Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉 actually called Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa – 松尾 忠右衛門 宗房, lived between 1644–1694) is one of the most known names of the Edo period of Japan. His writings, including numerous haiku (俳句) is even today considered a standard form of poetry writing, and his style inspired many of the writers of the next generations. His collection of writings Oku no hosomichi (奥の細道, often translated as “The Narrow Road to the Deep North“, or “The Narrow Road to the Interior“) is one of the gems of the literature of Edo Period. The text describes Matsuo Bashō ‘s travels in 44 fragments, called “stations”. Each of the short texts includes a description of the travel and the people encountered on the way, and concludes with some haiku verse.
Between 1987 and 1989, the Japanese Post devoted as many as 40 stamps and 20 minisheets to the writing of Oku no hosomichi. The 40 stamps come in pairs of 2, the resulting 2-panel stamp being a haiku poem and an illustration of the respective haiku poem. 20 such panels result. Each panel is also accompanied by an imperforated sheet. The stamps and sheets are separated into 10 series, numbered from 1 to 10.
The first series (26.02.1987)
The second series (23.06.1987)
The third series (25.08.1987)
The fourth series (23.01.1988)
The fifth series (10.03.1988)
The sixth series (30.05.1988)
The seventh series (23.08.1988)
The eighth series (11.11.1988)
The ninth series (13.02.1989)
The tenth series (12.05.1989)
The 20 imperforated minisheets were issued after many of the 10 series of 4 stamps each had already been issued, in two installments. The first included the first 10 minisheets (series 1 – 5) and was issued on 10.03.1989.
The second series of 10 imperforated minisheets, corresponding to series 6-10 was issued on 01.08.1989.
The concordance with stations on Matsuo Bashō’s travels
As mentioned in the beginning of the article, Oku no hosomichi (奥の細道) is made up of stations (stops on the poet’s way). The stamp suite corresponds to these stations to a large extent.
The first series (station 2, “Departure”; station 5, “Nikko); the second series (station 9, “Sesshoseki”); the third series (station 11, “Sukagawa”; station 13, “Shinobu”); the fourth series (station 18, “Sendai”; station 23, “Hiraizumi”); the fifth series (station 25, “Obanazawa”; station 26, “Ryushakuji”); the sixth series (station 28, “Mogamigawa”; station 29, “Harugosan”); the seventh series (station 32, “Kisagata”; station 33, “Echigo); the eighth series (station 34, “Ichiburi”, station 36, “Komatsu”); the ninth series (station 37, “Natadera”; station 41, “Tsuruga”); the tenth series (station 42, “Ironohama”; station 43, “Ogaki”).
Stamps featured in post: 40; Period: contemporary (1987-1989); Pricing: moderate; Availability: most items are readily available, the whole set of sheets is harder to assemble.
Michel catalogue numbers and catalogue prices for MNH: Stamps: the first series (MiNr. 1717-1720, 4EUR); the second series (MiNr. 1740-1743, 6EUR); the third series (MiNr. 1749-1752, 4EUR); the fourth series (MiNr. 1765-1768, 4EUR); the fifth series (MiNr. 1772-1775, 4EUR); the sixth series (MiNr. 1786-1789, 4EUR); the seventh series (MiNr. 1803-1806, 4EUR); the eighth series (MiNr. 1814-1817, 4EUR); the ninth series (MiNr. 1823-1826, 4EUR); the tenth series (MiNr 1844-1847, 4EUR). Minisheets: the first series (series 1-5, MiNr. Block 118-127, 30EUR); the second series (series 6-10, MiNr. Block 130-139, 30EUR). Total catalogue price of the stamps and minisheets: 102EUR.