The politics and implications of postal reform

Authored by: Patricia L. Maclachlan

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics

Print publication date:  February  2011
Online publication date:  February  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415551373
eBook ISBN: 9780203829875
Adobe ISBN: 9781136818387


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People do not normally get excited about their local post offices, but the Japanese appear to be an exception—and for good reason. For well over a century, the Japanese post office has functioned as both a local community hub and a massive source of funds for national industrial and infrastructural development. In 1999, postal savings deposits peaked at 2.6 trillion yen, representing one-third of total household savings; that same year, the postal life insurance service comprised 40 percent of the national life insurance market, and was 3.7 times larger than Nihon Seimei, Japan’s second largest life insurance provider (Mizuno et al. 2001: 173). Even today, proceeds from the postal savings and insurance systems constitute an important source of capital for the Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP), the linchpin of postwar Japan’s system of public finance (see Cargill and Yoshino 2003). All the while, the postal system has performed a broad range of social functions, including programs for tending to the elderly in rural areas. In keeping with the system’s lengthy history and multi-faceted accomplishments, the local post office is now widely viewed as a symbol of tradition—as an embodiment of many of the customs and government policies that marked Japan’s distinctive entry into the modern world.

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