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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Matchbox Labels Of Japan - Part 2

Here's another edition of matchbox labels that were made in Japan for both the Japanese market and/or the international market.

Some of these suckers are from the 1880s on up, and possess striking artwork (ha-ha), which is what garnered my attention in the first place.

I previously documented some matchbox labels HERE - in particular order except that they were what I found first.

Before I turned 10, someone gave me matchbox labels of scenes from around the world... maybe 50 of them.

While I give the impression that I never throw anything out, I can find no evidence of my matchbox art "collection" anywhere. From what I do recall, they were highly colored... but they had a hand-tinted look about them. Ugh... so many years ago.

In Japan, Matthew and I would collect matches from places we visited - but I gave what few I had to Matthew as he had a large jug filled with them. Instead, I collected ukiyo-e, coins, stamps and postcards - in case my photographs wouldn't turn out (in the days before digital cameras).

Anyhow, this time around, I am just going to present labels containing animals, real or mythical.

In all cases, the artwork on the matchbox labels says the product was "Made In Japan", or has a Japanese matchmaking company name, which is why I classify them as Japanese.

Some of these products appear to be destined to Japan, to China, and to places where English is the native language - hence the need to state where they are from.

Until WWII, anything that was considered to be of Japanese origin was considered by western countries to be exotic.

Besides the artwork, I like the whimsical nature of the artwork... which has me wondering why it was chosen - but again, I assume it was to make the curious westerner that much more curious about these strange matchboxes coming for the Far East.

I assume this is Japanese because of the red Rising Sun, a motif of Japan. Otherwise, there aren't any native elephants in Japan, so the image is fanciful... but if it was real, that farmer's vegetable patch would be well fertilized. What's cool are the three birds in the picture.
Obviously the girls on the see-saw (teeter-totter) waving Japanese flags was the clue this was a Japanese matchbox label. But what's with the elephant? Perhaps a circus motif? Is he about to smack the girls with the book? Like you, I  wonder what happens next? Obviously the elephant gets off the see-saw and the girls come crashing down breaking a few things... or the girls, in an effort to avod being swatted by the elephant, jump off the teeter-totter... but because the elephant weighs so much, nothing happens to the elephant.
Maybe I just like pugs because I hope they can talk like Frank from Men In Black. Maybe this is real, maybe this is just art. The quality of the paper seems extremely high, and there's a distinct lack of Japanese writing on it... Then again, the word "Matches" is spelled incorrectly.
More ram than goat in my estimation - not that I have any great knowledge of goats (or rams), this artwork at least looks "life-like", and by that I mean less comical.
I'm going to say that the Indian elephant atop the carp implies that this is a company from India having the poor Japanese make their matches for them, because of what they are paid... my how times have changed.
Is it just me, or does the tiger have an expression on its face that makes it seem like it just smelled a fart? Of course the old sulphur-head matches always smelled like a fart when the match was struck. I'm also pretty sure that tigers aren't all that happy around fire.
Okay, either the perspective is off... and that's a possibility as Japanese artists didn't have a grip on perspective very often... or the Nara deer is about to "mule-kick" the invisible man standing directly behind it. I'm unsure what the chickens are doing, but I do like how the artist was able to use red on the poultry's face without losing it to the red background. See the use of "white" shadowing on the rooster's comb and waddle? or the use of striping on the ground - nice.
Carrying on the fine tradition of animals riding one another, we have a contemplative frog carrying one of the Lost Stones from Indiana Jones (2) movie The Temple of Doom. At least the bat doesn't seem put-off by his passenger. Imagine if the bat and the frog had kids... you'd get the Dendropsophus ozzyi, a newly discovered "bat frog" that looks like a tree frog but has a piercing cry like a bat. Look at the Latin name... it was named after rock singer Ozzy Osbourne. I'm pretty sure it's because the bat frog does NOT scream out "Sharonnnnnn!"
Another one with one critter riding another... this time a bee has enslaved a snail to use as his ultra slow mount. Perhaps in this strange world of matchbox label art, the bees have lost their ability to fly, and the snails... the snails... I got nothing... Now... I've seen bees before, and perhaps the one's we have in North America are less elongated, but to me the bee looks more like a hornet or a wasp. Does anyone else feel creeped out that the bee is looking directly at us... as though it's piercing the fourth wall knowing that it's being watched?
This is a Japanese sturgeon. I had to look it up and see if such a thing exists... and it does, but despite it's name, it only appears to exist in waters off China and Russia, at least in the wild. I do believe that Japan has farms for sturgeon now, using them for meat, but more prized for the roe... eggs... black caviar. In this image, the fish should be much sleeker... with a longer body... but what do I know about fish... actually, I know more about fish than I do about goats.
At first I thought this was a swan, but now I think it's a cormorant... and the black line inking on the bird does make it more realistic, as it's a black bodied bird with a white throat and cheeks. In real life it would have a yellowish bill.
Note sure what you are looking at? Let me help you. Two naked cherub angels are dancing around a Nara deer that is walking on stilts. Perhaps the angels are keeping the deer safe... hence the "safety match". I don't know. Enjoy the whimsy.
I don't know what the flying tiger motif has to do with Japan in this early example of matchbox label art. Before WWII started for the U.S., pilots joined Burma in helping get supplies to China who had been overrun by Japan. Those pilots who flew the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter plane, were known as the Flying Tigers.
Although not wearing human clothing, I believe this is a version of anthropomorphism (holy fug, I spelled it correctly the first time!!!) where by animals are given human traits... in this case, rather than lying on a window sill and peer outwards, we have what appears to be a father cat with his paw/hand atop his younger song's head, as they stand on their hind feet to lean on a balcony and peer out a window at us. It's amusing as it is unsettling, and this is coming from a Donald Duck fan.
It's a pretty neat looking lion... the King of the Jungle standing atop a branch of some kind that has no business supporting its weight. While I'm unsure about what's coming out of the lion's mouth, and why the lion is standing on a tree limb, the actual physical representation of the lion is spectacular implying that the artist has at least seen a lion to know how to draw one properly.
There are, of course, many more I have ready to introduce to you, dear reader... but why lessen the impact by presenting 100 at a time?

Andrew Joseph

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