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Japan Post

* With files from ‘The Shizuokanian 2008-2009, originally compiled by Shizuoka CIR

The “T with two lines” symbol in this picture is the post office symbol. It’s also the same symbol used when writing an address to mark the postal code.

In Japan, some mailboxes have two slots. One of them is for mail within the prefecture, and the other is for the rest of the world.

A package which cannot be delivered while you’re not at home, will be held at the post office closest to your house. This will be indicated by a pink or blue notification form. You can also call the number on that slip to schedule a new delivery time that is more convenient to you.

Most small post offices are open:
Monday-Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday: 9am – noon
Sunday/Holiday: closed
You cannot do international money orders or remittance at these post offices.

There are bigger post offices that have extended service times. For example in downtown Shizuoka city, Hamamatsu or Numazu. These allow packages to be picked up 24 hours a day, and are open until 7pm or later, 6 or 7 days a week.

Mail Charges:
Postcard 60 yen
Letter 80 yen

Postcard 70 yen
Aerogramm 90 yen
Letter 110 yen (up to 20 gram) and 190 yen (up to 50 gram)

Some important notes:
– Printed Matter (Insatsubutsu 印刷物) These include books, brochures, magazines, but without a letter or any kind of personal message, is very cheap to send. You have to specifically tell them what you’re sending, and have to guarantee that you are not including a message. You must leave it unsealed and can include a written message of no more than 5 words – excluding your name.
– Small Package (小型細物) These are small packages about the size of a kleenex box, and much faster and cheaper to send than bigger packages. The clerk affixes a green sticker, stating the contents and value
– Sarubin (SAL) Surface Air Lifted means a combination of air and land transport. SAL goes by air when there’s room on the plane. It’s cheaper than regular air mail and you need to bring your items about mid-November for a Christmas delivery.
– Often a package is more expensive with a letter inside – you can lie and say there isn’t one. They may, however, check the package contents.

Note to Canadians: DO NOT send things by EMS to Canada, even postal workers recommend it. Canada has some of the strictest customs regulations, and the receiver of the package will receive a tax notice about three months after receiving the package. He/she will be taxed on the cost of the contents and the cost of shipping. Use any other option than EMS.
Double note: The above information was part of a previous information booket – I myself am Canadian and I have sent things via EMS and haven’t heard of any of my family being billed after the fact.

Japanese customs: New Year Greeting Cards
During December and early January, one of the two mail slots outside most post offices will be reserved for ‘New Years Cards’. These are postcards which Japanese people send to family and friends to wish a happy new year, thank for their help in the past year and ask for their friendship for the coming year; as well, these cards serve to confirm addresses so you can stay in touch with your friends. If you’re sending a new years card, be sure to put it into the right slot, especially if you’re late in sending it. It typically takes 3 days to deliver, due to the high volume of mail in late December, so you should send your cards by Christmas to make sure they arrive on new years day. If you receive a card but didn’t send one, it is customary to send a card back, even if it is in the New Year already. You can buy the cards with pre-printed postage at the post office, and there are booths set up at shopping centers and on the street, too.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2013 7:31 pm

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  2. Gabe permalink
    October 20, 2014 8:43 am


    Thanks for the very informative post.

    Have you tried sending small packages to Canada yet (not by EMS)? I’ll be teaching English in Japan for a year starting February 2015 and my family has requested for several small items such as stationery, over-the-counter (cheap) medication, make-up, etc. I read somewhere that it only cost this guy approximately 500 yen to mail out a “small package” weighing around 500g (approx. 1lb?) using the “SAL” service to America.

    I’m just really curious because last year, I sent out very tiny and light package from Vancouver to Tokyo and it cost around $20.00CAD so I was surprised that it would be so cheap the other way around! (I understand that “SAL” is slower and may take up to 2 weeks or something?)


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