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Delivery company Tokai Messenger Bb on Sunday launched limited mail delivery services, making it the first private-sector firm to take part in the state-run service since 1873.

The company, based in Nagoya, has acquired a license that only allows it to deliver mail within three hours of receiving it. It will operate in the central areas of Nagoya.

“Most of our customers are advertising agencies and design firms, but we can now also handle public documents such as tax statements,” Tokai Messenger President Kenichiro Imai said.

Seven other firms have been licensed by the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry for limited mail delivery services, which were opened to the private sector in April. The other firms are slated to begin services in August.

A modern mail delivery system was established in Japan in 1871, and the government created a state monopoly two years later after banning the “hikyaku” business that flourished in the Edo Period. The service involved runners who delivered messages and parcels along routes that linked Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.

The April revision of the Mail Delivery Law also paved the way for businesses to start broad mail delivery. No firms have applied for this, however, due to the stringent requirements, including the stipulation that they deliver mail every day to any location in Japan and set up their own mailboxes.

The revision was in line with the launch of state-affiliated Japan Post in April, which took over the Postal Services Agency’s mail delivery, postal savings, and “kampo” life insurance services. Japan Post employs some 280,000 workers and operates about 24,700 post offices nationwide.

The revision was part of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s drive to liberalize postal services.

Companies have complained, however, that Japan Post will have advantages over private firms because it enjoys preferential treatment, including corporate tax exemption and governmental guarantees on postal savings and kampo insurance.

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