mentioned above, the pilgrim paths) there is a saying: "the fox has seven disguises, the tanuki has eight, and the marten has nine" (狐七化け、狸八化け、貂九化け; kitsune shichibake, tanuki hachi bake, ten kyū bake) referring to the reputed ability to shapeshift (stuff of legends). Those who watched Ghibli's Pom Poko will be quite familiar with the shapeshifting Tanuki (the racoon-like creatures with the giant testicles). Imagine something even more capable!

You might recognise the word "sable" from expensive paintbrushes. The fur of the sable is unique in that it is fairly stiff yet feels smooth no matter which way you stroke it (unlike, say, a cat or a dog where the stiffer fur usually feels rough if you stroke backwards). One of the best known sable brushes is the Kolinsky sable brush, harvested from the tail of the kolinsky (a Siberian weasel, not a sable). The animal is classed as endangered and is therefore on the CITES list. Compliant countries have either banned the sale of sable brushes, or will seize shipments in customs - the United States has taken this stance since 2013.



The text 世界フィギュアスケート選手権大会記念 (sekai figyuasukēto senshuken taikai kinen) means "World Figure Skating Championships", but then it said that in English. ☺
The other writing is Heisei 6, or the 6th year of the reign of the current Emperor (Akihito), or 1994 in the revised Christian calendar.


弘前城と、 青森県

This, 弘前城と、 青森県, is Hirosaki Castle and cherry blossom, Aomori Prefecture (north, just below Hokkaidō). The castle is a three-storey wooden structure. The original was built in 1611 but was destroyed by lightning some sixteen years later. The current (more modest) building was constructed two hundred years later, in 1811. The picture here lies. The castle is actually leaning because the stone ramparts (which go down to a river, about as far down as the castle is high) need structural repairs. But this doesn't faze the Japanese. As the castle is one of its most famous (and most photographed in sakura season) monuments, and is surrounded by 2,600 cherry trees, work is underway to lift the entire structure and move it a few hundred metres away so the stone ramparts can be repaired.
More on Hirosaki Castle.


中山道馬籠宿、 長野県

The Japanese 中山道馬籠宿、 長野県 means "Nakasendō Magome-juku, Nagano Prefecture". Magome-juku is a postal town and is the 43rd of 69 stations on the ancient Nakasendō which is a route linking Kyoto (former capital) and Edo (the ancient name of Tōkyō and current capital).
When a nearby railway passed by Magome-juku, the town fell into obscurity. More recently, it has been restored as an Edo-period town. The Edo period is contemporary with the Baroque movement, the Scientific Revolution, Louis XIV and the Palace of Versailles, the English Civil War - and people such as Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Gottfried Leibniz, Oliver Cromwell, George Frederic Handel, Johann Pacelbel, Rembrandt van Rijn, Samuel Pepys, and the later years of William Shakespeare.
I think from that you can get an idea of when this period was, related to Western history.
In Japanese terms, the various shogunates consolidated to create a centralised feudal government which brought the "warring states" to an end and brought stability to the country; though on the flip side the country moved from being open to trade with foreigners to persecuting Catholics (which were considered a threat for believing something so very different, and possibly for considering the Pope on the other side of the planet as their important figure) and eventually sliding the country into hundreds of years of seclusion, though there were many advances within the country. This period tends to be romanticised in television dramas and films as it is the latter part of the samurai/shogun era, before all of that was wiped away by the birth of the Empire of Japan following the Meiji Restoration.
Anyway, enough history. Here's some info on Magome-juku.



And, to bookend this article, is another stamp released for Letter Writing Day.


I hope you enjoyed this. (^_^)



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Gavin Wraith, 18th June 2015, 15:04
Thanks. I did enjoy it.
Gavin Wraith, 18th June 2015, 15:10
Forgot to mention that in March there was a wonderful exhibition in Winchester public library of Hiroshige's 53 stations of the Tokaido. Also see here e_T%C5%8Dkaid%C5%8D 

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