Imagine trying to collect Asian stamps as a western collector in the 19th century. There is a taste of that in this 21st century stamp from Japan. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
The colors on this stamp are incredibly well executed. That is not to say they are very realistic. Instead the colors have been picked to be so subdued as to add a feeling of calm and contentment. More so than the more vivid colors of reality. This is a common theme in Japanese stamps from the early days. In the more modern offerings there is more of a reflective mood. The stamp offerings are often large sheets of different stamps dedicated to home towns or songs. Not the big cities where people still live and not songs that sit atop the pop chart. Rather an idealized reflection on a Japan that once was.
Japan is no longer a hard charging goal oriented country of the twentieth century. Rather it is an older place,still mostly inward looking, and very well off. This is reflected in the stamp offerings, that are clearly directed almost entirely to local collectors.
So where does that leave the western stamp collector. Well, if ones favorite part of collecting is art on stamps. Japan will have plenty of stamps for you. They are reasonably priced with comparatively few of them exceeding a dollar in value.
To a more general collector there are some basic issues that just do not come up as often with other countries offerings. The Japanese script, with no date of issue leave basic identification very difficult. To add to this, from the early 1990s on to present day there has been the problem of inflation. or rather the lack of it as Japan as been fighting a never ending battle with deflation since the Japanese stock market bubble burst in 1989. This takes away a method of time dating a stamp that works with most every country including pre 1989 Japan. Over time the denominations on stamps go up. So the newer the higher the denomination. Occasionally there is a big devaluation or a new currency to shake things up but those can be learned easily. On todays Japan stamp, the denomination is 80 yen. The has been the defacto postal rate for nearly 30 years. There were even a few earlier than that stamps with that denomination. That means that the denomination can only narrow the stamp down to a 30 year window. Not much help.
At the same time the postal issues have shifted at a few on going themes of a better yesterday that have new annual releases. An example of this is the hometown series that are now in the hundreds of individual stamps issued over many years. All with 80 yen denominations and descriptions only in Japanese characters.
Another factor making it difficult is the tendency not to show landmarks from the town but rather an idealized nature scene as with todays stamp. Very pretty and might mean something to one from that hometown, but not much for anyone else.
Well my drink is empty so I will open the conversation in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.