Hanako's dreamy posts on Instagram caught our attention some years ago. Featuring quirky Japanese mailboxes, pretty stationery and her own beautiful artwork, they made us dream of visiting the “land of the rising sun”… but pandemic years were tricky for making trips abroad, so we did the next best thing, and sent the Little Mail Carriers instead! 😊 Here they are, to report on their adventures!
Kon’nichiwa! Many greetings from Japan, where our host Hanako lives and does her art (including postcards for Postcrossing meetings)! She promised to give us a tour of Tokyo, so let’s get started! First stop: a post box! This is what a normal postbox in Japan looks like.
We headed to the Kyobashi Post Office in Tsukiji, Tokyo. Today the special stamps “International Letter-Writing Week, 2021” were just issued. We had the first-day postmarks put on the postcards and on an envelope made from a museum flyer. The stamps are showing famous woodblock prints by Hokusai. Everyone knows his iconic “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”… but did you know the painting is part of “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”, or that it used a new kind of blue pigment which revolutionized Japanese prints?
About half of post offices in Japan have their own pictorial postmarks. These postmarks are called 風景印 (fukeiin). We had the fukeiin of Kyobashi Post Office put on our little passport. It illustrates a scene from Sukeroku (known as The Flower of Edo, in English), one of the most famous plays in the Kabuki repertoire.
Kabuki is a type of Japanese classical dance-drama, characterized by elaborate stage makeup, fancy costumes and stylized performances that date back to the Edo period. Why does the fukeiin stamp show Kabuki here? Because the Kyobashi Post Office is located near Kabuki-za, the principal theater for Kabuki plays!
Next, we visited Ueno Station. In Japan, you can find special souvenir stamps like this at railway stations, museums or tourist spots. If you travel around Japan, we really need to bring a notebook for stamp collecting!
Awwww… isn’t it cute? We saw the panda postbox near Ueno Zoo, which is the oldest zoo in Japan. Twin pandas were born here in June 2021, and they were named Xiao Xiao and Lei Lei.
Yay! We found the Pokémon manhole-cover in front of the National Museum of Nature and Science! Hanako says manhole-cover hunting is one of the pleasures of a trip to Japan. There are various kinds of manhole-covers with local design.
Another one is here in front of the Tokyo National Museum! There are many museums in the Ueno area, so you can’t see all of them in one day. If you visit Japan for the first time and need to choose only one museum in Ueno, we heard the Tokyo National Museum is a good one to see, so that’s where we are headed! The building was built in 1937, and is often used as the location for Japanese TV dramas.
We took our time looking around the exhibits. The Tokyo National Museum has many national treasures as their collection. Above is one of them, the Tachi Sword made by Yoshifusa in the 13th century. Have you watched “Seven Samurai”, the Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa? Samurai swords are quite interesting cultural artifacts, not to mention really beautiful.
This work of sculpture titled “Aged Monkey” made by Koun Takamura is famous among Japanese philatelists, because it was selected as the subject of the 60-yen stamp from the Modern Art Series, issued in 1983. Of course, we bought the matching postcard, too!
Aaaaaaaah, the museum shop is a postcard paradise! 😍 How many should we buy?! Can’t decide because all of them look amazing!
It’s about time for lunch! OK, we have soba here today. Soba is a noodle made from buckwheat and is popular as healthy food. Chopped spring onions (also known as scallions) and grated ginger go well with it. The soba restaurant Yabusoba in Ueno was established in 1892. Hanako showed us the cute soba stamp issued in 2016.
After lunch, we came to Tokyo Skytree by bus! This 634 meter-high tower was completed in 2012 and became a new symbol of Tokyo.
We visited the Postal Museum on the 9th floor of Tokyo Solamachi, the shopping mall under Tokyo Skytree. The Skytree postbox warmly welcomed us.
The exhibits in the museum are super interesting for postcrossers! Here are mail carriers’ caps from the early 20th century. The caption says the straw hat was for summer. It’s cool, isn’t it?
And this is a replica of the postal snowmobile in the 1940s and 50s. Wow, we want to try to drive it, it looks like the perfect size for us!
We also saw some cancelling stamps in the early 20th century. It’s always fun seeing old postal tools.
And at last, we arrive at the counter of the old post-office, used between 1920s or 1930s to 1988 at Kanda Sudacho Post Office, in Tokyo. How many postcards and letters have crossed this counter over the years? And how many stamps it must have seen!
Sadly, this is where our tour of Tokyo comes to an end. It was a lot of fun to return to Japan so many years after our trip to Okinawa, to discover a bit more of this fascinating country! Where do you think we should go next?
Thank you Hanako, for showing the little guys so many cool things about Japan! We’re dreaming of visiting and “collecting” all the cool manhole covers and special postmarks… 😍