Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday's postcard: Japanese girls imitate the three wise monkeys

This awesome old postcard features three Japanese girls in elaborate kimonos doing a version of the three wise monkeys -- also known as "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

Here are some quick facts about this maxim, from Wikipedia:
  • The monkeys have names: Mizaru (covering eyes), Kikazaru (covering ears) and Iwazaru (covering mouth)
  • The origins of the saying might date as far back as China in 4th century B.C., when there existed a phrase that translates to: "Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety."
  • The Italian version, "Non vedo, non sento, non parlo," (I see nothing, I hear nothing, I say nothing), expresses the Omertà, a code of silence enforced by criminal organizations such as the Sicilian Mafia.
  • Mahatma Gandhi's one notable exception to his lifestyle of non-possession was a small statue of the three wise monkeys.
This postcard was never used. The reverse side has an ornate border and a reference to Union Postale Universelle.

If anyone can translate this Japanese text on the back of the postcard, I'd be very appreciative. And it might lend a bit more insight to this card.


  1. Printed in the USA ?

  2. I can't tell you how much I love this postcard!

    I don't have a large ephemera collection; but I do have a gorgeous Geisha postcard from the 30s that I found in the bottom of a box lot a few years ago :)

  3. The text on the back of the postcard is read from right to left and appear to be a Chinese phrase, rather than Japanese, but the characters are similar enough to those in current use in Japan that I can tell you they translate to "Manchuria Postal Service Postcard." I hope that helps.

  4. ive got 3 hear no evil speak no evil see no evil japanese dolls from the 70s and i cant find out any information about them couls someone help me ??