09 March 2021
Japan Post Co., Ltd. (日本郵便株式会社, Nippon Yū-bin Kabushiki-gaisha), is a Japanese post, logistics and courier headquartered in Tokyo. It is part of the Japan Post Holdings group, formed on 1 October 2007 after the privatization of its predecessor, Japan Post. On 1 October 2012, Japan Post Network was merged with Japan Post Service to form Japan Post Co., Ltd.
The story of Japan’s postal system with its postage stamps and related postal history goes back centuries. 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 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.
In 1870, Baron Maeshima visited London to learn the workings of the British postal system, and founded Japan’s postal system in 1871, with mail professionally travelling between Kyoto and Tokyo as well as the latter city and Osaka. This took place in the midst of the rapid industrialization and social reorganization that the Meiji period symbolized in Japanese history. Given how the nation’s railroad technology was in its infancy, Japan’s growing postal system relied heavily on human-powered transport, including rickshaws, as well as horse-drawn methods of delivery.
The railroad net from the north to the south, Aomori to Nagasaki, was completed in 1889 (Meiji 21). Prior to 1920s, local delivery was mainly by men- and horsepower, not principally different to Europe. In terms of communications, British technicians had already been employed in assisting with Japanese lighthouses, and the country’s budding mail system looked to hybridize British ideas with local practicalities. Shipping along the nation’s coastline in particular demonstrates a key instance of how the Japanese economy developed: the government closely working with private companies to industrially expand in a way that met social needs while also allowing for large profits. Mitsubishi’s contract for mail transport by sea proved lucrative enough that it assisted with the firm becoming one of the famous “zaibatsu”.
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.
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.
During World War II, Japan issued a variety of overprints and new designs for its occupied territories including Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A new definitive series in 1942 reflected Japan’s entry into the war, with designs including war workers and saluting aviators. They were superseded by a new series in 1945 and another in 1946, crudely printed and issued imperforate. At the end of the war, between October 1946 and February 1949, Australian stamps overprinted “B.C.O.F. / JAPAN / 1946” were used by the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Allied occupied Japan .
In accordance with UPU regulations, in 1966, Japanese started including the name “NIPPON” in Latin characters in addition to the Latin-character denomination.
From 1989 to 2007, 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. From 2008, prefectural issues were available for sale nationwide. Moreover, the calligraphic style of the characters for “Japan Post” on each stamp were changed to reflect the style used in non-prefecture issues for most stamps.
The postal system was reorganized in 2003 with the creation of Japan Post (日本郵政公社, Nippon Yūsei Kōsha), a government-owned corporation offering postal and package delivery services, banking services, and life insurance. It was the nation’s largest employer, with over 400,000 employees, and ran 24,700 post offices throughout Japan. One third of all Japanese government employees worked for Japan Post.
Japan Post ran the world’s largest postal savings system and was often said to be the largest holder of personal savings in the world: with ¥224 trillion ($2.1 trillion) of household assets in its yū-cho savings accounts, and ¥126 trillion ($1.2 trillion) of household assets in its kampo life insurance services; its holdings accounted for 25 percent of household assets in Japan. Japan Post also held about ¥140 trillion (one fifth) of the Japanese national debt in the form of government bonds.
On 1 October 2007, Japan Post was privatized following a fierce political debate that was settled by the general election of 2005. The major concern was Japan Post, with government backing, stymieing competition and giving politicians access to postal savings to fund pet projects. Japan Post was split into three companies in 2007, intending to be privatized by 2017. Following privatization, Japan Post Holdings operate the postal business.
In 2010, privatization was put on hold. The Japanese Ministry of Finance remains the 100% shareholder. However, on 26 October 2012, the Japanese government unveiled plans to list shares of Japan Post Holdings within three years, partly to raise money for the reconstruction of areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. However, as of 2020, the government still holds 57% of shares, and March 2028 was announced as the target date of privatization.
Japan Post Co. Ltd.: Website
Online Sales: Yushi Stamp Magazine Net (in Japanese)
Additional Information: Japan Philatelic Society Blog (in Japanese)
日本国 or 日本
Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku
Japan (Japanese: 日本, Nippon or Nihon) is an island country in East Asia, located in the northwest Pacific Ocean. It is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, and extends from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north toward the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. Part of the Ring of Fire, Japan spans an archipelago of 6852 islands covering 377,975 square kilometers (145,937 square miles); the five main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Tokyo is Japan’s capital and largest city; other major cities include Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Kobe, and Kyoto.
Japan is the eleventh-most populous country in the world, as well as one of the most densely populated and urbanized. About three-fourths of the country’s terrain is mountainous, concentrating its population of 125.57 million on narrow coastal plains. Japan is divided into 47 administrative prefectures and eight traditional regions. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 37.4 million residents.
Japan has been inhabited since the Upper Paleolithic period (30,000 BC), though the first mentions of the archipelago appear in Chinese chronicles from the 1st century AD. Between the 4th and 9th centuries, the kingdoms of Japan became unified under an emperor and his imperial court based in Heian-kyō. Beginning in the 12th century, political power was held by a series of military dictators (shōgun) and feudal lords (daimyō), and enforced by a class of warrior nobility (samurai). After a century-long period of civil war, the country was reunified in 1603 under the Tokugawa shogunate, which enacted an isolationist foreign policy.
In 1854, a United States fleet forced Japan to open trade to the West, which led to the end of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power in 1868. In the Meiji period, the Empire of Japan adopted a Western-styled constitution and pursued a program of industrialization and modernization. In 1937, Japan invaded China; in 1941, it entered World War II as an Axis power. After suffering defeat in the Pacific War and two atomic bombings, Japan surrendered in 1945 and came under a seven-year Allied occupation, during which it adopted a new constitution. Since 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature, the National Diet.
Japan is a great power and a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations (since 1956), the OECD, and the Group of Seven. Although it has renounced its right to declare war, the country maintains Self-Defense Forces that are ranked as the world’s fourth-most powerful military. After World War II, Japan experienced high economic growth, becoming the second-largest economy in the world by 1990 before being surpassed by China in 2010. Despite stagnant growth since the Lost Decade, the country’s economy remains the third-largest by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by PPP. A leader in the automotive and electronics industries, Japan has made significant contributions to science and technology. Ranked the second-highest country on the Human Development Index in Asia after Singapore, Japan has the world’s second-highest life expectancy, though it is experiencing a decline in population. The culture of Japan is well-known around the world, including its art, cuisine, music, and popular culture, which encompasses prominent animation and video game industries.
The name for Japan in Japanese is written using the kanji 日本 and pronounced Nippon or Nihon. Before it was adopted in the early 8th century, the country was known in China as Wa (倭) and in Japan by the endonym Yamato. Nippon, the original Sino-Japanese reading of the characters, is favored for official uses, including on banknotes and postage stamps. Nihon is typically used in everyday speech and reflects shifts in Japanese phonology during the Edo period. The characters 日本 mean “sun origin”. It is the source of the popular Western epithet “Land of the Rising Sun”.
The name Japan is based on the Chinese pronunciation and was introduced to European languages through early trade. In the 13th century, Marco Polo recorded the early Mandarin or Wu Chinese pronunciation of the characters 日本國 as Cipangu. The old Malay name for Japan, Japang or Japun, was borrowed from a southern coastal Chinese dialect and encountered by Portuguese traders in Southeast Asia, who brought the word to Europe in the early 16th century. The first version of the name in English appears in a book published in 1577, which spelled the name as Giapan in a translation of a 1565 Portuguese letter.
The national flag of Japan is a rectangular white banner bearing a crimson-red circle at its center. This flag is officially called Nisshōki (日章旗, the “flag of sun”), but is more commonly known in Japan as Hinomaru (日の丸, the “circle of the sun”). It embodies the country’s sobriquet: Land of the Rising Sun.
The Nisshōki flag is designated as the national flag in the Act on National Flag and Anthem, which was promulgated and became effective on 13 August 1999. Although no earlier legislation had specified a national flag, the sun-disc flag had already become the de facto national flag of Japan. Two proclamations issued in 1870 by the Daijō-kan, the governmental body of the early Meiji period, each had a provision for a design of the national flag. A sun-disc flag was adopted as the national flag for merchant ships under Proclamation No. 57 of Meiji 3 (issued on 27 February 1870), and as the national flag used by the Navy under Proclamation No. 651 of Meiji 3 (issued on 27 October 1870). Use of the Hinomaru was severely restricted during the early years of the Allied occupation of Japan after World War II; these restrictions were later relaxed.
The sun plays an important role in Japanese mythology and religion as the Emperor is said to be the direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu and the legitimacy of the ruling house rested on this divine appointment and descent from the chief deity of the predominant Shinto religion. The name of the country as well as the design of the flag reflect this central importance of the sun. The ancient history Shoku Nihongi says that Emperor Monmu used a flag representing the sun in his court in 701, and this is the first recorded use of a sun-motif flag in Japan. The oldest existing flag is preserved in Unpō-ji temple, Kōshū, Yamanashi, which is older than the 16th century, and an ancient legend says that the flag was given to the temple by Emperor Go-Reizei in the 11th century. During the Meiji Restoration, both the sun disc and the Rising Sun Ensign of the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army became major symbols in the emerging Japanese Empire. Propaganda posters, textbooks, and films depicted the flag as a source of pride and patriotism. In Japanese homes, citizens were required to display the flag during national holidays, celebrations and other occasions as decreed by the government. Different tokens of devotion to Japan and its Emperor featuring the Hinomaru motif became popular among the public during the Second Sino-Japanese War and other conflicts. These tokens ranged from slogans written on the flag to clothing items and dishes that resembled the flag.
Public perception of the national flag varies. Historically, both Western and Japanese sources claimed the flag was a powerful and enduring symbol to the Japanese. Since the end of World War II (the Pacific War), the use of the flag and the national anthem Kimigayo has been a contentious issue for Japan’s public schools. Disputes about their use have led to protests and lawsuits. For the government of China and South Korea, the flag is a symbol of aggression and imperialism. Several military banners of Japan are based on the Hinomaru, including the sunrayed naval ensign. The Hinomaru also serves as a template for other Japanese flags in public and private use.
The Imperial Seal of Japan or National Seal of Japan, also called the Chrysanthemum Seal (菊紋, kikumon), Chrysanthemum Flower Seal (菊花紋, 菊花紋章, kikukamon, kikukamonshō) or Imperial chrysanthemum emblem (菊の御紋, kikunogomon), is one of the national seals and a crest (mon) used by the Emperor of Japan and members of the Imperial Family. It is a contrast to the Paulownia Seal used by the Japanese government.
During the Meiji period, no one was permitted to use the Imperial Seal except the Emperor of Japan, who used a 16-petal chrysanthemum with sixteen tips of another row of petals showing behind the first row. Therefore, each member of the Imperial family used a slightly modified version of the seal. Shinto shrines either displayed the imperial seal or incorporated elements of the seal into their own emblems.
Earlier in Japanese history, when Emperor Go-Daigo, who tried to break the power of the shogunate in 1333, was exiled, he adopted the seventeen-petal chrysanthemum to differentiate himself from the Northern Court’s Emperor Kōgon, who kept the imperial 16-petal mon.
The symbol is a yellow or orange chrysanthemum with black or red outlines and background. A central disc is surrounded by a front set of 16 petals. A rear set of 16 petals are half staggered in relation to the front set and are visible at the edges of the flower. An example of the chrysanthemum being used is in the badge for the Order of the Chrysanthemum.
Other members of the Imperial Family use a version with 14 single petals, while a form with 16 single petals is used for Diet members’ pins, orders, passports, and other items that carry or represent the authority of the Emperor. The Imperial Seal is also used on the standards of the Imperial Family.