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Postage stamps and postal history of Japan

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Postage stamps and postal history of Japan

First issue stamp(1871)
The story of the postage stamps and postal history of Japan begins with official government posts, which had existed for some time prior to 1630, when they were reformed.

Foreign post offices

Public posts would not be established until 1871; prior to that several nations maintained foreign post offices. The British maintained post offices in Yokohama (opened 1859), Nagasaki (1860), and Kobe (1869), all closing in December of 1879. From 1864 on, the offices used stamps of Hong Kong. France had an office in Yokohama from 1865 to 1880, using French stamps. The United States opened post offices in Yokohama and Nagasaki in 1867, in Kobe in 1868, and in Hakodate in 1871, using US stamps, and closing in 1874.

First stamps

In 1870, Baron Maeshima visited London to learn the workings of the British postal system, and founded Japan's postal system in 1871. The first stamps were issued in April 1871, in a set of four covering the different postal rates; the intricate two-color design consisted of a pair of dragons facing towards the center, where the characters of value were printed in black. The denominations were in mon, which had already been superseded by the yen; the same basic design denominated in yen appeared in 1872, but was itself soon replaced by a new set of four designs featuring the imperial crest.

The new designs also included Latin letters for the denomination, a trend which has been generally followed since, and a chrysanthemum, which was on every Japanese stamp until 1947, in lieu of the actual visage of the emperor.

In 1876, a long definitive series was introduced, with a generally oval inner frame, and inscribed "IMPERIAL JAPANESE POST". Japan joined the UPU in 1877.

The first commemorative stamp, in 1894, marked the 25th anniversary of the wedding of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. The first persons depicted were Prince Kitashirakawa Yoshihisa and Prince Arisugawa Taruhito, honored in 1896 for their role in the First Sino-Japanese War that had ended the previous year.

Twentieth century

1943 stamp of occupied Malaya

1935 saw the first New Year's stamp, issued at the end of the year to pay postage on New Year's cards. It depicted Mount Fuji, as did the first of a long-running series of national parks issues, appearing in 1936.

A new definitive series in 1942 reflected Japan's entry into World War II, with designs including war workers and saluting aviators. These were superseded by a new series in 1945 and another in 1946, crudely printed and issued imperforate.

In accordance with UPU regulations, in 1966, Japanese started including the name "NIPPON" in Latin characters in addition to the Latin-character denomination.

Beginning in 1989, prefecture stamps appeared. Although valid for postage throughout the country, the designs are specific to the prefecture and are only sold in the prefecture's postal region.

The postal system was privatized in 2003 with the creation of Japan Post.

World War II occupation issues

During the war, Japan issued a variety of overprints and new designs for its many conquered territories.

See also


  • Stanley Gibbons Ltd: various catalogues
  • Mackay, James. A. The World Encyclopedia of Stamps and Stamp Collecting. Lorenz Books, 2005. ISBN 0-7548-1530-7
  • Rossiter, Stuart & John Flower. The Stamp Atlas. London: Macdonald, 1986. ISBN 0-356-10862-7

Further reading

  • Peplow, F.J. Plates of the Stamps of Japan 1871-76. London: F.J. Peplow, 1910. (Privately printed - 25 copies.)

External links

  • The International Society for Japanese Philately, Inc.
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