Cherry Blossom Postage Stamp

Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.
On 24 March 2012, the United States Postal Service released a postage stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the cherry trees in Washington, D.C. This “forever” stamp was printed in an initial edition of 100,000,000 copies. All of these were selling out in the first two weeks of release, at the rate of more than one million a day, prompting the postal service to print 50,000,000 more, making it one of the top three best-selling U.S. postage stamps in decades. On the backing paper for each set of twenty stamps is a translation by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch, from our 2008 artbook, 100 Poets: Passions of the Imperial Court (PIE Books, Tokyo), available on Amazon. The poem by Ki no Tomonori from ninth-century Japan is in the waka form, now known as tanka. As founder and first president of the Tanka Society of America, it gives me great pleasure to see this genre of poetry receive such attention, and I can think of no broader or better way to bring such poetry to the people than through a postage stamp. The poem appears below, followed by additional images of the stamp, first-day-of-issue envelopes, and other related merchandise, all available at the United States Postal Service website [no longer available, but you can now buy them on Amazon]. See also the Washington Post report about stamp sales exceeding all expectations. The following translation was also published in Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society #18, October 2011, page 177, and on the back cover of the Spring-Summer 2012 issue of Ribbons, the journal of the Tanka Society of America (which I founded in 2000).       +       +




hisakata no hikari nodokeki harunohi ni shizugokoro naku hana no chiruran 



Ki no Tomonori (c.850–c.904)


the light filling the air

is so mild this spring day

only the cherry blossoms

keep falling in haste—

why is that so?


Translated by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch



Cherry Blossom Stamp

The cherry blossom stamp image covers two panes, together celebrating mutual friendship between Japan and the United States.


The back of the stamp pane looks like this (above), with our translation at the top (click to enlarge). The prose was written by Jeffrey Angles. 

First Day of Issue

The stamp pane and first day of issue commemorative envelopes (above).


First Day of Issue Envelopes

First day of issue envelopes (above).


First Day of Issue Ceremony

First day of issue ceremony envelope (above).




Unveiling of the cherry blossom stamp on 14 April 2012 at the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival (above; click to enlarge). See also the Nichi Bei story. San Francisco postmaster Raj Sanghera unveiled the stamp with San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee, together with Allen Okamoto, the consul general of Japan in San Francisco, and other key members of the community.




Our cherry blossom stamp and translation also appeared on the back cover of the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Ribbons, the journal of the Tanka Society of America (which I founded in 2000), shown here.