As part of its ongoing efforts to improve service, the Tsukuba Gakuen Post Office asked a small group of local residents, including Alien Times editor, Tim Boyle, to meet with postal officials to give them feedback on how they are doing and what, if anything, needs to be improved. The October 29 meeting included a tour of the facilities along with an opportunity to meet with the heads of all of the departments and representatives of the staff that actually serve the public.
The tour included an interesting fact that few 'relative newcomers'(those that came after Expo '85, which is the vast majority of us) know is that the local post office has stored over 300,000 letters visitors of the Expo wrote to themselves and put in a time capsule for delivery on Jan. 1, 2001, which in Japan is regarded as the beginning of the 21st Century (though most of the rest of the world will be celebrating that event a full year earlier). There is even a display in front of the Post Office that few people pay attention to that has a countdown clock registering the number of days left (which, depending on when you read this, is about 780 days). It will no doubt be a monumental task unloading all of the stored boxes and trying to figure out who has moved and to where. I suspect there will be a number of returned letters to deal with the second week of January, 2001!
Compared to the situation 10 years ago, the Tsukuba Post Office has made significant strides towards being 'user friendly' for the international community. Even the 'cash card' machines now offer an English language option (something the Joyo Bank needs to imitate!). Nevertheless, there are no doubt still a few things that could be done to improve service for everybody. It is with this in mind that the Alien Times is asking its readers to make suggestions as to what steps the post office can take to help them better serve your needs. If any of our readers would like to contribute suggestions concerning anything you would like to see the post office implement, please send them to the Alien Times address by mail or email za3t-byl[at]asahi-net.or.jp.
One suggestion I made and that was readily echoed by the Japanese participants was to move towards a system where the letter carrier would pick up regular mail as well as deliver. Even now, if you hand a letter you want to mail to the letter carrier as he delivers your mail, he will gladly take it back to the post office to be mailed. But unless you just happen to be there when he comes, your only other option is to drop it in a post box somewhere. While a letter carrier on a small bike obviously cannot handle packages or large amounts of outgoing mail, it would not involve any significant extra work to pick up properly stamped mail in reasonable amounts when delivering mail to a residence. Don't expect such a major change to take place immediately, but the officials did say they would take it into consideration and seemed genuinely open to the possibility.
In addition to the suggestions we made, postal officials also made some requests of us, as representatives of the public. The number one thing they wish we would do in order to allow them to serve us better is to legibly write our names on our individual mail boxes so that they can more easily deliver the mail. Many of the mail boxes at, for instance, the foreigner's residences in Matsushiro and in Takezono House, have no name written on them. There is no law that requires a person to write his or her name on the box, but it is certainly expected of us to do so.
The other, rather obvious, request they made of us is to write the entire 7 digit area code as clearly as possible (along with the rest of the address, of course). The high-speed sorting machine that direct our letters into the right mail pouches have to spit out those items it can't read for hand processing, which increases costs and slows down the system.
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