Vintage Japanese postcards

by Philbert Ono, Updated: Jan. 14, 2024

Japanese postcard collector
Japanese postcard collector.

In a land where billions of postcards are printed and sent every year, it’s surprising that postcard collecting in Japan is a miniscule hobby (if it’s regarded as a hobby at all).

Sure, everyone must have their own postcard collection because we all receive New Year’s cards, summer greetings cards, wedding photo cards, etc., every year. But conscious and deliberate postcard collecting is still a very minor pasttime here especially compared to stamp collecting.

Of course, those of us in Japan are not really upset or sad by this fact. The fewer postcard collectors there are, the lower postcard prices will be and the better the selection. Perhaps the only disadvantage of pursuing an obscure hobby is the lack of published information. In Japan, there are no magazines on postcard collecting. There are books on postcards, but only very few. There is no vintage postcard price guide, no postcard fairs (only postage stamp fairs), and no public awareness of postcard collecting as a hobby. Ironic when collecting Pokemon cards, baseball cards, and stamps are very popular.

Serious postcard collectors in Japan who have been collecting for years have much information gleaned from books, articles, and other collectors. However, those of us new to the hobby or not familiar with Japan will have difficulty finding Japanese postcard-related information in a neat little book or magazine. And so I created this basic guide in English to Japanese postcard collecting.

This guide centers on vintage Japanese postcards which remain the most interesting genre. There’s an active auction market in Japan and on eBay for vintage Japanese postcards. This guide tries to answer basic questions like how to date vintage Japanese postcards and appraise their value.

Postcard Guide Contents

Japan’s postcard history and how to date old postcards
Gallery of vintage Japanese postcards – Philbert Ono Collection
Japanese postcard FAQ – Includes postcard glossary
Kokkei Shimbun postcards – by Andrew Watt
Japan Times article on Postcard Club and founder Jason Smith – by Angela Jeffs in 1997
Book review of postcard books – Meiji Period postcards
Book review of Yokohama postcard book
T. Enami – Yokohama-based photographer active in the 1920-30s
Vintage Postcard Shops in Osaka
Year Conversion Table – Figure out what year Meiji 5 was, etc.

Although utmost efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information presented here, all information is presented on an “as is” basis. Use the information only at your own risk. The authors shall not be liable to any person or entity with respect to any liability, loss, damage, accident, or inconvenience caused or alleged to have been caused directly or indirectly by any of the information contained in PostcardGuide Japan.
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Philbert Ono

Owner, operator, and Webmaster of PhotoGuide Japan ( and PHOTOGUIDE.JP.

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