7 09 2008

Japan, 1930, Scott 209, 25mm x 25mm

This stamp is a bit rougher than most of the others I have shown here, but I think still worth a look.

The map area of the stamp depicts the Japanese empire, which included Korea at the time of issue, highlighted in scarlet. Up in the north the portion of Sakhalin island which belonged to Japan also appears highlighted, depicting a state of affairs which also ended at the end of the second World War. On the banner at the top of the stamp is the chrysanthmum seal representing the Emperor, along with an inscription marking the second census taken of the empire’s subjects. More chrysanthemums appear along the left- and right-hand borders, dented at one point where the island of Taiwan puts in an appearance, and it is just barely possible to make out the Ryukyu Islands spread across the broad expanse of the China Sea. If Iwo Jima appears at all on this map, it would be as a small, insignificant red speck to the east.

Two main elements of note here are the use of the color red and the 16-petals of the flower, both of which make up significant parts of the design of the Japanese battle flag during the war.

A quote from the Imperial Rescript on the 1889 Japanese Constitution governing the state at the time:

The Imperial Founder of Our House and Our other Imperial ancestors, by the help and support of the forefathers of Our subjects, laid the foundation of Our Empire upon a basis, which is to last forever. That this brilliant achievement embellishes the annals of Our country, is due to the glorious virtues of Our Sacred Imperial ancestors, and to the loyalty and bravery of Our subjects, their love of their country and their public spirit. Considering that Our subjects are the descendants of the loyal and good subjects of Our Imperial Ancestors, We doubt not but that Our subjects will be guided by Our views, and will sympathize with all Our endeavors, and that, harmoniously cooperating together, they will share with Us Our hope of making manifest the glory of Our country, both at home and abroad, and of securing forever the stability of the work bequeathed to Us by Our Imperial Ancestors.


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.

Aurora Australis

30 01 2008

Antarctic exploration ship Fuji and the map of the continent

Japan, Scott 857, 1965, 33mm x 28mm

This understated item depicts an map of the continent of Antarctica, the observation ship “Fuji”, and the ghostly Aurora Australis sketched in above it. The blue background represents both the Southern Ocean surrounding the landmass and the extreme southern night sky where the sun does not come up for days or weeks in winter. The map itself is simply an outline of Antarctica, only one coastal base indicated by a dark dot on the Indian Ocean side. On it, superimposed in the same yellow as the aurora, are circles of latitude and lines of longitude, including the dashed Antarctic Circle at 66˚ 33′ 38″ S latitude.

Among continents, Antarctica is larger than either Australia either Europe, with only a tiny fraction ice-free. There is no permanent human population, only a constantly changing crew of researchers and support personnel from many countries.

Unlike some of the other designs we have seen here, there is a balance between the two large elements horizontally, as well as a vertical balance between the ship in its dark silhouette and the light colors above it. The contrast between the feathery edges of the aurora and the sharp edges of the rest of the design is one that takes advantage of color lithography – it would be quite impossible to suggest this in gravure.

Occupied territory

13 01 2008

By milkfish, shot with HP Scanjet G3010 at 2008-02-02
Philippines, Scott N27, 1943, 33mm x 23mm

Issued to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. A Japanese infantry man with fixed bayonet stands to one side, the Imperial Japanese war ensign and a pair of warships along the other side, and a map of Manila harbor (helpfully captioned in English) makes up the central section of the design.

Some 90000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were forcibly marched almost 100 km during the infamous Bataan Death March as a result of that conquest, suffering heavy losses along the way. The natural island fortress of Corregidor was besieged for five months under constant bombardment before it was taken about a month after Bataan. This marked the end of organized resistance to the Japanese resistance in the Philippines, until the 1945 landing and subsequent victory by the Allied forces.

My parents were living as youngsters in the Philippines at that time – my mother in Manila (though she was sent to the provinces for safekeeping) and my father on Corregidor itself. Their families were effectively dispossessed as a result, one of the main reasons they emigrated to the United States in the 1950s. So, from my biased point of view, some things worked out okay.