Japanese

[Column 3] No. 1 label made in Japan

Various Labels

Various Labels

Column Content
  • [Column 1] Sweden, the match country that actively pursued the world market share
  • [Column02] Cherry flowers, the symbol of Japan, were the first design of Shinsuisha Co., Ltd.
  • [Column03] No. 1 label made in Japan
  • [Column04] Iwaya's cigarette labels of Tengu
  • [Column 05] The Match Museum in Sweden; the only match museum in the world
  • [Column06] | Memoir of "Match Wonderland Exhibition" at the Tomakomai City Museum
  • [Column07] | Kobe University's Auxiliary Library: Explore the source of modern Kobe, Suzuki Shop and 'rise and fall' of match industry

Match labels are called "rinpyo (in Japanese)," "match letter (in Netherlands)," or match paper" by the match collectors. The labels that all collectors are dying to have are those made in the early time of match production, which is called "kohyo" by hobbyists, and collectors are willing to pay large sum of money to buy half rotten labels at an exchanging meeting.

But it was only a long time ago that hobbyists collected match labels: now nobody can find match labels made in the early time no matter where they look, for instance at antique shops, antique markets held in shrine, or at antique book shops, etc. Probably, only place you can see these "kohyo" is the Label Album in Rankei Library, where the old labels are shown spectacularly.

"Kohyo" is not the word with strict definition, but we think "kohyo" are labels made before 1890's (Meiji 20's). Because matches were already popular commodity around 1890's: matches were not only abundantly supplied in Japan those days, but also they were exported to overseas: about several billion to 9 billion pieces of matches were produced annually in Japan, and approximately 80% of the output was exported to China, India and South East Asia.

While match production was active, many match companies were established, and designs of rinpyo (match labels) were diversely created: as gigantic amount of rinpyo were printed around that time, it is still possible to find some of them.

However, rinpyo that were printed before 1890's (Meiji 20's) are hard to find since the match business was not soundly established yet those days, so they are valuable. Match collectors (airinka or rinpyoka in Japanese) usually determine the antique value of labels by calculating how many of them were printed for how long, and classify the rareness of the labels: the rarer the label is, the more value it has.

The whole collection of kohyo will be shown in the museum some other time. And at present, we like to show registered trademark matches (honpyo), advertising matches, and premium matches used for advertisement of cigarette, and No. 1 memorial match made by Match Label Collectors' Association to honor the exhibition event.

The registered design No. 1: Crouching Lion (Nejishi in Japanese)

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The first trademark registered in Japan was made by Seisuisha Co., Ltd in Kobe and called "Crouching Lion." Registration system of the trademark was regulated for the first time in Japan in June, 1884 (Meiji 17). Seisuisha Co., Ltd led by Benzo Takigawa in Kobe, and Shumeisha Co., Ltd. led by Noritaka Komichi applied for registration on October 11, 1884 (Meiji 17), and both were admitted on June 20th, 1885 (Meiji 18).

The first registration was the "Crouching Lion" of Seisuisha Company and numbered as No. 321, the second was "Eagle" of the same company as No. 322, the third was "Rising Dragon" as No. 323, and the trademark by Shinsuisha Co., Ltd, the company of Makoto Shimizu who first built the match factory in Japan was also admitted on the same day: the registration numbers of them are: Branch of Cherry Flowers was No. 324, Cherry Flower was No. 325, and The Horse was No. 326.

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By the way, the design of Crouching Lion was almost the same with the match label made in Sweden: it was a copied trademark in which only a few words were changed. This was because people's acknowledgement for copyright of trademark was very poor, but the fact that they imitated Swedish design tells us that Japanese highly evaluated overseas' items, especially those in Western culture.

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Advertising matches given away by Tamatsuka Store

After brand matches, we like to show advertising matches that started around 1889 - 1890 (Meiji 30's): the first give-away match in 1893 (Meiji 26) was the one with name of Tamatsuka Store, the stockbroker. This was given away at the exhibition hall at the Ueno Park, where "Welcome Home party" for Yasumasa Fukushima was held to praise his feat of traversing the Siberia's grand snow land by himself. The Tamatsuka Store was founded in 1891 (Meiji 24) and later reorganized as Tamatsuka Stock Company.

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By the way, Yasumasa Fukushima had great talents in gathering information: in 1892 (Meiji 25) he was ordered by Army Department of the government to collect confidential details about Siberia where the political situation was quite unstable. He traveled alone from Berlin, Germany to Vladiostiok spending one year and four months, and investigated the region to find whether it was advantageous for Japan to build the Siberia railroad there.
After he came back to Japan, he was assigned to the strategist of the first troop during War of China-Japan (Nisshin War), and to the strategist of the main troop during War of Russia-Japan (Nichiro War).

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The first premium matches were given away by Murai Brothers, Ltd., tobacco dealer in Kyoto, with their company's tobacco picture on the label, at the army maneuver in Kinki region (around middle part of Japan) in 1895 (Meiji 28), after the Russia-Japan war.

Murai's Tobacco Label, "HERO"

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Murai used American tobacco leaves and named their products in Western images such as "Hero" and "Sun Rice": on the other hand, Iwaya Shokai, led by Matsuhei Iwaya who moved to Tokyo from Kagoshima and established the store in Ginza, used 100% of Japanese tobacco leaves and promoted the business under the name of Tengu (imaginary ogre) Tobacco: Iwaya employed red-tengu as the trademark, and competed with Murai Brothers to the hilt selling tobacco named "Golden Tengu," "Giant Tengu," and "Nationally Beneficial Tengu."

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The business competition between Murai, the Westernized man, and Iwaya, the Kyushu man had once been a craze in Japan, but the tobacco business was confiscated by the government in 1904 (Meiji 37) to make money for war, which terminated the excited competition of private tobacco business.

Memorial match of the Rinshikinshukai (collectors' club)

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The first match label we like to show you is allegedly the first memorial match made to honor the exhibition of Rinshikinshukai, which was held in a big exhibition hall. The exhibition began on March 20th in 1907 (Meiji 40) and during the exhibition period, "Match Label Exhibition of Rinshikinshukai" was held on March 25th at the Home Mansion's rest house. On that day, rare labels and superior labels that belonged to members were displayed on all walls of the rest house, and a few thousands of specially made matches with yakko design (yakko is a servant worked in samurai's house during Edo Period) were given away free: it made a big topic in Japan. (Name of RinshiKinshukai was changed to "Japan RinshiKinshukai" in 1907, Meiji 40.)
RinshiKinshukai was match label collectors' club established in 1903 (Meiji 36) by Yanagawa Icchosai, Katsura Bunraku, and Hayakawa Chuto as founders: these three members had performed important roles in the match label collectors' club that ended in 1937 (Showa 12) and 3000 members joined the club by then.

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