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The Japanese postal service is very efficient. Air mail between Japan and the United States takes between five and eight days. Surface mail can take anywhere from four to eight weeks. Express service is also available through post offices.
Although there are numerous post offices in every city, it's probably best to use the central post office near the main train station, because the workers speak English and can handle foreign mail. Some of the smaller post offices are not equipped to send packages. Post offices are open weekdays 9-5 and Saturday 9-noon. Some central post offices have longer hours, such as the one in Tokyo, near Tokyo Eki (train station), which is open 24 hours year-round. Most hotels and many convenience stores also sell stamps.
The Japanese postal service has implemented the use of three-numeral-plus-four postal codes, but its policy is similar to that in the United States regarding ZIP-plus-fours; that is, addresses with the three-numeral code will still arrive at their destination, albeit perhaps one or two days later. Mail to rural towns may take longer.
It costs ¥110 to send a letter by air to North America. An airmail postcard costs ¥70. Aerograms cost ¥90.
To get mail, have parcels and letters sent "poste restante" to the central post office in major cities; unclaimed mail is returned after 30 days.
FedEx has drop-off locations at branches of Kinko's in all major cities. A 1-kilogram (2.20-pound) package from central Tokyo to Washington, DC, would cost about ¥7,200, and take two days to be delivered.
The Japanese postal service is very efficient, and domestic mail rarely goes astray. To ship a 5-kilogram (11.02-pound) parcel to the United States costs ¥10,150 if sent by airmail, ¥7,300 by SAL (economy airmail), and ¥4,000 by sea. Allow a week for airmail, two to three weeks for SAL, and up to six weeks for packages sent by sea. Large shops usually ship domestically, but not overseas.
FedEx (0120/003-200 toll-free; 043/298-1919. www.fedex.com/jp_english.)
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