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  • Juju Kurihara

Old Japanese Matchbox designs

Updated: May 10, 2023

In general I like to collect things. It´s not a really practical habit if you are a traveller and moving around the world every few years. I try not to but some how my stuff increases. I collect hats, sugar packets and stamps. These are what I collect consciously. I have no idea what else I collect unconsciously. I collect sugar packets and stamps because of the design. They are disposable. You rip the sugar packet, pour it into your coffee, crumple the packet and that´s it. Not everyone contemplates the design and decides to keep some because of the design.

But there are some people or companies who take time for the illustration, knowing that majority of people just throw it away without even looking at the picture. I find it´s a little sad. Matchboxes are one of them and sadly, I collect them...

Recently I´ve found a page where shows old matchboxes design in the world. I thought it was amusing. I think they are surrealistic and I love them. And here are Japanese matches starting from the early 20th Century.

inseparables 1900

This is from 1900.

Samuel Samuel & Co was a trading company who helped Japan´s industrialization.

Trading and inseparable pigeons couple... why?

cat and dog 1910

Cats and a dog having a tension between…

wearing the earth 1910

I wonder what they sold in 1910 but surely it was the best stuff that makes you shoot through the Earth.

juggler 1920

This is from 1920. A black guy standing on his hand with a knife in his mouth. Hm, what did it represent?

protection from fire 1920

Protection from fire! Our hero froggie!

But could this match be lit?

the lip brand 1935

The lip brand in 1935.

Safety for lips?

superior safety

Superior safety.

Even kittens can light without burning their fur.


Of course, it´s Japanese. Damp proof robot match.


Gandhi match.

The sign "Made in Japan" looks a little awkward.


camera matches

Camera series.

They must be sort of advertisements back then.

safety cats

More cats matchbox.

More safe than those goldfish surrounded by three kittens?


Iron mark matchbox. As tough as iron? Mysterious…

disco fever

I like this. Disco Fever.

Especially these birds who don´t look so dancy at all!

japan design matches

There are more.

What I see is most of them trying to sell its safety. Animals on the boat crossing the ocean. Or an elephant on a carp´s back travelling the water.

Did old match ignite itself?


These are more recent although they have a retro design. If you look close, each head of the matches has a face. Brilliant!

See? There are people who make a lot of effort to design this. I just hope that people appreciate more even if they decide not to keep them.

I think I allow myself collect them though...

More Japanese designs


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