Tour a stamp collectors' paradise

by Mary Wislowski

Despite the prevalence of e-mail, some people still take pleasure in communicating via handwritten or typed letters, and selecting just the right postage stamp to adorn the envelope. Admirers of the kitte can enjoy visiting the Philatelic Museum in Mejiro, Tokyo, to see the postage stamps of the world and enlarge their own collections.

The museum's Japanese name is Kitte no Hakubutsukan (切手の博物館). Exhibitions in the first-floor gallery change three times a year. One wall is taken up by two huge maps – one showing the entire world, the other depicting Japan only. Blown-up photocopies of stamps are attached to the relevant areas of the maps. Glass cases holding pages of stamp albums and information about them stand in front of the map wall. A popular 2013 exhibit featured stamps from all over the globe honouring the British Royal Family.

The second floor has a library of more than 10,000 philatelic publications. Some may be perused freely, but others need to be requested through the librarians. Young visitors may not recognize the wooden box with small drawers known as a card catalog, which used to reside in all libraries before the advent of computers. This card catalog contains information on stamp directories throughout the world. A corner of the library displays the desk of the museum’s late founder, Meiso Mizuhara, a noted philatelist.

Special events take place in the third-floor Exhibition Room. On the third Sunday of every month, there are workshops for creating art by sticking stamps to paper. The museum also holds periodic lectures on philately, and bazaars of stamp dealers.

Admission to the museum is 200 yen for adults, 100 yen for children, and free for the disabled. Visitors may pay in cash, unused postage stamps, or a combination of both. However, there is no charge to enter on the 23rd of every month, known as “fu-mi no hi”, or “Letter-Writing Day.” (If the 23rd falls on a Monday, the museum’s regular day off, admission is free on the 24th.) Also, there is no need to pay entrance fees if visiting only the first-floor Shop Zone. The gift shop offers frames and albums for collectors, as well as postcard reproductions of notable stamp designs. In the marketplace area, Japan Post stamps currently in circulation are available. Several dealers have their own booths where they sell antique, foreign or rare stamps and postcards. The Shop Zone only accepts cash for purchases.

It takes only a short amount of time to view the exhibits in the Philatelic Museum, but even casual visitors may find they want to spend more time in the world of stamps.

Address: 1-4-23 Mejiro Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171-0031
Tel: 03-5951-3331
Philatelic Museum website (English)

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