Monday, May 21, 2012

Stamp Placement on Japanese Letters

Last week we mentioned the cute stationery sets, called レターセット (retta- setto), available in specialty stores and 100-yen shops in Japan. When using the envelopes in these sets to send international mail, however, they often feel cramped. You can stick the whole thing inside a larger, plain white envelope, but it's not nearly as cute, so here are some other options:

First off, as a rule, if the postage is anywhere on the exterior of the envelope, it can be postmarked by hand at the post office and sent. You don't have to follow the stationery's recommended stamp placement.

In fact, in Japan it is even acceptable to paste your postage on the back of an envelope--that is, the side that you didn't write the mailing address on--if you can't find room otherwise. However, you risk the post officer thinking you forgot the stamps altogether and returning (or discarding) your letter by mistake.

Such lax (and surprising for Japan, I'd say) rules allow for some creative mailing, whether using a stationery envelope or designing your own by hand:

If you like ideas like these, check out the 切手とカピバラと私 blog.

However, and especially if you put your letter in a postbox rather than taking it to a post office counter, stamp placement like this can delay your mail a bit because the envelope can't be sent through an automatic postmarking machine.

For reference, that range for the automatic postmarking machine is a 7.0 cm x 3.5 cm corner in the top-right corner of an envelope if you're addressing and stamping it in Western style:

...and a 3.5 cm x 7.0 corner in the top-left corner of an envelope if you're addressing and stamping it in the Japanese style:

These two conventions, then, are the most "correct" ways of placing stamps on envelopes in Japan. But that doesn't mean your mail won't go through if you don't follow them, and if your design is charming enough, it might just brighten a postal sorter's otherwise very monotonous day.
(Credit to Sayopee, by the way, for the stamp placement images.)

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