Japan Postal Service 50th Anniversary commemorative postcards, 1921.

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Commemorative postcard of the 50th anniversary of Postal Service, 1921. Inset photos include Baron Maejima Hisoka, who proposed the creation of Japan’s postal system in 1871 (and earlier had proposed moving the capital from Kyoto to Edo), coined the Japanese word for postage stamp (kitte), and created the postal savings system; and the first Communications Bureau.

See also:
Postal service commemorative postcards, c. 1905
2nd Air Mail Flying Contest, Osaka-Kurume, 1920

50th Postal Anniversary commemorative postcard, 1921. Illustration inset at upper-left is of Noda Utaro, Minister of Communications from 1918-1922. He was elected to the Lower House of the Diet of Japan in the March 1898 General Election, and was subsequently re-elected a total of nine times. As an entrepreneur, he was one of the founding members of the South Manchurian Railway in 1906. To the right, the statue of Baron Maejima Hisoka outside the Ministry of Communications. It was he who proposed the creation of Japan’s postal system in 1871 (and as he had earlier proposed moving the capital from Kyoto to Edo), who coined the Japanese word for postage stamp (kitte), and who created the postal savings system, and the became first Communications Bureau minister.

“In 1870, Baron Maejima visited London to learn the workings of the British postal system. A year later, he founded Japan’s postal system in 1871. The first stamps were issued in April 1871. 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 The denominations were in mon, which had already been superseded by the yen; the same basic design denominated in yen appeared in 1872, but was itself soon replaced by a new set of four designs featuring the imperial crest.

“In 1876, a definitive series was introduced, with a generally oval inner frame, and inscribed ‘IMPERIAL JAPANESE POST’. Japan joined the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1877.

“Japan’s first commemorative stamp, in 1894, marked the 25th anniversary of the wedding of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. The first persons depicted on a Japanese postage stamp, in 1894, were Prince Kitashirakawa Yoshihisa and Prince Arisugawa Taruhito, honored for their roles in the First Sino-Japanese War.”


50th Anniversary Postal Service, 1921.

Postcard commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Japan Postal Service, 1921, depicting a feudal-era post rider on horseback; inset illustrates the Meiji-era use of horse-drawn wagons for bulk postal transport.

“The fact that British technicians had been employed by the Lighthouse Department was a crucial factor in [Japan] adapting British practice in communications. Nevertheless, in the case of the postal service, the standard British practice of the day was to rely upon steam-driven railroads.

“Now, in the early Meiji period, [Japan’s] railroad network was in its infancy … and thus it was impossible to use railroads for delivering mail during this period. An interesting hybrid emerged, one that spliced earlier British practice onto contemporary British practice, and the amalgam onto Chinese practice.

“Earlier British methods using horse-drawn carriages were used to join some nodal points to one another. The human-pulled cart or rickshaw that had been developed in China – in 1870, under the Japanese name jinrikisha, it began carving a widening niche in the Japanese market – was used to supplement this form of [postal] land transport.

“… [T]he main factor underlying the rapid expansion [of the postal system] within Osaka is a concentration of population in the great conurbations of the Tokaido belt. Establishing a nationwide postal system involved considerable fixed over-head costs, in total and a per capita basis. But the per-person fixed cost for building up the infrastructure of mail delivery within the Tokaido was far less.”

Japanese Industrial History: Technology, Urbanization, and Economic Growth, by Carl Mosk, 2000

50th Anniversary Japan Post, 1921. Illustrations include the Central Post Office, Tokyo; first postage stamp issued (1871); and the likeness of an early, experimental air mail aeroplane.

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