A fun part of living thousands of miles from family and friends is sending packages home — that is, so long as you know the requisite jargon to communicate at the yūbin kyoku (郵便局, post office).

Nihon Yusei Kousha (日本郵政公社, Japan Post) became mineika (民営化, privatized) in 2007 and is now called Nihon Yusei Kabushiki-gaisha (日本郵政株式会社, Japan Post Holdings Co., Ltd.). It offers three main areas of service: yūbin (郵便, mail), chokin (貯金, savings) and hoken (保険, insurance).

Yūbin includes sending kokunai haisou (国内配送, domestic mail) and kaigai haisou (海外配送, overseas mail). For that package you plan to send your folks, you have the options of kōkūbin (航空便, airmail), funabin (船便, sea mail) or EMS, which is an express service. Take your kozutsumi (小包, parcel) to the madoguchi (窓口, counter) and say, “Kōkūbin de onegaishimasu”(「航空便でお願いします」, “By airmail please”), or substitute funabin or EMS for kōkūbin.

You’ll have to fill out a gurin raberu (グリーンラベル, green label) that explains the nakami (中身, contents) of your package for zeikan (税関, customs). You will not able to send certain things through the post, including niku
(肉, meat), hanabi (花火, fireworks) and ikimono (生き物, living creatures). You will also doubtless be asked, “Tegami wa haiteimasuka” (「手紙は入っていますか」 “Does it contain a letter?”). If it does, it will cost more than a letter-free sumōru paketto (スモールパケット, small packet), even though it has no bearing on the weight or size of the parcel.

To learn when your package will reach its destination, you can ask, “Nan nichi gurai kakarimasuka” (「 何日ぐらいかかりますか 」, “Roughly how many days will it take?”). And if sending breakables, say, “Kowaremono ga haitemasu” (「壊れ物が入っています 」, “It contains fragile items”).

If you’re sending mail within Japan, you can buy kitte (切手, stamps) and fūtō (封筒, envelopes) at the post office or a konbini (コンビニ, convenience store). A regular tegami (手紙, letter) or hagaki (はがき, postcard) will cost ¥80, so simply ask, “Hachijū en kitte wo ichimai kudasai (「八十円切手を一枚ください」, “One ¥80 stamp please”). You can also send parcels from the post office or convenience store, the latter sending them via takkybin (宅急便, home delivery). In both cases, the nedan (値段, price) is determined by the ōkisa (大きさ, size) and kyori (距離, distance), not omosa (重さ, weight). Various takkyūbin companies offer an advanced service: The customer may specify nichiji shitei (日時指定, delivery date and time) and even send frozen items by kūrubin (クール便, cooled delivery service). Payment options include sakibarai (先払い, pay upfront) or chakubarai (着払い, cash on delivery).

Most people have come home to find a fuzai todoke (不在届け, missed-delivery notice) in their mailbox. Sometimes there’s an English-language phone line, charged at a premium rate, you can call to arrange redelivery. If not, call the number on the slip and say, “Posuto ni fuzai todoke ga haiteitta node saihaitatsu onegaishimasu (「ポストに不在届けが入っていったので 再配達お願いします」, “I received a notice of missed delivery, so I’d like to arrange redelivery please”). You’ll be asked your name (“Okyakusama no o-namae wo oshiete itadakemasuka?” 「 お客様 のお名前を教えて頂けますか 」), address (“Go-jūshou wo oshiete itadakemasuka?“「ご住所を教えて頂けますか」) and the number on the notice (“O-nimotsu bangou wo oshiete itadakemasuka“「お荷物番号を教えて頂けますか」).

You might be asked the time on the delivery slip (“Fuzai todoke wa itsu todoita ka wakarimasuka?“「不在届けはいつ届いたかわかりますか」) and the delivery person’s name (“Haitatsu tantousha no namae ga kaite aru to omoimasu node oshiete kudasai,“「配達担当者の名前が書いてあると思いますので教えてください」). Then, choose a new delivery time: For tomorrow morning, say, “Ashita no gozen chū” (「明日の午前中」). For Friday between 2 and 4 p.m.: (“Kinyōbi no niji kara yoji no aida,“「金曜日の二時から四時の間」).

Back at the post office, bank services include paying kounetsuhi (光熱費, utility bills), okane wo hikidasu (お金を引き出す, cash withdrawal), or sending furikomi (振込, a bank transfer) from your kouza (口座, account). To get a tsūchou (通帳, account book) and kyasshu kādo (キャッシュカード, cash card), you’ll need honnin shōmeisho (本人証明書, identification) and your hanko (判子, official stamp) or signature.

Insurance services allow you to arrange your nenkin (年金, pension) and seimei hoken (生命保険, life insurance) right at the counter. But, at this point, the Japanese terms start to get hardcore. You may ask a friend to help you with the endless and (legally binding) forms. Chances are they’ll be flummoxed too.

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