Cherry Blossoms: 1/2 Sen Brown with Crossed Branches


Brown or Gray Brown first issued 3 October 1872 (four plates)

Scott #9 and Sakura #9  or #15 on native paper

Size 19 1/2 mm x 22 1/2 mm


This stamp has four original plates and two printings.  Sakura #9 is plates 1-3 and #15 is plate 4.  All the plates were etched by the Matsuda firm and  printed by Matsuda, but one plate (plate 4-Sakura #15) was also printed later by the Government Printing Bureau.  Matsuda printed in either a brown or red brown ink, while the later Government printings were in gray brown.  There are no genuine copies of the Government printing known with legitimate cancels. The Government printing was exported to foreign countries in unused condition for philatelists.  Any plate 4 used probably has a forged cancel.

Reminder:  Only 16 petals or florets in the genuine Kiku Crest (Chrysanthemum Crest)


1/2 sen, crossed branches, Plate 1 with paper fold
Plate 1

A paper fold in the SW corner of this stamp.  This is an inconsistent error.

1/2 sen, crossed branches, Plate 2, section of leaf missing
Plate 2 position 23

Genuine: Plate 2-23

Section of leaf missing on paulownia branch.


1/2 sen, crossed branches, Plate 3, vanishing engraving underpetals
Plate 3 position 3

Genuine: Plate 3, position 3

An example of vanishing engraving on the underpetals of the NE cherry blossom.

1/2 sen, crossed branches, Plate 4, brown shade with missing veins
Plate 4 position 24

Geniine: Plate 4-24

Brown shade with veins in paulownia leaf missing.

1/2 sen, crossed branches, Plate 4, gray shade
Plate 4 position 29

Gray shade

Plate 4, Position 23  – Genuine Ki-Hansen Error
1/2 sen, crossed branches, Plate 4, brown shade with missing veins

Photo of Genuine


There are many errors and inconsistencies in the hand-etching of the plates of the Cherry Blossom stamps. But, this one, called the Ki-Hansen error (the diagonal lines of the top character in the W label are missing) has attracted more attention than most. It is often listed as a separate item in catalogs and  priced at 9 or 10 times the amount of the positions without this error.  It attracted the attention of Wada, Maeda, and at least one unknown forger and they intentionally duplicated the error.  However, the forged copies that are unsigned did not duplicate the second error made on the genuine stamp.  That is, the serif in the lower 1 of 1/2 sen is incomplete.  In the unsigned forged Ki-Hansen error, the serif is complete.  See drawing at left of genuine characteristics.

KI-HANSEN:  Robert M. Spaulding, Jr. says in Japanese Philately. Volume 16 , page 6, “On the forth plate used for this 1/2 sen stamp, when the engraver came to position No. 23, he unintentionally omitted the 2 extra strokes in the left panel, though remembering them in the right panel. Omission of these strokes has the effect of changing the character “han” (1/2) into the syllabic pronounced KI. Thus, Japanese collectors know this error by the name ‘KI hansen’ or ‘KI 1/2 sen.’

Differences Between Genuine and Forged

One or more of the following differences appear in forged stamps.

1/2 sen Cherry Blossoms - crysanthemum crest

Genuine: The rim of the chrysanthemum crest shows irregular petal tips.  Forgeries: Many forgeries have a smooth rim as if drawn with a compass.

1/2 sen Cherry Blossoms - corner ornaments

 Genuine: The scrolls of the inner frame corner ornaments end in solid balls.  Forgeries: In most forgeries, they end in open curls.

1/2 sen Cherry Blossoms - crossed branches

Genuine: Crossed branches are very thin and pointed.  Forgeries: Usually, they are thicker and blunter in the forgeries.

1/2 sen Cherry Blossoms - corner cherry blossoms

Genuine: The corner cherry blossoms usually fill the square touching the sides. Forgeries: They seldom fill the square with space on the sides.

!/2 sen stems of paulownia branch

Genuine: In the Paulownia branch, the stems between the third and fifth leaves are solid or have very close lines. Forgeries: They are shown by two clear lines.

1/2 sen Cherry Blossoms - paulownia flowers

Genuine: In the paulownia flower, a line crosses most of the small blossoms. Forgeries:  These lines are fewer or missing in the forgeries.  

Genuine: The branches pass in front of the top leaf in the genuine. Forgeries: In the forgeries they stop at the edge of the top leaf and appear to pass behind.


Wada 1/2 Sen Forgeries Plate 15

As said before, the forgers did whatever suited them at the time.  They often changed the same plate in different ways to make a different stamp or to change from sankō to mozō, or remove the sankō or mozō altogether.  Wada’s Plate 15 is a great example of the possible changes that could be made.

  • Plate 15, State One:   All six positions in either brown  or  gray with syllabic 2 (ro).  They all had sankō vertically as the bottom two characters of central value.
  • Plate 15, State Two:   All six positions in either brown or gray  with syllabic 2 (ro).  But now there is a mozō horizontally above the syllabic.
  • Plate 15, State Three:  Positions 1 & 2 with crossed branches and Ki-Hansen error.  Positions 3 & 5 with crossed branches and no Ki-Hansen error.  Positions 4 & 6 with syllabic 2 (ro).  All brown shade with mozō above crossed branches.
  • Plate 15, State Four:  Positions 1, 2 & 5 with syllabic 1 (i).  Positions 3, 4, & 6 with syllabic 2 (ro).  Either brown or gray shade.

The genuine 1/2 crossed branches was issued in 1872.  Stamps with syllabics: Brown shade issued in 1874 and gray shade 1875.  See more details of the syllabic issues under 1/2 sen with syllabics.  Only the crossed branches issue is described in more detail here.

Note:  All of Wada’s Plate 15 examples have 15 petals in the Chrysanthemum Crest.

See brown shade with syllabics here.  See gray shade with syllabics here.

Wada “Signed” Forgeries



Wada: Plate 15 position 1, Ki-Hansen error with mozō
Wada: Plate 15, position 1 with mozō

Ki-Hansen  error



Wada: Plate 15, position 5 with mozō
Wada: Plate 15, position 5 with mozō




Unsigned” Forgeries



1/2 sen, Crossed Branches, Wada: Plate 1, Postion 3
Wada: Plate 1 Position 3



1/2 sen Crossed Branches, Wada: Plate 1, Postion 8
Photo Genuine: Plate 4, Position 23 with Wada: Plate 1, Position 8

Ki-Hansen error



Maeda: Ki=Hansen error
Photo Genuine: Plate 4, Position 23 with Maeda forgery

Ki-Hansen error



1/2 sen by Unknown Forger of Ki-Hansen
Photo Genuine: Plate 4, Position 23 with Unknown Forger

Ki-Hansen error



1/2 sen by Early Unknown Forger
Early Unknown Forger



1/2 sen by Unknown Forger
Unknown Forger



Genuine 1/2 sen crossed branches with phantom
Unknown Forger:  Phantom in Red

Red is a bogus color.  Only 14 petals in the Chrysanthemum Crest.


Note: Numbers in parenthesis and bold are the catalog numbers found on reverse of the forgeries.  State 4 forgeries did not have any numbers on the reverse. It is believed that State 4 forgeries exist for all different values.  But only a few State 4 examples were available for examination.  When State 4 was available for examination, the design type is recorded.

Genuine 1/2 sen brown crossed branches with ABC: Design 100-A
ABC (Kurabu) Club Forgery – Design 100-A

State 1 (No. 11) and State 2 (No. 9).

Characteristics of Design 100-A:

      1. Loop of both North and South “S” closed.
      2. Break in North inner frame line.
Genuine 1/2 sen brown crossed branches with ABC: Design 100-B
ABC (Kurabu) Club Forgery – Design 100-B

State 3 and State 5 (No. 9).

Characteristics of Design 100-B:

      1. Break in NW cherry blossom.
      2. Break in North inner frame line.



1961 Japan Stamp Publicity Association



Genuine with JSPA 1/2 sen brown, crossed branches, 25 October 1961
Genuine with 1/2 sen brown from JSPA Sheet No. 3 Issued 25 October1961.

The stamp on this sheet reproduces the genuine 1/2 sen brown originally issued 3 October 1872.  The reproduction is imperforate on cream-colored vertical laid paper.   Click here to see more information about JSPA reproductions.