April 20, 2012

0179 JAPAN (Chūbu) - Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration (UNESCO WHS)

The fourth piece of the puzzle that I try to create here, having Japan as subject (after Shinto theatrical dance, A-Bomb Dome from Hiroshima, and a Zen temple), is Mount Fuji, maybe the most important of Japan's Three Holy Mountains (the other two being Mount Tate and Mount Haku). Although it erupted last time in 1707 (the eruption being preceded a few months of a devastating earthquake, the strongest in Japan until 2011, and being followed, in 1708, by a flood of Sakawa River, due to the sediments build-up resulting from the ash fall), Fuji is considered an active stratovolcano, but with a low risk of eruption in the near future.

For the Japanese, Mount Fuji was for a long time the center of the universe. It boasts over 13,000 shrines, and on each year thousands of mantra-chanting pilgrims, with jingling prayer bells, straw hats, pure white robes and white canvas foot mittens ascend to the top of the mountain, stopping at its stations to pray and traversing the rocky peaks around the crater. Its exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it’s frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers.

Mount Fuji is also the highest in Japan, but the legend says that wasn't always so, Mount Haku (Yatsu-ga-take) being once higher than it. "Once the female deity of Fuji and the male deity of Haku (Gongen-sama) had a contest to see which was higher. They asked the Buddha Amida to decide which was loftier. It was a difficult task. Amida ran a water pipe from the summit of Yatsu-ga-take to the summit of Fuji-san and poured water in the pipe. The water flowed to Fuji-san, so Amida decided that Fuji-san was defeated. Although Fuji-san was a woman, she was too proud to recognize her defeat. She beat the summit of Yatsu-ga-take with a big stick, so his head was split into eight parts, and that is why Yatsu-ga-take (Eight Peaks) now has eight peaks."

In the postcard, in foreground can be seen the Shinkansen (new trunk line), also known as the "Bullet Train", which can be also considered a symbol of Japan, but of modern Japan, and of its technological success. Started in 1964 with the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, the network presently links most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Test runs have reached 443 km/h for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h for maglev trainsets in 2003. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world's busiest high-speed rail line, carrying 151 million passengers a year (march 2008). Between Tokyo and Osaka, up to 13 trains per hour with 16 cars each run in each direction with a minimum headway of three minutes between trains. From the European point of view might say that the railway guide is useless for this train.

In the foreground is a rice field, another specific element for Japan. The rice was introduced in Japan around the third century B.C. (probably from Korea and China), and quickly became (for its capacity to sustain large human populations, but also because it can be cultivated in areas relatively unfavorable to agriculture) the main food of the Japanese diet. The Japanese word for cooked rice (gohan) has the general meaning of "meal", and the literal meaning of breakfast (asagohan) is "morning rice". Moreover, the rice was also used to pay taxes in Japan for many centuries, until a little over a hundred years ago.

The postcard intertwined therefore, in a great way, old and new, nature and technology, mythological and profane, forming a representative image for Japan. Thank you very much, Akiko.

The stamp is part of The 20th Century set, designed by Morita Motoharu and issued on March 23, 2000. The eighth issue depicts the nine subjects, which represent the years from 1937 to 1940:
● Helen Ketter (1880-1968) visited Japan in 1937 - 80 yen – is on the postcard 
● Succesful flight of Kamikazegou, Japanese airplane, from Tokyo to London (1937) + World-circling flight of Nippongou, for 56 days (194 hours) (1939) - 50 yen x 2
Senninbari (thousand-stitch) cloth - a protective amulet given to soldiers leaving for the war in China. It was a strip of white cloth embellished by 1,000 women with 1,000 stitches (French knots) sewn with red thread. Red was traditionally an auspicious colour. Monpe and kokuhimfuku, national uniforms for civilians during the wars  - 80 yen
● Novel Robouno ishi (Wayside stones) by Yamamoto Yuuzo (1887-1974) - 80 yen
● Film Aizen-katsura (1938) - 80 yen
● Futabayama (1912-1968) - a Sumo wrestler, 35th grand sumo champion (yokozuna). He won 80.2 percent of his matches and between 1936 and 1939 won 69 matches in a row, a record that still stands  - 80 yen
● Sawamura Eiji, prominent baseball player  - 80 yen
Tareka kokyowo omowazaru (1940) by Saijo Yaso (words) and Koga Masao (music) - 80 yen
● Munakata Shikou (1903-1975), the woodcut artist in Japan  - 80 yen

sender: Akiko Watanabe (direct swap)
sent from Kitakyushu (Japan), on 24.03.2012


  1. Nice blog.. I like you theme about being a wasted day if it is a day without postcard :) I also collet the postcard written stamped to my address. Great minds think alike.

  2. Of course. Is obvious. Is known that. :)