In Japan, the mailbox is a very active mode of communication and information. In fact, if you leave it unchecked for a month, it is sure to overflow. As Japanese put high value on their time and privacy, people oftentimes would rather abuse the unobtrusive mailbox than buzz at your door. Hence, your mailbox can contain anything and everything that would fit its hole: your mail, bills and small-item packages, on occasion; newsletters and notices from the local government; literal spam mails – flyers, leaflets and promo ads from various businesses; even things that you may have dropped or left outside, which the next-door neighbor had chanced upon.

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In Japan, the mailbox can contain anything and everything that would fit its hole, even stuff you may have dropped or left outside.

At my birth month, I was pleasantly surprised with the influx of mail arriving, sometimes in bunches, giving me reason to suspect that somebody other than the two kids (and there’s just four of us) had pulled out a mail campaign on me.

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A good thing about snail mail is its personal touch.

And I love it.

I am happy to see myself as an avid supporter of the snail mail. I love it for its novelty. I love it for the personal touch that it always conveys. I also love the way the snail mail, while it hasn’t always been associated with this unrushed gastropod, reminds me that slow is a good pace to be in sometimes.

Study shows…

To those who have been forced (kidding!) by my wife into this birthday snail-mail campaign, I share with you my joy in having 31 greeting cards for my nth birthday. I also thought I’d put in this short, descriptive study on the cards just to see what else this whole thing could be telling me, also because Regina was my thesis partner back in college, where everything that is “us” now all started.

According to origin, a big majority of mail or 26 out of 31 are from the Philippines, which reminds me where home is.

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Figure 1. Distribution of snail mail according to origin

Almost all of the greeting cards were sent via snail mail, and one (1) was sent via express delivery (DHL) to exact the delivery date. While a lot of the cards came on time, many of the senders were apprehensive due to the unreliability in timeliness of the snail mail.

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Figure 2. Snail mail according to mode of delivery

As regards stamping, there may come a time when the postage stamp will just be a boring ink mark on a mail and philately, dead. The data shows that while majority of the greeting cards still had paper postage stamps at 17, electronic stamps are likewise high at 13, which may be technically 14 if the DHL-sent card is to be included.

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Long live the postage stamp!
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Figure 3. Distribution of snail mail according to stamping

As to type, a big majority (25) of respondents had preferred postcards, which could probably indicate preference from the initiator of the snail-mail campaign. A lot of the postcards (22) were about famous places, two (2) were animals endemic to the sender’s origin, and one (1) was of a famous cartoon character. Interestingly, there were two (2) handcrafted cards, one of which, was actually by the sender – something that I also used to do as a child.

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Figure 4. Distribution of mail according to to type

About 3/4 of the senders did not provide return addresses. Nondisclosure of addresses may be for secrecy or because the address is assumed known by the recipient. It’s also possible that, due to the rare usage of the postal service or sheer forgetfulness, this portion of the letter has been missed out.

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Figure 5. Placement of return addresses on snail mail

The personality and appeal of cards is still evident in the way they are prepared. All the cards had a personalized touch, as evidenced by all the senders’ handwritings and messages. The one (1) typewritten entry in Graph 1 below is just for emphasis and effect by the sender. Other interesting facts include the use of drawings, the simplest of which, are emoticons, which are usually variations of hearts and smileys, and the most intricate of which, span the whole length of the cards.

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Graph 1. Writing style in snail mail

Other data

The first special mention, which also happens to be the first mail to arrive, is the biggest card and bore the most intricate hand drawing. Even better, we had photo collages enclosed. And, we love collecting photo prints.

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The first mail to arrive is the biggest and had the most intricate hand drawing, with some family photo collages.

This study would also be amiss if the kids’ standouts were not mentioned: a hologram postcard, to which Iva exclaimed: “It’s like the camels are moving!”, and the one with a free 2D cutout of Spiderman hanging by his web, to which I told Uri to be careful so that the friendly 2D superhero would not quickly lose his limbs.

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Uri’s favorite card: the one with the detachable Spiderman, of course!

By the way, did I mention that I had one formally signed postcard? If memory serves me right, I think it’s the same signature that I saw during my pre-teenage days, which got me started in conceiving of my own signature.

The study also would not be complete without the mention of a few unmailed cards, which found their way to social media.

A friend visiting Tokyo also hand-delivered her postcards, as we had our catch-up coffee and a short tour of Tokyo Dome City.

I regret that I did not take note of the arrival dates, but if I were to plot them, the bell curve would fall somewhere between a day before and the intended (birth) day, which was very excitingly awesome.

To those who have been part of this, my utmost gratitude, I wish to give back the same personal, unrushed touch to you as well.