Great desires in tiny designs
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Continuing our theme from issue 31, this issue looks at some peace postage stamps which are owned by the Pika Document Research Center in the city of Takehara. In preparing for this issue, we were shown a number of original Japanese postage stamps by Ryo Seseragi, who runs the Research Center.
As with the world peace postage stamps we featured in the previous issue, the dove was also used as a symbol of peace in Japanese stamps. The oldest dove stamp is one that was issued in 1919 during the Taisho period. Many dove images appear on stamp designs solicited from the public, too.
We were also shown some stamps whose themes were closely connected to Hiroshima, such as the ones which were issued when the law for the reconstruction of Hiroshima after the bombing was enacted, and on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War.
However, some of the junior writers felt that even though Japan is the first country to ever have been attacked with nuclear weapons, the message in those Japanese stamps seemed rather weak compared to the message contained in stamps designed in foreign countries.
A "peace dove" has often appeared in stamps
-First appearance was in 1919
In Japan, the first stamps to carry a peace theme were issued in 1919 (the 8th year of the Taisho era): the "Peace Commemoration" stamp (above left). Doves and olive branches were featured in both of the designs issued to celebrate the end of World War I.
We were impressed by the fact that these stamps were issued not to celebrate victory but the end of the war.
According to the Postal Museum in Tokyo, which has a collection of about 290,000 stamps from foreign countries and about 10,000 Japanese stamps, it was very rare for a dove to be used as a peace symbol at that time. Overseas, the only case of a "peace dove" in connection with World War I appears to be a stamp issued in the former Czechoslovakia in 1918.
As to why a dove design was adopted at that time in Japan, the Postal Museum said, "We don't have any related documents but the picture seems to be Western in style. It might have been the influence of Western culture that prompted a dove to be used as a peace symbol."
According to Mr. Seseragi, after that, whenever peace-related events have been held, stamps with dove designs have been issued.
Of the commemorative stamps marking each of the "International Years" that are established by the United Nations, stamps for International Cooperation Year (1965), and International Women's Year (1975) featured doves in their designs.
In Okinawa, before its reversion to Japan in 1972, a commemorative stamp for the ratification of the Agreement Between the United States of America and Japan Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Dito Islands was made (below left). A line links the rising-sun flag (the national flag of Japan) and the Star-Spangled Banner, with a white dove beneath. The stamp is labeled with "Ryukyu Mail" and "5 cents."
Doves often appear on stamps designed in public competitions. It makes us realize again that the dove is widely accepted as a symbol of peace.
For the stamp competition involving the "World Heritage Series, Volume 11," held in 2003, 10,019 entries were received, including submissions from overseas. Eight designs were adopted, five of which feature doves. In one of them a dove is flying over the A-bomb Dome and, in another, a dove is with a mother cuddling a baby. Nevertheless, all the designs share a common desire for peace.
On the other hand, because of the historical use of carrier pigeons, pigeons have appeared on postage stamps as a symbol of the postal service. A pigeon was used on a Japanese stamp in 1905 to commemorate the "integration" of the Korean postal service into the Japanese system. Pigeons can also be seen on the commemorative stamp of the 100th anniversary of affiliation with the Universal Postal System (1977). (Shiori Kosaka, 12)