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Japan postal services (Photo by PIXTA)

The Japanese Postal System

In this article we are going to look at Japan’s postal system and introduce some key post office vocabulary. There are around 24,000 post offices in Japan, which are operated by the Japan Post company (called 日本郵便 or Nippon Yūbin in Japanese).

In this article we are going to look at Japan’s postal system and introduce some key post office vocabulary. There are around 24,000 post offices in Japan, which are operated by the Japan Post company (called 日本郵便 or Nippon Yūbin in Japanese). A post office (郵便局 – yūbin-kyoku) can be easily recognized by the Japan Post symbol: Mailboxes in Japan are colored red and are marked by the same symbol. Below are some details of basic services you can get at the post office including details of how to send packages.

Domestic Mail

At the current time, a standard postcard (葉書 – hagaki) costs 63 yen to post within Japan. To post a standard-sized letter (手紙 – tegami) weighing up to 25 grams costs 84 yen. Individual stamps (切手 – kitte) can be purchased in post offices but are also available from convenience stores. Packages can be sent using the Yu-Pack (ゆうパック) service which is available both at post offices and convenience stores. With this service you can choose the date and time of delivery, and items are insured (up to 300,000 yen) against damage or loss. When you use Yu-Pack you will receive an inquiry number, which you can use with an online Track & Trace service to check if your item has been delivered.

Express mail (速達 – sokutatsu) is available for letters, postcards, or parcels that you would like to have delivered quickly. Reliable express home delivery services (called 宅配便 or takuhaibin) are also offered by other courier companies. The biggest courier company offering this delivery service is Yamato Transport.

International Mail

Sending a postcard overseas costs a flat rate of 60 yen for surface mail and 70 yen for airmail. The cost of sending a letter will depend on the shipping type, the destination, and the weight of the letter. However, sending a standard-sized letter to most destinations will usually cost 110 yen. Sending a greeting card overseas costs between 90 and 130 yen depending on the destination.

Shipping options for international mail are surface mail (船便 – funabin), airmail (航空便 – kōkūbin), economy air (エコノミー航空 – ekonomii kōkū), and the Express Mail Service (国際スピード郵便- kokusai supiido yūbin) also called EMS. Surface mail is the cheapest and takes the longest at 1 – 3 months. Airmail is more expensive, but your items should be delivered within 6 days. Economy air is a compromise being faster than surface mail at 1 – 2 weeks, but cheaper than airmail. The Express Mail Service is the most expensive, but will get your mail delivered anywhere in the world in 2 – 4 days.

A registered mail service (書留 – kakitome) is available which you can use for important items including letters, packages, or cash. If you send an item by registered mail you will receive a tracking number. With the online Track & Trace service you can use that number for either domestic post tracking or international tracking and find out when your items are delivered. Items you send this way are also insured up to 500,000 yen against loss or damage

Delivery Notices & Post Redelivery

If a package cannot be delivered because you are out when it arrives, the carrier will leave a delivery notice. You can either call the number on the notice and have your post redelivered at a time of your choosing, or pick up your delivery at a post office distribution center. It is also possible to book your redelivery online if you can read Japanese. If you cannot read or speak Japanese, then there is an English language service you can reach at this number: 0570-046-111 (toll number) between the hours of 8.00 and 21.00 on weekdays and between 9.00 and 21.00 on weekends.

Banking & ATMs

Post offices also offer banking services. Having an account with the Japan Post Bank (calledゆうちょ銀行 or Yūcho Ginkō in Japanese) can be convenient as they have ATMs in post offices all over the country. These ATMs have English language guidance and can also be used to withdraw cash with most major international bank and credit cards.

Opening Hours

Most post offices are open from 9.00 to 17.00 on weekdays, but larger branches may stay open until 19.00. Smaller branches will be closed on weekdays and holidays, but large branches will open from 9.00 to 15.00 and in some locations to 17.00 on Saturdays, and from 9.00 till 12.30 on Sundays. Central post offices in the cities often have a counter with 24-hour services. You can look up the hours of your local branch on the Japan Post website.

Michael Lambe

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