Postcrossing Blog

Stories about the Postcrossing community and the postal world

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Hanako's dreamy posts on Instagram caught our attention some years ago. Featuring quirky Japanese mailboxes, pretty stationery and her own beautiful artwork, they made us dream of visiting the “land of the rising sun”… but pandemic years were tricky for making trips abroad, so we did the next best thing, and sent the Little Mail Carriers instead! 😊 Here they are, to report on their adventures!

Kon’nichiwa! Many greetings from Japan, where our host Hanako lives and does her art (including postcards for Postcrossing meetings)! She promised to give us a tour of Tokyo, so let’s get started! First stop: a post box! This is what a normal postbox in Japan looks like.

Two Playmobil toy mail carriers stand atop a modern Japanese mailbox, on a sidewalk

We headed to the Kyobashi Post Office in Tsukiji, Tokyo. Today the special stamps “International Letter-Writing Week, 2021” were just issued. We had the first-day postmarks put on the postcards and on an envelope made from a museum flyer. The stamps are showing famous woodblock prints by Hokusai. Everyone knows his iconic “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”… but did you know the painting is part of “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”, or that it used a new kind of blue pigment which revolutionized Japanese prints?

Two postcards and envelope featuring Japanese illustrations of people in traditional clothes lay on a table, alongside a sheet of stamps. The little Playmobil mail carriers sit on them, observing.

About half of post offices in Japan have their own pictorial postmarks. These postmarks are called 風景印 (fukeiin). We had the fukeiin of Kyobashi Post Office put on our little passport. It illustrates a scene from Sukeroku (known as The Flower of Edo, in English), one of the most famous plays in the Kabuki repertoire.

The Little Mail Carriers show their passport, a small notebook featuring stamps and special postmarks

Kabuki is a type of Japanese classical dance-drama, characterized by elaborate stage makeup, fancy costumes and stylized performances that date back to the Edo period. Why does the fukeiin stamp show Kabuki here? Because the Kyobashi Post Office is located near Kabuki-za, the principal theater for Kabuki plays!

A hand holds the Little Mail Carriers in front of the theater, a very ornate building.

Next, we visited Ueno Station. In Japan, you can find special souvenir stamps like this at railway stations, museums or tourist spots. If you travel around Japan, we really need to bring a notebook for stamp collecting!

The Little Mail Carriers put the special stamp from the train station on their notebook. The stamp features a panda image

Awwww… isn’t it cute? We saw the panda postbox near Ueno Zoo, which is the oldest zoo in Japan. Twin pandas were born here in June 2021, and they were named Xiao Xiao and Lei Lei.

A hand holds the Little Mail Carriers in front of a panda-themed mailbox. The mailbox has the same format of a Japanese mailbox, but is painted white, with the eyes, nose and mouth of the panda painted black. It also has some ears on top!

Yay! We found the Pokémon manhole-cover in front of the National Museum of Nature and Science! Hanako says manhole-cover hunting is one of the pleasures of a trip to Japan. There are various kinds of manhole-covers with local design.

The Little Mail Carriers sit on top of a colorful Pokémon-themed manhole cover, featuring Tyrant and Wynaut. The Little Mail Carriers sit on top of a Pokémon-themed manhole cover. The cover is colorful and features pokéballs, Bronzor in the center and Baltoys along the edge

Another one is here in front of the Tokyo National Museum! There are many museums in the Ueno area, so you can’t see all of them in one day. If you visit Japan for the first time and need to choose only one museum in Ueno, we heard the Tokyo National Museum is a good one to see, so that’s where we are headed! The building was built in 1937, and is often used as the location for Japanese TV dramas.

A hand holds the Little Mail Carriers in front of a sword's blade. The blade is big and curved, and sits on top of a white sheet.

We took our time looking around the exhibits. The Tokyo National Museum has many national treasures as their collection. Above is one of them, the Tachi Sword made by Yoshifusa in the 13th century. Have you watched “Seven Samurai”, the Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa? Samurai swords are quite interesting cultural artifacts, not to mention really beautiful.

A hand holds the Little Mail Carriers in front of a large wooden sculpture of a monkey.

This work of sculpture titled “Aged Monkey” made by Koun Takamura is famous among Japanese philatelists, because it was selected as the subject of the 60-yen stamp from the Modern Art Series, issued in 1983. Of course, we bought the matching postcard, too!

The same sculpture of a monkey is featured on a postcard and on stamps.

Aaaaaaaah, the museum shop is a postcard paradise! 😍 How many should we buy?! Can’t decide because all of them look amazing!

A hand holds the Little Mail Carriers in front of a postcard display, featuring many illustrated postcards i nthe Japanese style

It’s about time for lunch! OK, we have soba here today. Soba is a noodle made from buckwheat and is popular as healthy food. Chopped spring onions (also known as scallions) and grated ginger go well with it. The soba restaurant Yabusoba in Ueno was established in 1892. Hanako showed us the cute soba stamp issued in 2016.

The Little Mail Carriers stand near a plate of noodles. A pair of tweezers holds a noodle-themed stamp in the foreground

After lunch, we came to Tokyo Skytree by bus! This 634 meter-high tower was completed in 2012 and became a new symbol of Tokyo.

The Little Mail Carriers stand on a ledge, while an impressive high towers rises behind them towards the sky

We visited the Postal Museum on the 9th floor of Tokyo Solamachi, the shopping mall under Tokyo Skytree. The Skytree postbox warmly welcomed us.

The Little Mail Carriers stand in front of a quirky postbox, designed to look like the Tokyo Skytree

The exhibits in the museum are super interesting for postcrossers! Here are mail carriers’ caps from the early 20th century. The caption says the straw hat was for summer. It’s cool, isn’t it?

An array of mail carriers hats are featured in an exhibition — including a straw hat.

And this is a replica of the postal snowmobile in the 1940s and 50s. Wow, we want to try to drive it, it looks like the perfect size for us!

A toy snowmobile (with caterpillar wheels and a fabric top) sits in an exhibition, among other postal cars. The Little Mail Carriers stand in the foreground, unfocused.

We also saw some cancelling stamps in the early 20th century. It’s always fun seeing old postal tools.

The Little Mail Carriers stand in front of two rows of old wooden tools to make postmarks

And at last, we arrive at the counter of the old post-office, used between 1920s or 1930s to 1988 at Kanda Sudacho Post Office, in Tokyo. How many postcards and letters have crossed this counter over the years? And how many stamps it must have seen!

The Little Mail Carriers stand with their little cart on the counter of an old post office. The wooden counter is topped with a grate.

Sadly, this is where our tour of Tokyo comes to an end. It was a lot of fun to return to Japan so many years after our trip to Okinawa, to discover a bit more of this fascinating country! Where do you think we should go next?

Thank you Hanako, for showing the little guys so many cool things about Japan! We’re dreaming of visiting and “collecting” all the cool manhole covers and special postmarks… 😍


We’ve written before about the Underwater Postoffice in Vanuatu, and we thought at the time it was the only place you could post a letter underwater in the world.

Well, turns out that isn’t quite true! Postcrosser Cindy (aka cindybeaule) let us know about an underwater post box in Susami, Japan, which was put in place in 1999 as part of a fair to promote the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. It’s a collaboration between the former postmaster, a man called Toshihiko Matsumoto, and the local diving community. Waterproof postcards are sold in the dive shop, and you have to write your message using waterproof oil-based markers, so the message won’t wash off.

You need diving gear to even reach the post box, because it’s 10 metres below the surface. It’s actually in the Guinness Book of World Records because it’s the deepest post box in the world, and they have a certificate to prove it! The boxes are made of cast-iron, so there are actually two used in rotation, so they can be cleaned and repainted.

I even did some more poking around, and it turns out there are a few other underwater post boxes. There’s one in the Malaysian island of Mataking, another one in the Jemeluk Bay Underwater Gallery in Indonesia, and two “dry” ones: an underwater observatory in the US Virgin Islands and the Risør Underwater Post Office in Norway.

You can watch a whole mini-documentary about the post box in Susami on Youtube—we were amazed to learn that there had been over 38,000 special waterproof postcards sent from this underwater post box at the time it was filmed in 2018. I wonder if any Postcrossers have ever sent or received a card from Susami…? Do let us know!


I discovered the Japanese folk art of etegami through Debbie’s (aka dosankodebbie) lovely postcards. Debbie is a professional translator who lives in Hokkaido, Japan. She began making etegami cards over 10 years ago, and joined Postcrossing to share them with people all over the world, as well as to receive art cards from other creative postcrossers!

As Debbie explains on her blog, “Etegami (e= ”picture"; tegami= “letter/message”) are simple drawings accompanied by a few apt words". They are made to be mailed to one’s friends or family, and usually show an object from our everyday lives.

The illustrations appealed to me for their beauty and simplicity… but when researching the art and the philosophy behind it, I discovered there’s a lot of meaning and intention in every card. So I decided to ask Debbie a few questions about her art, and she kindly agreed to a mini-interview.

For dessert, let's gaze at the magnolia blossoms
When did you start making etegami? What drew you to this form of art?

I first began making etegami in the year 2000. I had been making my own Christmas and New Year cards since childhood, using methods such as woodblock printing and the Japanese torn-paper collage art called chigiri-e. But these methods were too labor-intensive to do every day.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away

I grew up in an art-loving family, but my first love has always been words. Etegami suits me perfectly because it combines images and words. The tools for etegami are relatively few and simple, and you don’t need a lot of space to set them up. I have my tools in a small box, so I can spread them out on the kitchen table or on a corner of my work desk and paint whenever I have fifteen minutes of free time in my work day. Fifteen minutes, on average, is how much time I need to make one etegami.

Be careful of the words you say...
Where do you find inspiration for your cards?

I can always find something seasonal to paint if I look in my refrigerator or in my garden. It can be an apple, an eggplant, a dandelion, a leaf on a tree, a sparrow, a coffee mug, or the slightly rusted kerosene tank that supplies our heating fuel. Etegami is at its best when it depicts a single object that represents the season with a few unfussy strokes and a minimum of color. Compared to most traditional Japanese art forms, it has very few rules, and the slightly awkward paintings of beginners and children are valued more than refined paintings.

Let's sit and talk a while
Do you have any idea how many etegami cards you’ve made so far?

Ideally every etegami that I send should be a hand-painted original, but these days my mailing list is so long that when I can’t paint enough originals, I sometimes resort to prints of my images. I go through at least 800 washi cards in one year. If you include prints, I mail about 1,000 etegami postcards every year.

Curiosity cannot be idle
Besides postcrossers, who else do you mail your etegami cards to?

Although one of the pleasures of etegami is in the exchange, it’s even better to send etegami to people who can’t send anything back. I set aside every Monday to make etegami for people who are sick at home or in the hospital, and people who are depressed or disabled in a way that makes it difficult for them to send mail to anyone. This is especially meaningful to me because I have bad legs that keep me house-bound, and I’m so thankful that I can socialize with people through etegami.

Empty nest

I don’t know about you, but I can’t to gather my brushes and give it a go! :)

Thank you so much for sharing your hobby with us, Debbie! For more etegami inspiration, don’t forget to check out Debbie’s blog.


Raisa (aka Asato) from Russia loved drawing ever since she was a child… but it’s only in the past few years that she decided to take it more seriously. To practice, she started drawing small characters on the postcards she sends…

Raisa's hand-drawn chibi characters Raisa's hand-drawn chibi characters Raisa's hand-drawn chibi characters

… and they turned out great, really brightening up the postcards! :) We were in awe of Raisa’s talent so we decided to ask her some questions about her little drawings.

Your style seems Japanese-inspired… is it so? Are you a fan of anime/manga or Japanese things?

Yes! I read my first manga when I was 22, and it was like a bomb! Since that day I’m a big fan of japanese manga and anime. Moreover, Japanese “chibi” (which means “little”) style is very handful for postcards, and there are a few other reasons. First, there is actually not much space on the postcard for the drawing, especially if you plan to write something beside, so it’s better to draw something really small. A “chibi” is a character with oversized proportions and its big head is a very convenient way to express characters emotions as, literally, there is more space to draw them comparing to a realistic-like character. That makes your character look a bit childish, funny, and really lovely. And this style is not too serious or too complicated and easy to draw.

Raisa's hand-drawn chibi characters Raisa's hand-drawn chibi characters
How do you decide what to draw on each postcard? Do you adapt the theme to the recipient, or focus on what you’re enjoying at the moment?

Of course, it depends mostly on the recipient. Every time I get an address, I start thinking about what to send and what to write… I wish I could send to the receiver some good emotions with my postcard or make it interesting. Drawing helps me a lot, as it’s the way you can easily express your thoughts and emotions or tell something. For example, you can describe in details the national costume, but isn’t it easier to picture it and write few notes? :)

Sometimes people write about their favourite films or books in the profiles, and if I don’t have a postcard that would match them, I can draw a character they really like on the card! It’s also a nice chance for me to share my own favourites, such as “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” which are so famous. Honestly, I dream to receive a postcard with my favorite characters, but so far, no luck!

Raisa's hand-drawn chibi characters Raisa's hand-drawn chibi characters
What are the member’s reactions when they receive your postcards? Do they appreciate the extra effort?

Thanks to the special Postcrossing’s friendly and kind atmosphere most members write at least “thank you” like for any other postcard :) Some people send long messages where they write how they were glad and excited to see my drawing, some people do not pay special attention to it, some offer to send a card back or to exchange letters. But, any reaction is OK for me, as I don’t want to claim something special back. So long as I enjoy drawing, it’s a pleasure for me! Seriously, I hope just to put a smile on someone’s face.

Raisa's hand-drawn chibi characters

Thank you Raisa, for sharing your lovely drawings with us! If you’re curious, you can see other drawings on her postcard gallery.

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The other day, while randomly browsing the internet for inspiration, I chanced upon this Tumblr, where I noticed all the beautifully decorated postcards… which upon further inspection, proved to be actual Postcrossing cards!

Look how pretty they are:

Amiko's postcards

My jaw dropped at all the detail on the back… from the stickers, to the decoration tapes, to the carefully chosen stamps… even the address labels and Postcard ID bubbles were pretty! :) After much oohing and aahing, I decided I had to get in touch – and luckily Amiko (aka amiko_h) who comes from Japan, kindly agreed to do a mini-interview about her art! :)

Here’s what she had to say:

Can you tell us a little bit about your decoration process? What inspires you? Where do you start?

Firstly I choose a postcard for the recipient after checking his/her favorite or wishlist. Then I pick up the main theme such as color or motif. Sometimes I connect the theme with the postcard image, sometimes I pick up the other motif from the recipient’s favorites, or sometimes I just connect the theme with the stamp I want to use at the time. At this selection phase, you should also remember your taste. Enjoy yourself. Actually I never use my dislikes.

Next I choose material from my collection, and try this or that combination on the card for the color and total layout including message area. Usually it takes me the most amount of time to fix the layout. When you have the feeling of interlocking pieces, go on to finish it!

Amiko's postcards
Which materials do you use to decorate your postcards?

Mainly I use washi tapes and ready-made stickers for my decoration. Sometimes I put in some cut-out from origami, my hand-made stickers, scraps from magazines and use my hand-carved rubber stamps. Of course, you should remember beautiful postal stamps! I am apt to buy on impulse those small material as well as postcards whenever I find them…

Amiko's postcards
What are the member’s reactions when they receive your postcards? Do they appreciate the extra effort?

There is either some appreciation or nothing. Half and half. But it doesn’t matter so much either way… I think the decoration is just decoration. And I myself enjoy the process more than anything! :)

I think the most important thing in Postcrossing and penpaling is a kind of hospitality. I always consider the recipient as my guests or friends I haven’t met yet. Without any decoration, people would be happy when they get warm message and consideration.

Happy Postcrossing!

And finally, can you show us your workstation… where the magic happens?
Amiko's work area

Thank you Amiko, that was lovely! Though now I’m sure I’ll have dreams of stickers and washi tapes…

Do you decorate your postcards too? Leave some tips on the comments – we’re always looking for inspiration! :)