Translated by Lester Somera
Check Out The Unique Japanese Mailboxes And Post Office Goods!
Written by chia
Did you know that odd postcards and goods featuring manga characters like Doraemon are sold at Japanese post offices? We'll introduce rare post office goods and unusual mailboxes found in Japan.
When you come to Japan, where do you absolutely have to go? The supermarket? The convenience store? The drugstore?
Those places are also interesting, but we recommend visiting the post office. Normally, post offices just sell local stamps and postcards, but Japanese post offices have much more elaborate setups. Even if you don’t plan to send a letter or package, try checking out a post office.
This article will introduce you to some Japanese post offices and mailboxes. If you’re armed with this information, your stay in Japan will be even more fun.
An Introduction To Japanese Post Offices
The Japanese postal service is officially called Japan Post Co. Ltd., and its head office is located in Tokyo. While it was government-owned for the last century, its gradual privatization began in 2007, and is expected to become a fully private enterprise in 2017. At present, Japan Post has 13 subsidiary companies and over 24,000 post offices, including simple post offices.
Post Office Operating Hours
There are post offices all over Japan, and each major city has a central post office. The central post office and smaller regional post offices have different operating hours.
A city’s central post office is open every day from 9 AM to 7 PM on weekdays, 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturdays, and 9 AM to 12:30 PM on Sundays. Ordinary post offices are open on weekdays from 9 AM to 5 PM.
Post Office Boxes With Their Own Unique Character
When you visit Japan, you will often see exclusive goods only available in certain areas. Of course, the post office is no different! Japan Post installs unique mailboxes in every city that fit with the local vibe. It seems that as you get further away from Tokyo, the mailboxes get more and more local character.
Here we’ll introduce a collection of mailbox photos from all over Japan!
1. Only In Japan! A Round Mailbox in Sapporo, Hokkaido
This mailbox is installed in front of Sapporo Station in Hokkaido. Made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japan’s cylindrical mailboxes, this shape of this unusual round mailbox was chosen through a vote by Sapporo residents. This special memorial mailbox is the only one of its kind in Japan!
2. A Mailbox In Tono (Iwate) Topped By A Legendary Kappa
As part of the Tohoku region, Tono City in Iwate is called “the hometown of Japanese folklore,” and people recognize it as the birthplace of the kappa legend. Kappas, cucumber-loving creatures, are said to haunt the city’s waterways. The mailbox installed in front of Tono Station is topped by a sitting kappa, clutching its knees and staring up at the Tono mountains.
3. A Mailbox In Kyoto To Celebrate The 1200th Anniversary Of The Old Capital
1994 marked the 1200th anniversary of the construction of Heiankyo in Kyoto, so a commemorative mailbox was installed in front of the central post office. A girl dressed in Heian-era clothing, named Miyakonozomi, is perched atop the reddish-brown mailbox.
With the hopes and dreams of Kyoto, this girl watches over the ever-growing city as it advances toward the future.
4. The Starting Point Of Life, The Final Resting Place Of The Soul: The Yataragasu Mailbox In Kumano, Wakayama
The Kumano Old Trails purport to be holy territory, and the grand shrines of Kumano Hongu, Kumano Hayatama and Kumano Nachi are revered as sacred ground. The symbol of Kumano is the three-footed bird Yatagarasu, considered to be the avatar of the sun in Japanese legend. This shiny black mailbox is on the grounds of Kumano Hongu, and it may not be an exaggeration to call it holy.
5. A Crane-Topped Mailbox In Okayama’s Korakuen Park, One Of Japan’s Three Great Famous Gardens
In addition to being famous for its beautiful gardens, Korakuen Park is known for its cranes, which are raised on the park grounds. Bird-releasing events are held at Korakuen, and you can see the cranes freely spreading their wings. That scene plays out exactly the same on top of this mailbox in front of the park’s major gate, as the crane figures beautifully flap their wings.
Items From The Post Office Are Perfect Souvenirs!
Mailboxes aren’t the only thing from the Japanese postal service that should interest you. Every regional post office sells its own exclusive postcards and other special local items. These ingenious, quintessentially Japanese items are perfect as souvenirs. Once you see them, you’ll definitely want to pick some up for yourself!
The most intriguing items for sale at Japanese post offices are the regional postcards, available in major city post offices in all 47 prefectures. These postcards have all sorts of irregular shapes, and their illustrations show off a region’s particular features.
As of 2016, each prefecture produces not just one, but seven varieties of exclusive regional postcards, each one with their own character. You’ll have to go to the region yourself if you want to pick these postcards up, so don’t forget to stop by the post office when you visit!
Other postcards are themed around train lines, World Heritage sites, castles and more. We suspect that a lot of people will want to start a postcard collection if they pick up a few of these.
Postcards featuring the hit historical drama “Sanadamaru,” which just ended its run in December 2016, are also on sale. Fans love them.
“Watashi Dayori” (“a letter from myself”) postcards are a new line produced by Japan Post, designed for people who enjoy solo journeys. You’re supposed to write your travel plans and travel impressions on the postcards, then address it to yourself before sending it. As of 2016, there are Watashi Dayori postcards which are only sold in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Fukuoka, as well as some varieties available nationwide.
The two postcards on the left are available all over Japan. The sakura-patterned postcard on the right is a Tokyo exclusive. One postcard is 200 yen.
Exclusive Post Office Goods
In a major manga country like Japan, it’s only expected that the post office will collaborate with anime and manga series. You can see Doraemon, Moomin and Snoopy calendars, bags and pouches in the phot, and the post office has also stocked One Piece goods in the past. These can only be found at the post office. If you’re a fan, don’t miss out!
There are even post office-exclusive versions of the popular Japanese snack Kit Kat. Since 2017 is the year of the rooster, Kit Kats with rooster designs were sold along with a free omikuji fortune. Of course, these were only available at the post office!
These markers, shaped like traditional cylindrical mailboxes, can write with both a thick and thin tip. One marker is 257 yen, with either red or black ink.
There are also keyholders which have been shaped like reissued blue mailboxes. Blue express delivery mailboxes are quite rare, and only a few exist in Tokyo. These keyholders have a retro design flair that makes them very popular items. One keyholder is 648 yen.
Did you get a feel for the charms of the Japanese postal service? When you’ve traveled to a far-flung place, drop by the post office to get a region-exclusive postcard, address it to yourself and it’s sure to become a great memory of your travels. Venture to the post office and look for the postcard that you like best!