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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Anne Of Green Gables Canada & Japan Stamps


Like many a young woman, I have read the classic novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Yeah, I know what I wrote. It works on two levels, however.

Originally completed in 1905, the fictional tale of young Anne Shirley growing up in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island in Canada was rejected by multiple publishers—proving once again, that one person's junk is another person's treasure.

All the record companies that rejected The Beatles will understand that, too.

After her story was rejected by various publishers, Mongtgomery put her manuscript in a hat box, hiding it away for three years before trying again, finally achieving publication via a Boston publisher in 1908—and, of course, immediate success.

I only read the book a few years ago, and while I am perhaps too old and too male to get the whole romantic notions contained within it, I can see its appeal.

For whatever reason, Japan… or rather the near entire female population of Japan seems to love Anne of Green Gables… with a fervor… a passion… with a zeal that has caused Japan to create its own Anne of Green Gables-themed amusement park and a highly-rated animated television series.

Oh yeah… there's also an Anne Academy (like Space Camp, but for red-heads); a nursing school nicknamed the "Green Gables School of Nursing"; people can get married in Anne-themed weddings; thousands of Japanese tourists visit Prince Edward Island each year, there are many fan clubs… oh, and of course, the book is still the favorite of young women across Japan.

Despite having only traveled to Prince Edward Island once—you gotta go!—upon arriving in Japan to assistant teach junior high school English in the sort-of rural city of Ohtawara in Tochigi-ken, I was beset upon class after class of Japanese girls, would politely ask me: "Do you know Anne?"

At first I was confused… Anne who?

I didn't know that Anne of Green Gables had achieved such legendary status in Japan where she was simply known by her first name like Cher or Twiggy or Bono.

Never wanting to disappoint, I lied and said yes, I did know Anne.

I knew of her, but had never read the book. I didn't even know that Anne was "Canadian".

Class after class of Japanese junior high school girls - now armed with the knowledge that I knew all about Anne - would smile and bow at me for being strange.

Well, I was… but it was because I was a guy who knew everything about Anne of Green Gables. Plus I came from the same country as Anne. They do know she's fictional, right?

I don't know when I suddenly knew everything, but the girls now thought I did. Maybe it was when I might have mentioned that I liked women with red hair.

Even if it wasn't a rebellious thing for Japanese girls/women to do, achieving that perfect red hue worn by Anne would have been near impossible. At least every redhead in Japan that I saw only got a poor dry strawberry blonde hue from a Henna rinse that paled beside my true strawberry-blonde-best-buddy, Matthew.

Upon each visit to the seven junior high schools in Ohtawara, the girls would track me down and push drawings of Anne they had created into my paper-cut fingers. Some were quite good, but I really had no notion of what I was looking at, as it always seemed to have a heavy manga (Japanese comic book) style to it. Those drawings were never mine to keep, by the way. It was just for me to give approval to.

I did know that it was my goal to find a Japanese women with red hair and big boobs—but unfortunately, while two out of three ain't bad for some folks, I was still left wanting, eventually giving up to just find a Japanese woman who could stomach me.

Anyhow... to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Canadian icon Anne of Green Gables via an American publisher (the irony is not lost on me), the Royal Canadian Mint issued a special color quarter coin featuring the forever redheaded Anne in 2008.

Note the artwork on the coin... see below for details on it, and wonder why the Royal Canadian Mint and Canada Post are too cheap to provide true variety.

I've seen many so-called special coins in active Canadian circulation—I snap those up like ex-girlfriends—but until I did a search for something else, I had no idea this coin existed. (I'm an ex-numismatic (coin collector), though I still have a decent Canadian collection. I'm just missing the expensive stuff. Of course.)

That something else that I was looking for—brought to my attention by my friend Julien… I'm unsure why he was looking up stamps featuring redheads—are the Anne of Green Gables stamps.

Canada Post issued a pair of $0.52 stamps in 2008 - see below:

The stamps images are based upon original artwork officially authorized by the heirs of Montgomery and the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority Inc.

The painting of Anne was created by Ben Stahl, while the Green Gables house is by Christopher Kovacs.

"Anne is such a unique character, so full of life and so inspired by nature," says stamp designer Dennis Page. "These paintings represent her story well—the images are surrounded by nature, and Anne appears lost in her thoughts."

Page worked with digital illustrator Mike Little on the unique frame for the two images, which serves as a subtle reminder that Anne's famous story is actually a work of fiction.

"The stamp frames are meant to resemble the pages of a book printed in 1908, with deckle edges and an original look and feel," says Page.

As for the sheet of stamps at the very top of this blog, it was a limited-edition sheet of stamps featuring the two Canadian stamps, and eight real ¥80 Japanese stamps featuring four scenes from the animated Japanese television show.

It was issued in 2008 - a joint venture between Canada and Japan, and was not issued separately by Japan Post Co., Ltd.

I am only assuming it is from the first animated Japanese series called Akage no An ((赤毛のアン, Lit. Red-haired Anne), and was produced by Nippon Animation (see… Nippon, as in Japan Animation) in 1979 with a total of 50 episodes.

By the way… the Canada Post website says the Japanese Anne of Green Gables animated show is entitled "Nippon"… which is actually one of the ways the Japanese/Nihonjin say "Japan". D'oh Canada.

This sheet of 2008 stamps were so incredibly popular, that 10-million of the 15-million print run was sold in the first month of its release.

Canada Post does still have some of the sheets remaining for sale: at CDN $8… a 25% discount from the original CDN$10.99. See HERE.

By the way… there was a Japanese television drama called Hanako to Anne (花子とアン, Hanako to An, Hanako and Anne), that debuted on March 31, 2014 on the NHK network. It was broadcast Monday through Saturday morning, running through September 27, 2014. It was based on the novel An no Yurikago Muraoka Hanako no Shogai by Muraoka Eri (surname first), which is the story of her grandmother Hanako (1893–1968), who was the first to translate Anne of Green Gables into Japanese back in 1952.

As for my deception towards the youth of Japan, well… even Anne of Green Gables author Montgomery said she never felt quite truthful admitting that this vibrant red-headed girl was indeed a fictional character.

Yes, I like Anne,
Andrew Joseph

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