Delivery dilemmas


We see our local postmen on these iconic motorbikes all year round – even in snow!

The Japanese postal system is amazing! That might not sound that exciting, but they are really good at what they do.
Recently, we were away from home for a few days. But we were expecting a parcel to arrive. Anna had the idea to ask at the post office about what to do.
“I bet they’ll have a system for this”, she said.
I went along to the local post office, a bit skeptical if I’m honest, but I was pleasantly surprised! The clerk reacted as if it was a very normal request, and fetched the relevant form, which only took a minute to fill in.
As requested on the form, our post came the day after we arrived back home.
Reflecting on this system later, we realised that this says something about Japanese culture…
Back in the UK, we used to have a lot of parcels delivered to us, much to the frustration of our slightly grumpy local postman! If we weren’t in when he came with a parcel, he’d often leave it with a neighbour and put a little form through our door to tell us where the parcel was. It certainly meant a lot more interaction with our neighbours!

Here in Japan, however, that would be seen as making yourself a burden to your neighbour. It’s not the done thing! Causing a nuisance to your neighbour is one of the great social sins of Japanese culture. Perhaps it’s because it has the potential to upset the important harmony of the relationship. Or maybe they then feel indebted to their neighbour and feel obligated to repay the favour. Let’s face it, it’s not nice to feel indebted to someone, is it?



Our local post office, 4 minutes walk away!

Once, soon after we moved into this neighbourhood, we did receive a parcel for one of our neighbours. As we were used to doing this in the UK, we didn’t think much of it and received the parcel, then took it over to our neighbours’ house when they were next in. When our neighbour found out that the parcel had been delivered to the wrong address, they seemed annoyed with the postman and impressed on us that we were to correct him if it ever happened again. So the postman had not delivered the parcel to us to give to our neighbour – he had just got the wrong address.
So we learned that in Japan, postmen don’t deliver parcels to the neighbour. Instead, they put a notice through the door saying that they tried to deliver. Then they try to deliver the parcel again, or hold on to it until you notify them of when you want them to redeliver it. And you can request the redelivery by phone or online. Very convenient! (For us, at least. For the drivers it’s becoming a big problem because they often have to try several times before delivering the parcel and there’s a shortage of drivers to deliver all the online shopping people are doing these days!)
And no hassling your neighbour!
Although, personally, I quite like having the excuse to have some interaction with my neighbour…


  • Thank God for great postal services and many other modern conveniences in Japan!
  • Pray for our relationships with our neighbours, that we wouldn’t inadvertently cause a nuisance, but that we would be good witnesses

Our boys with the friendly post office staff who have to put up with a lot of cluelessness from us foreigners!

4 thoughts on “Delivery dilemmas

  1. What an interesting take on life in Japan! God bless you as you continue to reach out to your neighbours. Including the postman!


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