Why did the Japanese Post Office start using Roman characters in their postmarks for overseas mail in the late 1880s?

  • 1
    For overseas mail? I would guess so that people overseas can read them?
    – vsz
    Jul 17, 2016 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


In 1877 Japan joined the Universal Postal Union, which specifies cooperative rules for international mail.

The UPU’s history can be traced as far back as 1863, when then United States Postmaster General Montgomery Blair called a conference in Paris, France, to lay down a number of general principles for mutual agreements, but delegates failed to agree on an international postal agreement.

Ten years later, Heinrich von Stephan, a senior postal official from the North German Confederation, drew up a plan for an international postal union, and upon his recommendation the Swiss Government convened an international conference in Berne on 15 September 1874. Representatives from 22 nations attended the conference, and on 9 October – a day now celebrated as World Post Day – the Treaty of Bern establishing the General Postal Union was signed.

This treaty succeeded in unifying a confusing international maze of postal services and regulations into a single postal territory for the reciprocal exchange of mail. The barriers and frontiers impeding the free flow and growth of international mail had finally been pulled down.

Membership in the Union grew so quickly that its name was changed to the Universal Postal Union in 1878. The organization became a United Nations specialized agency for postal services in 1948.


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