Maejima Hisoka, The First Postmaster General of Japan

We recently had a film crew in the search room from the production company, Freepit Inc, who are making a documentary about Maejima Hisoka, the first Postmaster General of Japan. Mr Maejima visited Britain in 1870. He went on a fact finding mission to study the workings of the British General Post Office. Because of this the Japanese postal system was similar to the British postal system in the Victorian times. According to our curators it was not uncommon for civil servants from other countries to visit Britain to observe how things were done, then report back and vice versa.

The film crew were interested in interviewing our Philatelic Curator, Douglas Muir, and filming records and artefacts that the BPMA has connected with the postal reforms from around the 1840s. This included one of our sheets of Penny Blacks and the pamphlet that Rowland Hill wrote in 1837 titled, ‘Post Office Reform its Importance and Practicability’ , a copy of which is available in the search room reference library and the Archive.

Philatelic Curator Douglas Muir (right) with the Japanese film crew.

Philatelic Curator Douglas Muir (right) with the Japanese film crew.

They were also interested in what the exterior and interior of Post Offices would have looked like at the time of Mr Maejima’s visit. As 1870 is still very early days in terms of photography we provided them with a coloured print c. 1890 ‘Familiar Scenes for Object Lessons. A Post Office’ by W & A K Johnston and a drawing of the Post Office building, G.P.O. West.

Familiar Scenes for Object Lessons. A Post Office by W & A K Johnston

Familiar Scenes for Object Lessons. A Post Office by W & A K Johnston

As well as the postal system Mr Maejima also observed the Post Office Savings Bank and Money Order services and took some of these ideas back to Japan.

We also carried out some research on Freepic Inc’s behalf looking for a record of Mr Maejima’s visit to the UK in the archive. Unfortunately, this was unsuccessful, however, we did find copies of correspondence from Mr Maejima and a speech written by Mr Maejima from when he became Postmaster General of Japan. The spelling of his name is slightly different but it is definitely the same man.

Convention between the General Post Office and the Post Office of the Empire of Japan. (POST 46/28)

Convention between the General Post Office and the Post Office of the Empire of Japan. (POST 46/28)

Proposed Postal Convention between the General Post Office and the Post Office of the Empire of Japan. (POST 29/231)

Proposed Postal Convention between the General Post Office and the Post Office of the Empire of Japan. (POST 29/231)

We’ll let you know when the documentary is released.

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