Thursday, June 07, 2007


I know I grumble a lot about things here in Japan...but there are some things that really deserve grumbling about. When I was in the UK, I grumbled there too! But I didn't have a blog back then. Anyway, there are still plenty of times when I'm reminded what a great place it is to live here.

One Thursday a few weeks ago, we found a card in the mailbox telling us of an undelivered parcel. This is a fairly common occurrence, happening whenever deliveries require a signature or a fee (such as duty on imported goods), or are just too big to physically fit in the mailbox. It's possible to arrange a new delivery time, but we usually find it easier to just pop into the central post office when we are next passing, so jules did that on the way back from work on the next Friday. They have a service counter open 8am-8pm which itself is pretty handy, and a big improvement on the typical British situation. But that's not the real point of my story.

She proffered the card, and the man at the desk hunted around briefly before telling her that the parcel had already been delivered - and he brandished the signed receipt to prove it. "There, look, Iwase-san who lives there signed for it", he said.

"There's no Iwase-san known to me", she protested (or rather, the equivalent in pidgin Japanese). After much further scurrying around he said something more, which she understood as meaning that perhaps the parcel was out on a delivery round right now - they sometimes try twice anyway - and at that point she gave up and went home, planning to have another go the next day if necessary.

No sooner had we got inside the door but the doorbell rang. Outside was a little man peeking over a big cardboard box, profusely apologising for the trouble he had caused and bowing repeatedly. In the time it had taken us to get the bus home, the postman had gone out to retrieve the parcel from where he had erroneously delivered it that morning, and waited around the corner for us to return home - all in the pouring rain at 8:30pm!

It warms the cockles of my heart, it really does. I can't imagine anything like that ever happening in the UK. 9 times out of 10 it would be "(shrug) there's the signature - not my problem mate", and on the lucky 10th time you might get an apology. But in Japan this extraordinary level of service is really not at all unusual. One could cynically argue that it's the result of massively inefficient over-staffing and a culture of subservient brainwashed automatons, but it does make life run smoothly.

I'm still puzzled as to who Yanase-san is or why he/she accepted the clearly-labelled parcel in the first place. Delivering a parcel to neighbours is quite common in the UK, but it's never happened to us here before, and there was even duty to pay on this one...

1 comment:

pough said...

Service (or the lack thereof) is the biggest gripe I hear from my Nihon-jin no kanojo (now living with me in Canada). Imagine growing up with that level service and then moving to North America (or the UK). It's roughly the equivalent of growing up in the west and moving somewhere where service is taking your money, grinding a heel into your balls and telling you to f*ck off.

But at least she doesn't have to kiss as much ass at work or buy a million useless presents for people she doesn't like every time she has a holiday!