Most viewed - JAPAN 日本
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Oiran courtesan. Also see my photos of an oiran show here. My oiran video at YouTube here.3051 viewsThe highest-ranking geisha is called an oiran or tayu. She is escorted by two little attendant girls called kamuro. Notice her high clogs. It takes some skill to walk in those and she usually requires someone's shoulder to hold onto while walking. Sometimes at festivals or special events, you can see the Oiran Dochu procession where she walks in a parade together with geisha attendants. 23 comments
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Oiran Dochu Procession, Tokyo Jidai Matsuri2337 views
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Nude woman lying down1992 views
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Out of all the geisha that have appeared on postcards, this ever-smiling geisha was unsurpassed in popularity. Her smiling visage appeared in 40 to 50 different poses in photographs and postcards made in Yokohama from the 1890s.1868 views
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Sumo match with kids1722 viewsA retirement ceremony for an important sumo wrestler includes a variety of activities besides the actual ceremony of cutting away the topknot. It involves almost the entire Japan Sumo Association, and most wrestlers in the top three divisions (Makushita, Juryo, and Makunouchi) also appear in exhibition matches.
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Snip by Yokozuna Asashoryu and a symbolic passing of the baton from one foreign yokozuna to the next (and only) foreign yokozuna.1280 viewsMongolia's Golden Age of Sumo has begun.
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Kanamara Festival かなまら祭1224 viewsKawasaki, Kanagawa.
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Yokozuna Musashimaru1162 viewsHis last dohyo-iri.
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri1152 views
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Kagurazaka Geisha1010 views
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Asashoryu sips water offered by Ozeki Chiyotaikai1004 viewsAs soon as Asashoryu entered the arena, many wrestlers went up to him to offer water as a show of respect.
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Mud Festival, Yotsukaido986 views
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Koenji Awa Odori Dance 高円寺阿波おどり973 viewsMore pictures here.
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Asashoryu and Tochiazuma957 viewsAfter offering water, Tochiazuma shares a laugh with the yokozuna.
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Musashimaru right after I shook his hand.885 views
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Shin-Yoshiwara prostitutes. They are sitting behind the "cage" which fronted the street for all to see (and choose) within the licensed quarters. Shin-Yoshiwara was a famous red-light district of Tokyo. Note that they are not geisha.855 viewsGeisha were not prostitutes. This photo was taken during 1907-1911. The woman in the far back was the brothel's matron who supervised this live display and everything else. In 1912 when Emperor Meiji died, this live display of women was later replaced by framed photographs of each woman hung near the brothel's entrance. In 1958, prostitution was outlawed in Japan, and Yoshiwara was history.
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Flower arrangement. She's about to put the flower into the vase made of bamboo. On her lap, there's a pair of scissors used for flower arrangement. Her purple kimono has a design showing wisteria flowers. The season must have been spring.832 viewsThe card was printed in color so it's not that old.1 comments
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Meiji Era postmarks. When you want to know how old your postcard is, the first and obvious thing to do is check the postmark if there is one. A postage stamp or written date in the message are also a great help.829 viewsBecause Japan bases its years on the Emperor's reign (besides using the Western world's Gregorian calendar), the year of the postmark could refer to the Meiji Era (1868-1912), Taisho Era (1912-1926), Showa Era (1926-1989), or the current Heisei Era (1989-present). So if you see "1" as the year, it could be Year 1 of any of these eras (1868, 1912, 1926, or 1989). (See the year conversion table.)

So how do you determine which era the year refers to? In normal Japanese documents, you would see an initial before the year to indicate the era. For example H.1 for Heisei Year 1 (1989). Unfortunately, none of the postmarks provide an initial for the era. But it is not so hard to determine the era.

Look at the postmark images above. The left postmark is in Japanese with the numbers "36-9-12." The first number indicates the year, followed by the month and day. Above the date are the kanji characters for "Yokohama." Below the date is the time the postcard was accepted at the post office (6:20 pm).

Fortunately, right next to this postmark is the English version. The date is September 12, 1903. This matches Year 36 for the Meiji Era in the Japanese postmark. (See the year conversion table.) In case the English postmark were not provided, we could still determine the era. If you look at the year coversion table, you will find that only the Meiji and Showa Eras have a Year 36. Showa 36 is 1961. And if you look at the card and the postage stamp, it is obvious that it is not as recent as 1961, so it must be Meiji 36 (1903).

Now look at the right postmark. This postmark is also in English with the words "Yokohama Japan" in English. The date is "25.2.08." If the postmark has the location name in English, the date's format is day-month-Gregorian year, different from the Japanese postmark. So it is February 25, 1908.

Other tidbits about Japanese postmarks:

- In the early years until 1879, postmarks were used to indicate the date of collection and the date of receipt from out of town. Stamp cancellation marks were also separate from postmarks. They could be a series of dotted lines or text like "Postage Paid" (in Japanese). Some postmarks were square in shape. Each postal district had their own postmark system and style.

- In November 1879, the Communications Office issued official recommendations for postmarks. In September 1888, the name of the local area was included in the postmark. By 1909, postmarks became standardized nationwide.

- Up to September 1912, postcards and letters had two postmarks (except for special mail). One was imprinted when the postcard was mailed (canceling the stamp), and another was imprinted when the postcard was received.

- Until 1911, postmarks were imprinted by hand (at a rate of 100 pieces per minute). Automatic postmarking machines were introduced in this year. At the end of 1919, the latest postmarking machines were imported from America and used in Tokyo.

- Stamp collecting is a major hobby in Japan. All the stamps that have ever been issued are documented in a number of comprehensive Japanese stamp catalogs issued every year. You can identify the issue date of any stamp by referring to the stamp catalog.
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Kumu hula Sonny Ching beats the ipu gourd drum, a traditional Hawaiian instrument. This must be a first, a kumu hula performing on the sumo ring in Japan.820 views
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Final match of the day with Yokozuna Asashoryu816 views
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Japanese Beauty. I would call this a representative example of a "Nihon Bijin" or Japanese Beauty photograph. She's posed formally, dressed in a kimono, and looking serene and attractive. She might bJe a geisha. Hand-colored, and undivided b802 viewsI bought it for 1,200 yen.1 comments
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The final cut by stablemaster Musashigawa Oyakata.795 views
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My Miss Photogenic794 views
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Friends after all788 viewsKyokushuzan chats with fellow Mongolian Asashoryu.
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Grand sumo tournaments are held six times a year in Jan., March, May, July, Sept., and Nov. They are held at Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo in Jan., May, and Sept. In March, it is in Osaka, July in Nagoya, and Nov. in Fukuoka. This is the Kokugikan.730 views
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Swimsuit Beauties. These are typical swimsuits worn during the late 19th century. Horizontal stripes were in vogue. They are not posed very well, but there's something charming about them. This postcard is postmarked Aug. 1912. A nice summertime greet708 views
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The Kokugikan as seen from JR Ryogoku Station platform.691 views
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Girl with Umbrella. Hand-colored postcard dating before 1918. The kimono looks like casual wear, and the design pattern was typical during the turn of the 20th century. She's still in her teens it seems. One of the first vintage postcards I bought. Y2689 views1 comments
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687 viewsA retirement ceremony for an important sumo wrestler includes a variety of activities besides the actual ceremony of cutting away the topknot. It involves almost the entire Japan Sumo Association, and most wrestlers in the top three divisions (Makushita, Juryo, and Makunouchi) also appear in exhibition matches.
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Takamisakari for butsuri keiko672 viewsEverybody cheered whenever he entered the ring.
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Maiko in Her Room663 viewsA private moment. This maiko is lying down in her kimono reading a comic book after getting tired of playing cards. Her mama-san probably would not be pleased to see her wrinkle the kimono like that. Not sure if this was staged or a candid shot. It's hard for anyone to lie down like that in a kimono.1 comments
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Sumo ring (dohyo). A new sumo ring is constructed for every tournament. See sumo tournament photos here.662 views
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Musashigawa Stable wrestler wearing Aloha-print yukata652 viewsFlowery pattern (plumeria) with "Musashimaru" imprinted.
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Young boy kabuki actors at Nagahama Hikiyama Festival.652 views
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Musashimaru and his flowers638 viewsThis was his last appearance at this retirement ceremony.
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"Robocop" Takamisakari gets ready627 viewsThe top-division Makunouchi wrestlers went through their matches quickly.
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Konishiki also sings. (His company arranged the entertainment.)623 views
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Swimsuit pin-up. Another picture that makes you laugh. Apparently she felt sexy in that suit and knew how to pose like a pin-up swimsuit model.608 views1 comments
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Laughing Geisha with umbrella. As you may have noticed, the umbrella (and fan) was a commonly used prop in tourist photos. Postmarked 1903 from Yokohama. The actual card is more yellowed and almost brown, but I bleached it with Photoshop.606 views1 comments
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Snip and a hug by Konishiki (Question: Where was Akebono??)586 views
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PR poster, painting by Lynn Matsuoka. Also see my photos of Akebono's Retirement Ceremony.578 views
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Beauty with fan. The white space around her was for writing the correspondence. You could not write the message on the same side as the address. The back of the postcard was for the address only.573 viewsSo it has an undivided back, which means there is no dividing line between the address side and correspondence side, Postcards with an undivided back were made between 1900 and March 28, 1907. That's how we know the approximate age of this card even though it has no postmark.1 comments
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Commodore Perry Landing Monument. The Perry monument at Kurihama on the Miura Peninsula (Kanagawa Pref.) was built on July 14, 1901. It marks the spot where he first landed in Japan in 1853.573 viewsClick to see what the monument looks like today. I wonder what happened to it during the World War II. Was it destroyed or left untouched? This postcard was made to commemorate the visit of the US Fleet in Oct. 1908.1 comments
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Former yokozuna Taiho, Takanosato, Kotozakura, and Wakanohana watch intently.572 views
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Crazy sumo fan567 viewsThey also sold the real banzuke for 50 yen.
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Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena as seen from Ryogoku Station552 views
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Geisha and maiko546 viewsNot a good photo, but their names are written in hiragana on the back. They read "Suimatsu" on the left and "Shigezuru" on the right who is a maiko, not geisha. She has more ornaments in her hair than the geisha. Also notice their blackened teeth. If they are in Kyoto, a geisha is called "geiko." In Tokyo, a maiko (apprentice geisha) is called "hangyoku." This is a postcard-size photo and not a postcard.1 comments
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Tying the rope at the back.544 views
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Musashimaru minus his topknot540 views
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Hawaii's last sumo wrestler shakes hands.534 viewsIf he were married, his wife would be beside him.
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He was grim-faced all throughout519 views
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Matchlock gun demo at Azuchi Nobunaga Festival516 views
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Brothel maids or prostitutes. Maids were employed to guide patrons to their rooms and serve sake and food. Or they could be low-class (cheap) prostitutes. Hand-colored, undivided back.516 views
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Early postcard history: Japan's Postal Service was first established in March 1871. Japan's first postcards, pictured above, were issued in December 1873, a few years after the first postcards were issued in Europe. Click to read more.513 viewsIn 1900, a revision of the postal act allowed private-sector (non-governmental) postcards to be made and used. Picture postcards then became very popular and gave rise to a new postcard culture and a new era in postal history.

The postcards featured a great variety of subjects: Scenics, women, geisha, war, disaster scenes (especially earthquakes), Japanese customs, the Emperor, buildings, animals, etc., etc.

Color printing had not been invented yet so hand-painted postcards became very popular up to around the 1910s when offset printing gradually replaced collotype printing.

In June 1902, the postal service issued its first commemorative picture postcard. It marked the 25th anniversary of Japan's membership in the International Postal Union.

The postal service later issued more commemorative postcards and stamps for other important events and imprinted commemorative postmarks on letters and postcards for the occasion. Especially popular were postcards commemorating triumphs in the Russo-Japanese War during 1904-5 and the enthronement of Emperor Taisho.

During the war with Russia, people lined up all night in front of post offices before new war-related commemorative postcards went on sale. Postcard exchange meetings were held and many collectors had tens of thousands of postcards. However, after the war ended, the postcard boom waned in Japan.

Meanwhile, foreign tourists visiting Japan continued to send souvenir photographs and postcards back home. Because of them, many of the postcards that were published were able to escape and survive the natural (earthquakes) and man-made (World War II) disasters Japan was to experience later on.
Those early postcards became highly collectible overseas and have continued to delight their owners and collectors for over a century.
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Snip by Musashimaru's brother511 views
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But his mom cannot step on the sumo ring...511 viewsFemales are prohibited from entering the sumo ring. Barring women from stepping onto the sumo ring, even to give an award to a wrestler, is one of the most blatant and preposterous forms of sexual discrimination in Japan. It was devised centuries ago, and for the sake of tradition, traditionalists in the sumo world have maintained this extremely absurd custom and belief that women are considered to be impure (due to menstruation). I'm not saying this as a gaijin (foreigner) who likes to criticize Japan or the Japanese. Nor am I saying this as a women's rights advocate. I say this from the standpoint of plain, old common sense.

Up to 1909, women were actually not allowed enter a sumo arena to view sumo matches. And once upon a time, women were prohibited from setting foot on sacred Mt. Fuji. Can you imagine if these traditions were still being practiced today?

Such discriminatory practices were abolished long ago, and here we are in the 21st century with women still unable to step into the sumo ring. The Japan Sumo Association has constantly rejected requests from important female ministers in the Prime Minister's Cabinet to give an award to the tournament winner in the sumo ring.
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Maid costume player in Akihabara509 views
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Signboard for retirement ceremony at entrance.507 viewsIt reads "Musashimaru, Intai Danpatsu Hiroo Ozumo" which means "Musashimaru Topknot-Cutting and Retirement Sumo Exhibition."
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Me next please!!!506 viewsThe winner gets to decide who to wrestle next. The rikishi all beg to be picked.
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They wrap the rope around his waist from the front, or the thickest part of the rope.500 viewsThis was a demonstration on how they tie on the thick, white rope (tsuna) around his waist. The tsuna is the symbol of the yokozuna. It takes several assistants to put it on. They are all wearing white gloves.
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Konishiki is called and he enters500 views
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Yubin Hag(k)aki. All postcards were required to bear the words "Yubin Hagaki (or Hakaki)" which means "Post Card." The words appeared on the address side of the card along the right edge of the horizontal card.500 viewsThis string of Japanese kanji characters underwent two changes during Japan's postcard history. (If you don't read Japanese, it might be a little difficult to understand the changes.)

The image above shows a closeup of three postcards. At the top, "Yubin Hakaki" is read from right to left. On February 15, 1933, the word "Hakaki" was changed to read "Hagaki" as shown by the middle card above. Then after World War II ended in 1945, the Japanese reading style from right to left changed to left to right (when written horizontally) similar to English. Japanese captions on the picture side also changed to read from left to right after 1945.

Also note that from July 22, 1905, private postcards were allowed to have a foreign-language designation (i.e. "Carte Postale" or "Post Card") in addition to the Japanese "Yubin hakaki."

On the bottom card, notice the five red boxes. They are for the postal code within Japan. From Feb. 1998, Japan's postal code system was expanded to seven digits. Postcards having seven red boxes were made after Feb 1998. (See next image.)
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Rear view of the shiranui style of tying the rope.494 viewsHe turned in all four directions to show everyone what it looked like. This is what is called the shiranui style of tying the rope. It is characterized by a single loop in the back. The other style, called unryu, has twin loops.1 comments
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The bow twirler is a Makushita Division wrestler (third highest division). Afterward, the entire sumo ring is covered with a cloth. Also see my Kokugikan photos here.491 views
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More blood relatives (or brothers)487 views
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New Year's, Gifu Station485 views
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Comic sumo (shokkiri sumo)477 viewsThis is comedy time with two young wrestlers performing various comical antics (spitting at each other, kicking, and other illegal sumo acts) on the ring.
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Cherry Blossoms, Potomac Park, Washington, DC。. Postcard made in the USA in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was in 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) when Viscountess Chinda, the wife of Japan's Ambassador to the U.S., gave 2,000 small cherry trees.474 viewsIt was in 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) when Viscountess Chinda, the wife of Japan's Ambassador to the U.S., gave 2,000 small cherry trees to Mrs. Helen Taft, the wife of President Willian Taft. In a quiet ceremony, Mrs. Taft and Viscountess Chinda planted the first two cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in Potomac Park in Washington, DC. These two trees still exist today, marked by a special plaque. .

To read more about the interesting history of these cherry trees, see the National Park Service's Web site on the Washington Cherry Trees. You can read about how the original shipment of 2,000 cherry trees from Tokyo in 1910 had to be destroyed upon arrival in the US due to the infestation of harmful insects and diseases.
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Snip by stablemate Ozeki Musoyama471 views
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Woman with pen and scroll. Judging from her hairstyle, this photo was probably taken during the Taisho Period (1912-1926).469 views1 comments
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Nephews give a flower bouquet (they can step on the sumo ring)466 views
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Ozeki Musoyama is defeated.463 views
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Pulling it tight457 views
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri456 views
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Geisha Pair Outside Geisha House. These two geisha know how to pose for the camera. It looks like Kyoto. You can tell that they are geisha because of the shorter kimono sleeve, subdued kimono design (mostly black), and their clogs (for rainy weather).454 views
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Musashimaru finally appears for a yokozuna belt demo452 views
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Maid costume player in Akihabara452 views
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Yumitori-shiki bow-twirling ceremony451 views
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His mom is next...449 views
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Nebuta Festival ねぶた祭448 viewsAomori
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Oh, I gotta take a picture of this...446 viewsLook at the gyoji referee who must be thinking, "C'mon, hurry up!"
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Comic sumo (shokkiri sumo)441 viewsThis is comedy time with two young wrestlers performing various comical antics (spitting at each other, kicking, and other illegal sumo acts) on the ring.
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More people than the real tournament440 viewsAbout 8,000 people took time out from their Golden Week holidays to see this official sumo practice of all sumo stables.
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Makushita sumo match438 viewsLower-division wrestlers wear black belts, while the upper division wrestlers wear white belts (during practice) or colored belts during official matches.
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Practice437 views
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Box seats. Cramped space for four people.437 views
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri436 views
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Snip by Kitanoumi, the head of the Japan Sumo Association436 views
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri435 viewsHe could have had Yokozuna Asashoryu be either the sword bearer or dew sweeper, but he chose to have his stablemates to join his final dohyo-iri.
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Sumo wrestler's hairstyle.434 views
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Bow twirling (called Yumitori-shiki) is the final ceremony at the end of the tournament day which is around 6 pm. 434 views
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The End of Hawaii's Golden Age in sumo. For the first time since 1968, no wrestler from Hawaii is in the top Makunouchi division.433 views
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The scissors (golden)432 viewsI think it was given by French President Chirac who is a sumo fan.
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Musashimaru acknowledges a spectator as he proceeds to the ring.425 viewsThis was a demonstration on how they tie on the thick, white rope (tsuna) around his waist. The tsuna is the symbol of the yokozuna. It takes several assistants to put it on. They are all wearing white gloves.
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Sagami River Koi-nobori425 viewsMore pictures here
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The first snip. Also see the video at YouTube.424 views
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Giant painted pictures of Musashimaru decorating the arena inside. Each one commemorates a tournament victory.419 viewsThese giant pictures are actually black-and-white photographs taken in a photo studio and printed on large paper. Then it is hand-painted in color by a woman who has been doing it for years.
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Undivided back. The earliest tourist postcards had a picture side and an address side. The message had to be written on the picture side which usually had a large white area to write on (like this postcard).415 viewsSince the address side was only for the recipient's address, it had no dividing line for the address and message. This was called an undivided back, and this type of postcards were produced between 1900 (Meiji 33) and March 28, 1907 (Meiji 40) in Japan. After this date, the message was allowed to be written on the address side. See the next image.
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The Bulgarian (Kotooshu) on the left412 views
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Musashigawa stablemaster (former Yokozuna Mienoumi) in the entrance hall407 viewsInside the entrance hallway, there was a long table on the left side with ribbons which served as name tags for distinguished guests. Musashigawa is the name of Musashimaru's sumo stable.
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Sumo jinku406 viewsThey are singing sumo jinku, a chant-like song about sumo and sumo wrestlers. They are singing about Musashimaru and his career.
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Poor posture and how not to pose in a kimono.404 views
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Exiting the building403 views
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Musashimaru greets the crowd402 views
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Panoramic shot of the Kokugikan402 viewsNotice the upper floor was quite empty, similar to Akebono's retirement ceremony.
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He performs his last yokozuna dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony. He is flanked by Musoyama on the left as the sword bearer, and Miyabiyama on the right as the dew sweeper.401 views
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Kimono women going to a convenience store, Ako, Hyogo401 views
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri ends399 views
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The yobidashi changes once in a while. Dressed in black and sitting as one of the judges is former yokozuna Chiyonofuji, now Kokonoe oyakata.399 views
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Asashoryu joins in393 views1 comments
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Off-center divided back. After March 28, 1907 when the message was allowed to be written on the address side, a dividing line was printed on the address side to separate the message and recipient's address. However...391 viewsHowever, this line was not at the center of the card. Only one-third of the card could be used for message writing and the other two-thirds portion was reserved for the name and address. Such postcards with an off-center divider were made between March 28, 1907 (Meiji 40) and March 1, 1918 (Taisho 7). From March 1, 1918, the dividing line was moved to the center of the card. (See the next image.)
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Maiko with umbrella. The quickest way to tell if she is a geisha or maiko is by looking at her back. The tell-tale sign of a maiko is her long obi sash hanging down behind. Whereas the geisha's sash has a short knot instead.390 views1 comments
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Teruha with chrysanthemum. The flower she's holding matches her kimono design that shows the same flower. Her name was Teruha and she appeared in many postcards. She was born in 1896 in Osaka and worked as a geisha in Shimbashi, Tokyo. Click to read m390 viewsTeruha with chrysanthemum. The flower she's holding matches her kimono design that shows the same flower. Her name was Teruha and she appeared in many postcards. She was born in 1896 in Osaka and worked as a geisha in Shimbashi, Tokyo before becoming a Buddhist priest in Kyoto. Read more about her interesting life by James A. Gatlin at geikogallery.com.2 comments
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Nakamura Tamao (actress), Fukuhara Ai (tennis), and Tochiazuma at Zojoji Temple setsubun389 views
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Yokozuna "tsuna" belt demo387 views
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Both ozeki watch385 views
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Snip by actor Hiroshi Fujioka, who played Kamen Rider in the '70s.385 views
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Maid costume player in Akihabara383 views
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Hairdressing demonstration382 views
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Awaiting the final cut as we listen to one of his famous matches.382 views
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Typical woman and flower. Give a woman a flower and ask her to pose with it, and this is how she typically would hold it.382 views
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Himeji Castle (National Treasure)381 views
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Cigarette break on Coming-of-Age Day. Yes, they can now smoke legally.379 viewsAko, Hyogo Pref.
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The kids gradually get bigger.373 views
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Asashoryu in the face-off370 views
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Butsuri keiko368 views
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Japan has long been home to anime cartoons, manga comics, and video games. The girl on the left is dressed as Felicia from Vampire Savior.368 views
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Snip by singer Shigeru Matsuzaki362 viewsFamous for his classic hit, "Ai no Memory."
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Woman on bicycle. That's a thick shawl she's wearing. Must've been winter. It's unusual to see a bicycle used as a studio prop. Riding a bicycle while wearing a kimono must have been difficult. The postmark looks like 1908. Hand-colored.362 views1 comments
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Male hula dancer at one corner361 viewsThe original plan was for the hula dancers to perform on the ring itself. But at the last minute, Musashimaru decided that it was not appropriate so they danced outside the ring.
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In front of mirror. Hand-colored postcard sent as a Christmas card in 1914.359 views1 comments
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Head supporter speaks355 views
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Asashoryu later won355 views
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Musashimaru doll354 views
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Tres Flores. Intriguing pose. It looks like a modern postcard, but it's postmarked 1907!354 views1 comments
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Coming-of-Age Day, Himeji350 views
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Naosuke Ii and Commodore Perry. Issued in 1909, this postcard commemorates the 50th anniversary of the opening of Yokohama Port. It has a commemorative postmark marking the "Jubilee of Opening of Yokohama Port."349 viewsYokohama Port was officially opened to foreign trade on July 1, 1859 in accordance with the US-Japan Treaty of Amity and Commerce.

The card honors Naosuke Ii and Commodore Matthew C. Perry. You could say that Japan-America relations started with these two men. Ii was the Tokugawa shogunate's Great Elder (Tairo) who favored and concluded commercial treaties with the Western powers and thus broke Japan's isolation from the world. Foreigners were then allowed to trade with Japan and take up residence in cities like Yokohama and Hakodate. Ii was later assassinated in 1860 by people who sought to oust the foreign "barbarians."

Commodore Perry first came to Japan in July 1853 with his four warships which the Japanese called "black ships" (kurobune). No diplomatic breakthrough was made, but Perry's knocking on Japan's door was heard loud and clear. Running low on provisions, Perry departed for China and promised to return to Japan which he did in Feb. 1854. This time he got what he wanted. The Treaty of Kanagawa was signed about a month later. The treaty allowed US ships to call on two ports: Shimoda (Kanagawa) and Hakodate (Hokkaido). Permission for a US Consul (Townsend Harris) to reside in Japan was also stipulated. Official diplomatic relations between Japan and America thus began.
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri348 views
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The retirement ceremony had a lot of Hawaiian touches. This was only the beginning.346 viewsHula dancers and live Hawaiian band from Hawaii.
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The thrown cushions are hastily piled up at ringside.346 views
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri343 viewsNext was exhibition sumo matches by the top-division Makunouchi wrestlers. Musashimaru never appeared again.
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Yokozuna Asashoryu performs his dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony343 views
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Calling Musashimaru (with a conch shell)339 views
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Musashimaru goes back and then comes back...338 views
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Drawing of Commodore Perry, Grossly distorted if not humorous rendition of Commodore Perry by a Japanese artist who apparently never knew what Perry really looked like. It was drawn at a time when the Japanese thought all foreigners were barbarians.338 views1 comments
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Two Patriotic Maiko. To cheer up the soldiers on the front line, pretty and smiling maiko (apprentice geisha) often appeared on postcards for military mail. This card was postmarked Aug. 1940 from Shizuoka city. It was not addressed to a soldier though.337 viewsBoth women are maiko and not full-fledged geisha yet. The sleeves of a maiko's kimono reaches toward the ground as you can see here. (The sleeves of a geisha is shorter.) The kimono design is also more colorful and gaudy. Maiko also wear clogs called pokkuri. They are wedged at the front, so if you are not careful, you can trip forward. Geisha do not wear pokkuri.
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It is really good! Different flavors are offered during different days of the tournament. Top is shoyu (soy sauce) flavor, and bottom is salt flavor. Miso flavor is also offered.336 views
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Asashoryu gets thrown335 views
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This must be a first, a kumu hula (hula teacher) from Hawaii performing on the sumo ring.333 viewsHe is Sonny Ching, a well-known hula teacher in Hawaii. He brought four male hula dancers who danced at the four corners of the ring.
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In the entrance hall, hula and Hawaiian music direct from Hawaii332 views
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Early postcard image quality. Both images above are magnified by 650%. The top image sample is a collotype image, hand-colored. The photograph in early postcards printed by collotype had very fine grain.331 viewsHowever, collotype was not suitable for high-volume printing and it was soon replaced by offset printing from the 1910s.

The bottom image is from a real-photo postcard. It was an actual photograph printed on paper as a postcard. These are easy to recognize with their characteristic sheen or gloss. The grain is the finest of all.
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Also see the video at YouTube.330 views
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Baby Baby Sitter. Such scenes were common in those days. Mom and dad were both busy farming, leaving the baby in the hands of older children. Hand-colored.330 views
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Here he comes...329 views
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Girl in Storm. Wires were used inside the kimono to make it look wind-blown like in a rainstorm. Even her clogs are for rain. Early photographers commonly imitated the poses and scenes depicted in ukiyoe woodcut prints and Nihonga paintings.327 viewsAlthough the photographer and model were serious in making this picture, it makes you laugh.
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Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido326 viewsEarly Feb.
More pictures here.
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Takamisakari wins325 views
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The chair324 views
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A "darn it" look on his face322 views
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Ready to pounce on the winner320 views
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He goes back to the dressing room320 views
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Asashoryu exchanges a few words316 viewsAfter the practice was over at 11 am, the sole yokozuna went over to the council.
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Laughing Geisha with low neck. She's almost semi-nude. It is probably her sexiest pose of all. A great summertime card and one of my favorites. Hand-colored and postmarked Feb. 25, 1908 in Yokohama. The actual card is more yellowed.316 views1 comments
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Pair of Geisha, autographed. One of my most treasured cards. This card was signed (on the chest area) by these two geisha with a fountain pen. Several other geisha also signed the back of the card. (See the next image.)314 views1 comments
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Asashoryu greets the council upon entry312 views
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Laughing Geisha with Basket. It looks like she's dressed for picking tea leaves. This card, which has an undivided back, dates before 1907. The actual card is more yellowed.312 views
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Juryo Division dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony311 views
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Juryo sumo match311 views
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This is the lower level with zabuton box seats costing over 10,000 yen.311 views
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Panorama shot of sumo arena during a sumo tournament. There are two levels.311 views
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Later postcard image quality. Offset printing replaced the collotype and color printing came to fore from the 1930s. You can see how the little dots composed the picture. (Magnified by 650%.)311 views
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Mona Lisa Smile. She's cute, ideal for a passport photo. But her hairstyle is more striking than anything. What do you call it? A Westernized Japanese hairstyle?310 views
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Taisho Era postmark. This is a Japanese postmark with the date reading "2.7.24" and the location being Nikko (read from right to left). The time the postcard was accepted by the post office is indicated below the date.308 viewsAs with Meiji Era Japanese postmarks (see the preceding page), the date is in the year-month-day format. This can't be Meiji 2 (1869, before the Japan Post Office was even established), so it must be Taisho 2 (1913) or Showa 2 (1927). My postage stamp catalog tells me that the postage stamp (Chrysanthemum series) was issued in 1899-1907, so it must be Taisho 2. This is confirmed by the English postmark elsewhere on the card.
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Wartime Mitsui Life Insurance ad card. Dated Feb. 1942, this advertising postcard shows a Japanese torpedo bomber dropping a torpedo aimed at a US battleship under heavy attack. An American flag (faint) can be seen on the ship's mast.306 viewsDated Feb. 1942, this advertising postcard shows a Japanese torpedo bomber dropping a torpedo aimed at a US battleship under heavy attack. An American flag (faint) can be seen on the ship's mast. The advertising copy reads, "This one shot is a phenomenal force." On the left, the text reads, "A new weapon for national savings." "Very low insurance premiums." "Mitsui's provision for old age" "It has no enemies!" For some reason, the left corners of the card were cut with scissors, perhaps to remove it from an album.

Needless to say, the lowest point in US-Japan relations was World War II. The Pearl Harbor attack, the internment of Japanese-Americans, battles at Midway and other Pacific islands, Tokyo fire bombing raids, land battle on Okinawa, and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still reverberate among the generations today. Every year in August in Japan, ceremonies are held to mark and memorialize the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and the war's end. All the while, Dec. 8 (7 in Hawaii) is just another day in Japan with no particular significance.

Of course in Hawaii, Dec. 7 is a day of national mourning as much as Hiroshima/Nagasaki Day in Japan. Each country mourns its own and neither seems to care about the other's war dead. I await the day when both countries mourn for each other as well as for themselves. After all, we all belong to the same family, the Family of Man.
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Sumo exhibition matches with lower division Makushita wrestlers.305 viewsA retirement ceremony for an important sumo wrestler includes a variety of activities besides the actual ceremony of cutting away the topknot. It involves almost the entire Japan Sumo Association, and most wrestlers in the top three divisions (Makushita, Juryo, and Makunouchi) also appear in exhibition matches.
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Makunochi dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony303 views
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Center divided back. From March 1, 1918, the dividing line moved to the center of the card to separate the message and recipient's address.301 viewsIn this way, if the postcard has no postmark or stamp, you can still estimate the date of the card by checking the address side and see if there is a divider or not, an off-center divider, or a center divider.
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Giant portrait of Yokozuna Akebono299 viewsThese are B/W photographs painted over with oil.
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri294 views
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Tokyo Jidai Matsuri, Nov. 3294 viewsMore pictures here
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Green Park Santo was the site for the Ozumo Maibara Basho or Maibara Exhibition Sumo Tournament on Oct. 17, 2008. It was nice sunny day. Banners with the name of famous sumo wrestlers (rikishi) were up. グリーンパーク山東294 views
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The ceremony opens with taiko drum beating on the sumo ring.293 views
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Pair of Geisha, autographed (back). This is the back of the preceding card. It looks like four geisha signed it.293 views
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Giant portrait of Yokozuna Musashimaru290 views
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Showa Era postmarks. The Showa Era was 1926 to 1989 (Showa 1 to 64) during the reign of Emperor Hirohito. On the left, you can see a Showa Era postmark (round). Notice how different it looks compared with the hand-stamped Meiji and Taisho Era postmarks.290 viewsShowa Era postmarks. The Showa Era was 1926 to 1989 (Showa 1 to 64) during the reign of Emperor Hirohito. On the left, you can see a Showa Era postmark (round). Notice how different it looks compared with the hand-stamped Meiji and Taisho Era postmarks (see preceding images). The lines and markings are much thinner, imprinted by a postmarking machine (introduced in Japan at the end of 1919).

The location reads "Shizuoka" (from right to left), and below that is the year 15, then 8.21 (month and day), then the time period (8-12 pm) when the card was mailed. Showa 15 is 1940.

The postage stamp was canceled by a separate canceling mark. The stamp was issued in 1937, proof positive that the card is from the Showa Era.

On the right is a Showa Era postmark too light to be legible. But the stamp tells us the approximate date (around 1937). Also, the kanji characters in red says "Gunji Yubin" which means military mail.
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Woman with two flowers. She's holding the flowers in a cross or "X" mark. I wouldn't call that a good way to hold flowers (unless you're a hula dancer).290 views1 comments
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Musashimaru souvenirs at the Kokugikan's souvenir shop289 views
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Bride arrives at the groom's house.289 views
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Maibara Basho sumo booklet.289 views
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New Year's postcard. New Year's postcards are by far the most popular type of postcards in Japan, akin to Christmas cards in the West. The bulk of the cards are delivered on New Year's Day.288 viewsThe bulk of the cards are delivered on New Year's Day, and cards which were sent late arrive during the first week of January. The custom of sending New Year's postcards began almost the same year when postcards were first made in Japan in 1873.

The card above was issued by the Japan Post Office in 2001. This is the address side of the card. The address side is considered to be the front side, and it is designed for the address to be written vertically from top to bottom, right to left. However, there's no problem with writing it horizontally which looks less formal, nor affixing an address label which looks less personal.

The seven red boxes at the top are for the postal code within Japan. Prior to Feb. 1998 when the postal code was expanded to seven digits, there were only five boxes for the postal code. The stamp is already printed on the card on the upper left corner. The price of the card includes the stamp which happens to be the same price as the card. On the bottom right corner is a lottery number for prizes.

Writing New Year's cards can be fun, but for many people it is a time-consuming chore if they do it at all. So it is common now to print out messages and addresses with an ink-jet printer at home. The Japan Post Office even offers New Year's cards made of paper suited for inkjet printing. The inkjet cards make the inkjet printout look a lot better than with cards made of regular paper. If you plan to use an inkjet printer, be sure to purchase the inkjet New Year's cards. Buy them early because they tend to sell out quickly.
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Laying the red carpet for the main event.286 views
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Yobidashi wearing Aloha-print garb284 views
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Finish, everybody out please...282 views
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Laughing Geisha with cowboy hat & cigar. This must be the most humorous pose she created. Those tourists must've gotten a big kick when they saw this card. A geisha from the wild, wild West. Even today, it elicits an affectionate laugh. One of my282 views
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Musashigawa Stable wrestlers greet visitors281 viewsIncludes Miyabiyama and Musoyama.
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A saucy little Geisha. The pose is good.281 views
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Upper level and VIP booth.280 views
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Patriotic Maiko. Card designed to encourage soldiers on the front line. Notice that her sleeves are so long that you can see her right sleeve touch the ground. That's the kimono of a maiko. This is a modern postcard reproduction.280 views
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Flower in Vase. Nicely composed photograph. With a serene-looking face, she's an ideal postcard model. She also appears in the next postcard.280 views
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri278 views
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I'm waiting...277 views
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Sumo scoreboard. The names of all the wrestlers are displayed in the order of the sumo matches (from right to left). The winner is indicated with a red lamp. Names of sumo wrestlers absent from the tournament (due to injury, etc.) are listed on the far le277 views
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Tenno-sai Festival, Enoshima277 viewsMore pictures here.
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Maiko hair ornaments. Maiko have more ornaments in their hair than geisha do. The hair ornaments differ depending on the current season. They usually have a flower motif, and if you look closely and see what flower it is, you can tell what season it is.276 views
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Oil-painted card of Mt. Fuji. This is my favorite oil-painted postcard in my collection. The artist painted a few other cards like it. The artist's name was not signed, unfortunately. But the painting style is distinct.276 viewsI can't define what fine art is, but I know it when I see it.
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Shaved ice (kakigori) with fruits275 views
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Asashoryu collects a big paycheck.273 views
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Upper level and giant sumo portraits of 32 past tournament winners. As of Jan. 2012, there are no portraits of Japanese sumo wrestlers. Only foreigners.268 views
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Ohara Hadaka Matsuri, Chiba268 views
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Smiling Maiko Sitting. Real-photo postcard to cheer up soldiers. This card was sent as military mail from Kyoto on New Year's Day 1939. The kanji characters on the fan says "Banzai," the traditional Japanese cheer for victory and happy occas268 viewsReal-photo postcard to cheer up soldiers. This card was sent as military mail from Kyoto on New Year's Day 1939. The kanji characters on the fan says "Banzai," the traditional Japanese cheer for victory and happy occasions. It also means "long life," something that soldiers would like.1 comments
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Maiko on Gojobashi Bridge. Postcard-size real photo taken in Kyoto. She has been poorly posed. Her posture is bad, her kimono is ruffled, the sleeves look bad, and her feet are pointing in the wrong direction. Maiko usually know how to pose themselves.268 viewsPostcard-size real photo taken in Kyoto. She has been poorly posed. Her posture is bad, her kimono is ruffled, the sleeves look bad, and her feet are pointing in the wrong direction. Maiko usually know how to pose themselves for a photograph. But not this one. Perhaps she's an amateur.1 comments
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Teruha sitting.267 viewsHer name was Teruha and she appeared in many postcards. She's probably still in her teens in this photo. She was born in 1896 in Osaka and worked as a geisha in Shimbashi, Tokyo before becoming a Buddhist priest in Kyoto. Read more about her interesting life by James A. Gatlin at geikogallery.com.1 comments
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Break266 viewsAsashoryu took a water break between each practice bout.
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Musashimaru merchandise265 views
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Giant portrait of Yokozuna Asashoryu265 views
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Matchlock gun demo at Azuchi Nobunaga Festival264 viewsMore pictures here.
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Entrance hall is clogged up by a side show of hula.263 views
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Dancing woman263 views
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Priests enter the temple at Narita-san.262 views
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Smiling for the camera. It's always nice to see a smiling woman on a vintage postard. This is not an ideal smile though. Kind of sheepish and unnatural. Sort of half-hearted and "halfway" like her fan which is only half open.262 views1 comments
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Calligraphy on a folding fan.262 views
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Rear and side views. Nice side and back shot of a kimono woman. Can't see any wedding ring, but she looks married.261 views1 comments
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Funa-zushi or fermented carp fish from Lake Biwa. 鮒ずし260 viewsDelicacy of Shiga Prefecture.
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The 2002 World Cup season was one of the most memorable and frenzied times in Japan. The whole country went crazy over soccer, especially while watching the Japan team.259 views
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After a bath. That's what it looks like. She was another very photogenic woman.258 views
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Giant portrait of Yokozuna Takanohana256 views
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Emperor's Birthday, Dec. 23 at the Imperial Palace254 viewsTokyo
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Tidying up the ring253 views
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Sumo figurines.253 views
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Sumo ring and suspended roof (no pillars).253 views
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Cheek-to-Cheek. One of my favorite postcards. I wonder if they were sisters. Real-photo postcard with no divided back. The actual card is more yellowed, but I bleached it with Photoshop.253 views
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Musashimaru at the entrance252 views
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Smiling Maiko Standing. Great smile. This is the same woman in the card where two maiko are holding the Japanese flag.252 views1 comments
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Bride leaving her house vis rickshaw.252 views
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Suzuki Keiji, judo champion251 views
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Taiko drum demonstration250 views
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Yokozuna Deliberation Council members248 viewsIn the middle is Kitanoumi.
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Sakura mochi with edible leaves246 views
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Laughing Geisha with umbrella. The sender probably wrote about his incredible adventures in Japan. Postmarked 1904 from Yokohama addressed to Hamburg, Germany. The actual card is more yellowed and almost brown, but I bleached it with Photoshop.245 views1 comments
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Sumo elders in the front row241 views
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