There's some good news for people who post items to foreign countries from Japan. While the price of a stamp for a basic letter is not changing, the weight one is allowed for that basic rate is more than doubling.
One of the frustrating things in the past has been that anything more than a one-page letter generally put one over the 10 gram limit and into the next higher weight category. Thus, that basic 110 yen rate to North America or Europe soon became 190 yen or more. With the rise in the value of the yen over the past 20 years or so, coupled together with the large increases in the actual postal rates, there has been an increasing disparity between the cost of mail going out of Japan to another country and the cost of sending a similar item from other countries into Japan.
A good example would be that of a two-page letter, which would typically be about 12 grams in weight (and therefore less than the half ounce (14 gram) initial weight category), costing $.50 when flying west from the U.S. to Japan (against the jet stream, no less), but costing 190 yen when dispatched on a plane from Japan to the U.S. (even though those flights cost less, with the strong tail wind)! What the Japanese Post Office has done to try to partially compensate for this disparity is to revamp the weight categories, making them the same as for domestic mail.
The basic rate category is now 25 grams instead of 10. Thus, if you're sending a letter weighing, for instance, 24 grams, the postage has been greatly reduced, going from 280 yen down to 110 yen! This will make it easier to send such things as greeting cards, though even with those, you can still save a little by sending them "printed matter" for 80 yen, as long as they are under 20 grams. When doing that, however, you are not supposed to include more than a brief greeting, and you have to leave it unsealed.
The air mail "printed matter" and "small packet" rate structure has also changed, with the basic rate remaining the same, but the weight categories being much less frequently divided. Basically, instead of having the weight category change every 20 grams, it's now every 50 grams. Because of this factor, there are certain weights at which the postage actually increases slightly over the previous, but in general, the postage for these items will be about the same as in the old system.
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