PO Boxes in Japan: What to Know & How to Use
Navigating the postal system in a foreign country can be a daunting task, especially when language barriers come into play.
In Japan, one of the most efficient ways to manage your mail is through the use of a PO box, or "shishobako" as it's locally known.
This article provides a comprehensive guide to PO boxes in Japan, exploring their benefits, costs, and the top providers that offer English support.
Can I get a PO box for free in Japan?
PO boxes from Japan Post Office are free. However, there are regulations and preconditions concerning their use, which are as follows:
You must receive deliveries approximately every day
The PO box must be used for more than 6 months
You must be able to collect mail and other items on time
As a result of these conditions, PO boxes from Japan Post are more often than not only given to corporations.
So what does the average Japanese person use if they want to receive mail in a separate location from their home? That's where private PO boxes come in.
What are private PO boxes in Japan?
Private PO boxes in Japan are distinguished by not being provided by the Japanese post office (nor located at your local post office).
Because postal PO boxes are hard to come by, an industry has grown in Japan to provide mail and parcel-related services to the general public.
These private mail box services offer customers the following mail-related services:
Japanese address for receiving mail and packages
Notification via photos of received mail
Other services, varying by provider
One thing to keep in mind about private PO boxes is that they come with a handling fee. On average, expect to pay 1500 to 3000 yen per month, depending on what the service offers.
What are the benefits of using private mailbox services in Japan?
For foreigners in Japan, a PO box provides the following benefits:
Enhanced personal privacy. Don't want people to be Googling your home address? Using a PO address is a great way to keep your personal and your business life separate.
Stop missing deliveries. Tired of playing tag with your delivery person? With a private mailbox, pick up your mail on your time schedule.
Stay updated in real time. Ever wished you could check your mail without actually being there? Certain PO box providers will also scan your mail for you so you'll always be updated on what's being sent your way.
Get translated summaries of your Japanese mail. Providers like MailMate will not only scan your mail, but will also provide a translated summary so you know what next steps to take.
Top PO box services in Japan for foreigners
While there are plenty of private PO box services in Japan, there are only a few businesses that provide PO box services in English.
Here are the top options if you're looking for a PO box for Japan that also comes with English customer support.
Image. MailMate's virtual mail dashboard
MailMate provides users with a physical mailing address in Japan where you can send and receive Japanese mail or international mail. Additionally, one of its unique features is its mail scanning service, allowing users to view contents from the MailMate dashboard where they can check their physical mail online.
Other features include notifications when mail arrives, translation summaries, bill payment, Japanese phone numbers with bilingual receptionist service, plus users of MailMate get exclusive access to bilingual concierge assistant service. Plans include the option of a virtual office address for company registration.
Image. MailMate's full dashboard, includes many services
Check out the following video, showing how expats in Japan make everyday living easier by using MailMate's service!
Ideal for: This service is ideal for foreign executives working in Japan who travel a lot and want to stay on top of their Japanese mail, such as utility bills and notices from city office. It's also great for businesses looking to come to Japan and need a physical address for company incorporation.
Price: Starts from ¥3,800 per month.
Dankebox provides full English-language customer support and various mail forwarding services. This service is particularly ideal for any expat who will be traveling outside of Japan for less than 30 days but needs sensitive documents forwarded to a temporary international address. Note: They do not provide a virtual mail dashboard or translation summaries like MailMate.
It's also suitable for those permanently moving out of Japan and would like to continue receiving mail without notifying the sender of the change of address.
Ideal for: Individuals leaving Japan with a very small volume of mail and who won't mind the delay of international forwarding. (For those who don't want a time lag, MailMate's virtual mail service might be a better fit.)
Price: Signup is currently free, though there is a monthly fee and additional costs for shipping and handling each package you choose to send.
Main Features: Forward2me operates a warehouse in East Asia, specifically Japan. They offer a Japanese forwarding service so you can buy products from Japan online and forward them anywhere in the world.
They provide a Japanese shipping address that lets you ship your items to locations across the globe.
Ideal for: This service is ideal for those who are interested in making purchases from shops online to send items to friends and family in other countries. Although it's not the best option for those who wish to receive business or personal mail at a second address.
Price: Use their price calculator tool.
PostCast is a Japanese PO box service that offers a variety of features to cater to different needs. It is recommended for individuals who want to use an address other than their home address for online shopping, flea markets, and website registration.
PostCast can also be used as a second address for those who frequently travel overseas or live abroad, and for those who want to receive parcels and mail under a different name.
Ideal for: Foreigners who can read Japanese as their website and service is only in Japanese.
Price: The service starts from ¥908 per month (tax included ¥998) with an option fee starting from ¥98 (tax included ¥107).
Frequently asked questions on PO box Japan
What is shishobako = 私書箱?
The meaning of 私書箱 = shishobako in Japanese is "private mailbox."
What are the main differences between private PO boxes and postal mailboxes?
While postal mailboxes are free, private ones come with a basic fee, typically ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 yen. Moreover, anyone can use a private mailbox as long as they pay the basic fee. Some contracts even have short durations, like three months.
On the other hand, to open a Japan Post postal mailbox, you must:
Receive mail or packages daily
Commit to using the mailbox for at least six months
Ensure timely collection of mail
How do I get a PO box number in Japan?
To get a PO box number in Japan, visit your local post office and register for a PO box. However, Japan Post will often rent their PO boxes to big companies only, so you must write and submit a usage request form to get approval to use a postal mailbox.
PO boxes or "shishobako" in Japan are a convenient and efficient way to handle your mail for those looking for a business addresss that isn't their home address. Other benefits include enhanced privacy, timely mail collection, and real-time updates.
Want a Japanese PO box address that is connected to a virtual mail dashboard? Try MailMate!
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