The new (old) postal codes

20 03 2008

japan-1402Japan, Scott 959, 1968, 18mm x 23mm
This cheery little number with its cartoon mascot came out bearing the message to Japanese postal customers not to omit the (newly instituted) postal code on the envelope. The map of Japan is made up of the 2- and 3-digit postal codes (in the Latin alphabet, not kana), with only very rough outlines of the country. Still, there is an island feel with the blue of the background suggesting the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan.

This item stretches the boundaries of the idea of a map on a stamp owing to its extreme stylization and distortion. If the outlines of the region were much less distinctive (say if it had been for the state of Colorado in the United States), one might be hard pressed to identify it as a map at all, even one representing the postal codes in any kind of accurate or convenient fashion. Specifically, the way the numbers are butted up against one another in the middle of Honshu7462307 – make it really quite impossible to tell where one code starts and the other ends.

Note that since the time this stamp was issued, Japan has changed its postal code system, so this is not an accurate depiction of the current usage anyway.

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