Post Office Day in Japan Date in the current year: April 20, 2024

Post Office Day in Japan Post Office Day, formerly known as Communications Day, is observed in Japan on April 20. It commemorates the establishment of the country’s first modern postal service in 1871.

Japan didn’t have a postal system prior to the Meiji Restoration, but a number of countries (for example, Great Britain, France and the United States) maintained foreign post offices in major Japanese ports as an extraterritorial right. Following the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868, one of its leaders, Ōkubo Toshimichi, appointed Baron Maejima Hisoka to the Ministry of Popular Affairs in the new government, where Maejima was tasked with developing a postal service.

In 1870, Maejima traveled to Great Britain to study the workings of the General Post Office. Upon Maejima’s return to his home country, he laid down proposals for the creation of a similar system in Japan, which were quickly approved. The first postage stamps were issued and the postal service began operation in April 1871. It linked the new capital of Edo (now Tokyo) with Osaka, with 65 post offices between the two cities.

Over the following years, Maejima negotiated a postal treaty with the United States, created a system of giro transfers and money orders, and got Japan admitted into the Universal Postal Union. By the time he retired in 1881, there were over 5,000 post offices throughout the country. Four years later, the Ministry of Communications of Japan was established.

The Ministry of Communications was dissolved on April 1, 1949. Its functions were split between two new ministries: the Ministry of Postal Services and the Ministry of Telecommunications. Three years later, the two ministries were merged back to form the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. In 2001, it was merged with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to form the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

During all this time, the postal system of Japan was managed by the Postal Services Agency under the aforementioned ministry. In 2003, the agency was reorganized into Japan Post, a statutory corporation responsible for postal and package delivery services, banking services, and life insurance. However, there were concerns that a government-owned entity with control over postal savings and banking could be exploited by unscrupulous politicians.

Due to this, the Japanese government initiated the privatization of the postal service. In 2007, Japan Post was split into a shareholding company and several companies responsible for different aspects of the postal system, including Japan Postal Network that operated post offices and Japan Post Service that dealt with mail delivery.

In 2012, Japan Post Service and Japan Postal Network merged to form Japan Post Co., Ltd. within Japan Post Holdings. It is one of four main divisions of Japan Post Holdings, the other three being Japan Post Bank (banking services), Japan Post Insurance (life insurance services), and Toll Group (Australian-based subsidiary providing transportation and logistics services). As of 2023, the privatization process of Japan Post Holdings was still underway.

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