Wax Stamps Seal Letters with a Personal Touch

Photos by Yasushi Wada / Yomiuri Shimbun photographer
A collection of wax seals of different colors and designs that include a moon, a flower and an animal footprint

Letters sealed with wax stamps have an added air of elegance, and diversity in the design and color further adds a personal touch.

Three-dimensional designs that feature a magic circle, a moon, a star or a rose catch the eyes of consumers at Fairy Note, a variety store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district. The shop carries various wax stamps and many colors of sealing wax.

“They are popular because customers can customize the designs and choose the colors according to their preferences, and create their own seals,” said store manager Eri Tsuchiya.

Wax stamps have a long history that dates back to ancient Egypt. Nobles in medieval Europe were known to attach them to their letters.

They are now attracting attention in Japan for a number of reasons, but a retro boom these days is accelerating a popularity that is already growing via social media.

Since most crimping stamp heads and handles are interchangeable, many users purchase several heads. The store offers about 500 different stamp heads, many with handles with elaborate designs such as owls or chess pieces.

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Handles with elaborate designs can double as interior decorations.

“Some people display the stamps as decorations at home when they are not using them,” Tsuchiya said.

To use a wax stamp, solid sealing wax is placed on a special heating spoon and melted over a candle. The wax is then poured onto the spot where it will be sealed. Pouring is surprisingly difficult, but the entire process can be completed in about five minutes once one gets used to it.

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There is a wide variety of sealing waxes.

The store has about 300 kinds of wax. Customers can melt different colors of wax to create marble patterns or gradations. Adding glitter and other items makes the seals look fancier.

Recently, many include wax stamps as part of “oshikatsu” efforts to support their favorite celebrities.

Some put wax seals on letters, expressing their feelings through the designs and colors.

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A stamp leaves an impression on sealing wax.

By making a seal on a place such as ceramic surface and attaching double-sided tape to the back, the seal can be used with ribbons for wrapping gifts.

“You can express your feelings better just by adding seals to birthday presents and Christmas cards. It is fun to choose a design and a color while thinking about the recipient,” Tsuchiya said.

Handmade accessories

Personalized handmade accessories can also be made using wax seals.

First, gather items such as pendants and bracelets. Make a wax seal that matches the size and shape of the item and attach the seal with glue.

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Various accessories featuring wax stamps

Many stamp heads are 25 millimeters in diameter, but range from 15 to 30 millimeters. The appropriate size can be chosen for the accessory. The finished wax seal can be made to look more vivid by neatly trimming the edges with scissors and coloring the raised pattern with a marker.

“It is easy to make [wax seal accessories]. If you make multiple accessories, you can change them, depending on your mood,” Tsuchiya said.

Eri Tsuchiya

Born in Tokyo in 1983, she has been making crafts since she was a child. Tsuchiya was active as a handmade craft artist while working as a company employee. She opened a shop selling jewelry accessory items in 2015 and the Fairy Note variety shop in September 2022.