Japanese Gotochi Cards – A Unique Must-have Collection!
Like many avid collectors around the world, I am the proud owner of various rather than just one. My collections vary from coins (currency), stamps, magnets, to hand-made bookmarks. And as a veteran snail-mailer, I love collecting postcards that represent the culture or sightseeing spots in their origin countries.
Started in 2012, my postcards collection has grown bigger by either bought postcards in my travels or received postcards via swapping with other passionate collectors. Prior to studying in Japan, I was satisfied with the postcards I have gotten so far. But that changed completely when I entered a post office for the first time in Osaka, and saw on the stand Japan's popular "Gotochi" cards. It was love from the first sight!
Gotochi in Japanese can be translated simply into "local" or "regional" which is the main purpose of Japanese postal system producing these cards as they beautifully represent Japan's 47 prefectures.
What makes a Gotochi postcard unique is its shape; where instead of being of a regular rectangle, it takes on the shape of the cartoon picture famous to the area of Japan. Also, each prefecture’s Gotochi card showcases the prefecture’s various symbols: landscape, famous figure, local dish or famous animal. In addition, the name of the prefecture is printed on these colourful cartoon cards.
Collecting these cards isn't for the sake of hobby only, you can also determine your next sightseeing spots simply by looking at them. Take this card for example, where it depicts some of the top tourists attractions in Hyogo prefecture: Kobe port tower, Rokko Mountain cable car and uniquely designed Kobe marine museum.
Since 2009, Japanese postal system has been releasing one full set of 47 cards, which up to now had accumulated into 329 amazing Gotochi cards, with 7 different cards for each prefecture! And if this wasn't enough, for every set of Gotochi cards you buy, you will get one or two special and adorable mini Gotochi cards.
Now, if you decided to start your own collection, you will face three main obstacles: first and most importantly, you can buy each prefecture cards only in its main or local post offices; that means you have to visit each of the 47 prefectures to obtain the complete collection! Secondly, since 2014, Japanese postal system announced that they would cease or "retire" the production of one card, which happens to be the least popular, from each prefecture making it even harder to have the complete set. Lastly and less common, your closest post office might not have the full set or even worse might not sell at all any Gotochi card.
But don't let these difficulties deter you, as you may be able to get the full collection if you searched for the "retired" or the missing cards on eBay, though you will have to pay much more than its original price of 185 yen ( Approximately 1.65$).
Another option will be to arrange a direct private swap with other postcards collectors on postcrossing.com or swapboat.com.
A third option is to head to the biggest or main post office in the capital city of your current prefecture, and ask for the retired or missing card of that prefecture's collection. You will be able to find the missing cards but as for the retired ones it isn't guaranteed, but worth trying.
As for me, I have collected the full set of 4 prefectures so far, and enthusiastically planning to visit the remaining 43 prefectures and complete my Japan collection if time and budget permit!