One of the Meiji government’s first tasks was to update Japan’s antiquated postal system. Hisoka Maejima, appointed the Superintendent of Postal Services, hired an American expert, Samuel Bryson, to assist in the development of a national service. In 1872, the old, privately organized courier system was discarded and a new, national service, based largely on the British model, was adopted. The success of the new service was greatly assisted by the parallel development of an extensive railway system that provided access to the outer provinces. Postage stamps were introduced and postal rates became uniform throughout the country. Progress in Japan’s postal system also led to a rationalization of weights and measures, making Japanese products measurable to other countries. By 1877, the postal service was sufficiently advanced that it was able to join the Universal Postal Union, therefore linking Japan with the world.
One of the Meiji government’s first tasks was to update Japan’s antiquated postal system. Hisoka Maejima, appointed the Superintendent of Postal Services, hired an American expert, Samuel Bryson, to assist in the development of a national service. In 1872, the old, privately organized courier system was discarded and a new, national service, based largely on the British model, was adopted. The success of the new service was greatly assisted by the parallel development of an extensive railway system that provided access to the outer provinces. Postage stamps were introduced and postal rates became uniform throughout the country. Progress in Japan’s postal system also led to a rationalization of weights and measures, making Japanese products measurable to other countries. By 1877, the postal service was sufficiently advanced that it was able to join the Universal Postal Union, therefore linking Japan with the world.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Postman's outfit

Postman's outfit

Edo-Tokyo Museum

88206068
© Edo-Tokyo Museum


Postman's letter pouch

Edo-Tokyo Museum

88206065
© Edo-Tokyo Museum


The Japanese delighted in sending each other mail, as communications between the major cities and the provinces became possible. Around 1880, picture postcards became extremely popular in Japan, and it became a custom to send them to friends and family for New Year’s. By 1895, there were over 3700 post offices in Japan and 34000 mailboxes.
The Japanese delighted in sending each other mail, as communications between the major cities and the provinces became possible. Around 1880, picture postcards became extremely popular in Japan, and it became a custom to send them to friends and family for New Year’s. By 1895, there were over 3700 post offices in Japan and 34000 mailboxes.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Mailbox

Meiji Mura Museum

© Meiji Mura Museum


By late Meiji, the post office was not merely a place to send letters. It had become a center for communications and commerce encompassing telegraphy, posts, telephone, and an extensive savings system.
By late Meiji, the post office was not merely a place to send letters. It had become a center for communications and commerce encompassing telegraphy, posts, telephone, and an extensive savings system.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Sapporo telephone exchange unit

Meiji-Mura Museum

© Meiji-Mura Museum


Telephone service was first introduced to Japan in 1877, when Alexander Graham Bell personally visited Japan to demonstrate the apparatus. The first telephones were found in governmental ministries and several Tokyo police stations, however the service suffered from many complications and poor reception. In 1890, the government implemented a national corporation, and the improved system was extended to many post offices where private citizens were able to make calls. It was not until the late 1920s that telephones began to appear in middle-class homes.
Telephone service was first introduced to Japan in 1877, when Alexander Graham Bell personally visited Japan to demonstrate the apparatus. The first telephones were found in governmental ministries and several Tokyo police stations, however the service suffered from many complications and poor reception. In 1890, the government implemented a national corporation, and the improved system was extended to many post offices where private citizens were able to make calls. It was not until the late 1920s that telephones began to appear in middle-class homes.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Telephone

Edo-Tokyo Museum

90361605
© Edo-Tokyo Museum


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe the development of Japan’s postal system in the Meiji period
  • List the consequences of development of a national postal service on 19th century Japan
  • Describe the services provided by a post office in late 19th century Japan
  • Describe how telephones came to Japan
  • Relate the role and means of postal services and communications in late 19th century Japan with postal services and communications in their own lives

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans