The doorbell rang last week while I was talking to my brother on Facetime. “Ah,” I said. “It’s the post office.”
“The post office?” he spluttered. “But it’s 8:30! At night! On a Sunday!”
“Yes,” I replied. “I arranged for a parcel delivery.”
“What?” he raved. “Here, if you’re not at home, they just throw it in a hedge!”
And he’s right. Not about the hedge, although you do find some videos on youtube of delivery men being less than gentle with parcels, but of the level of service. You get so used to a thing that it takes someone to remind you how lucky you are. The Japanese postal system is one of the best and most professional that I have ever had the privilege to use.
To start with there are almost 25,000 post offices across the country. They are friendly and bend over backwards to help you. They keep regular hours but, at least in the city, there is a central post office in each ward that has a 24-hour window. You can receive or send letters or parcels at any time of the day or night. There are tens of thousands of post boxes and thousands of ATMs.
They deliver in all weathers. This is a photo of a postman on his motorbike. I have come to believe that they employ stuntmen as postmen because they ride those bikes all year round. And when I say all year round, I mean in two feet of fresh snow, through blizzards, through the months of frozen ice roads. You can see the road surface he is driving on in the picture. With two feet down they zip all over the city delivering to people their vital parcels and mail.
And what happens if they deliver and you don’t happen to be in? Well, there are three things to make your life easier. Before that, here’s a story from England. My father received notification that the post office had tried to deliver a parcel. He called them. They said they would deliver it the next day. They didn’t. He called again. They said they would deliver it the next day. They didn’t. He went to the post office center. They said it was at a different post office center. He went to the other post office center. They said it was at the first post office center. He went back there. They said they didn’t have it. He insisted. They looked. They found it. It took him almost a week to get his parcel.
Here, the first thing the post office can do is to leave the parcel in a locker. Many houses and apartments these days have a locker with a security lock. The postman puts the parcel in the locker, sets the number, writes the numbers on a notification slip and drops that in your postbox. When you come home you can retrieve your parcel.
The second thing is to leave it at a local convenience store. When you have a parcel sent you can specify a shop to have it dropped off at if you are not in. The convenience store will keep it until you can go and collect it. They do this free of charge, hoping that you will buy something while you are in the store.
The third thing is to redeliver. On the back of the parcel notification slip is a number and time slots. You call and follow the automated steps: type in the parcel number, and the date and time slot you want and the parcel will be delivered at a more convenient time. They will deliver it anytime over the following month, at any time from morning to night, weekends included. Unlike the post office in my country the post office here tries to make life as easy as possible for their customer. What a thought!
I cannot praise them highly enough. If you are sending a postcard home, opening a savings account or receiving a parcel, you will be glad that the Japanese post office are the people you are dealing with.
Now since you have received enough information on how efficient the Japanese postal system is, how about trying to post cards to family and friends instead of calling them in the festive season this year-end? It will add a personal touch to your wishes. What's more, post offices in Japan have a collection of wonderful postcards to select from and it is notable that they deliver exactly on the New Year, even though it is a calendar holiday in Japan.