Monday, May 19, 2008

More covers from Japan

I am currently on holidays for one week. I don’t have any specific plan, I’ll stay at home. I’ll try to take opportunity of this time to sort out my stamps. I already started sorting the covers I have received these last years. I also took some time to scan the covers I got recently. I will share them with you over the week.
I realised that the country which is the most often represented in my collection is Japan ! I don’t know the reason. So today I selected two letters I received from Japan through the Asian Covers Collector Club.
Here is the first one.

When I first saw this cover I was quite sure that the stamp located on the right was a recent stamp. May be I was confused by the face value which is not so common for stamps issued these years by Japan. But as you will see this is not the case.

But let’s start by the stamp on the left side. This stamps was issued on the 3rd of December 1965 and celebrates the Chichibu night festival. Chichibu is a city located in Saitama prefecture. Every year, on the 2nd and 3rd of December, the city holds a night festival. The main attraction of this festival takes place on the 3rd. Two ”kasaboko” floats which are large parasol-like objects decorated on top with weapons such as spears, and artificial flowers together with four “yatai” floats shaped like small houses are paraded through the city streets.
In the afternoon, the floats are transformed into stages by pulling out wings on either side, where Kabuki plays are performed. The most exciting scene of the festival unfolds on the evening of the 3rd when kasaboko and yatai floats, weighing 10-20 tons each and lit up with countless lanterns, climb up a steep slope with a “mikoshi” (a portable shrine). The stamp pictures a scene of this festival. I got difficulties to find more information about this festival : for instance whose shrine is it ? what is symbolized by this parade through the city ? If you know more about it, I would be very happy to hear from you.

The second stamp was issued on the 25th of August 1977 and pictures the Matsumoto Castle. This castle is also known as the Fukachi castle. It is located in the city of Matsumoto, in Nagano prefecture. It is rather easy to reach from Tokyo, making it a very popular destination for tourists from Japan and other countries. This castle is also called the Crow Castle because of its black walls and spreading wings. The construction of the castle started in 1590, most of it was completed in 1594. Some parts of the castle have been re-constructed in 1990 and 1999. The tower is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.
This tower has actually six floors, even though it looks like if it only has five from the outside. The third floor of the tower on the inside has no windows and was designed as a secret floor to the castle's enemies. It was used to hide soldiers during wartime. The sixth floor was used as a watchtower, but includes a shrine in the ceiling dedicated to the god Nijuroku-ya-shin (god of 26 nights).
If you know Japanese philately, you know that such castle is a subject that is rather common on Japanese stamps.

The second cover is quite different. Here it is.

The small stamp is a part of a definitive series about fauna and flora that I already mentioned in a previous article. This specific stamp was issued on the 28th of November 1997. The other stamp was issued on the 18th of April 2008 (therefore this cover is a first day cover since it was postmarked on the 18th of April !). It is a part of a nice set issued for the philatelic week. Here is a picture (coming from the website of Japanese post) of the full set issued in the form of a souvenir sheet.

I also like the postmark of this second cover which is rather unusual with this open circle. By the way both covers are nicely cancelled, which is always the case for covers I got from Japan so far. This is not the case for other countries (including France) !

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