November 19, 2008

The Seal of Approval

Free with a purchase of a stack of nengajo (New Year's cards): a mini mailbox. Modern mailboxes are actually rectangular,with two slots, one for regular mail and the other for express delivery, but Japan Post went with a classic look. In recent years, some towns have gone out of their way to revert to this old version, replacing the ugly square mailboxes with the old-school style.

Lest you think that it's just another cute trinket, the bottom flips open to reveal that it is, in fact, a seal case. In Japan, family seals are used for everything from finalizing bank accounts and other important documents to accepting package deliveries.

There's even a tiny inkpad stained with vermilion ink. Other things included with the nengajo were a memo pad and some pocket tissues, decidedly less delightful. Yet, it's a far cry from last year, when a two-hundred card purchase yielded two pocket tissues and a dishwashing sponge that crumbled after the first use.

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