“The first regular postal system in Japan was established during the Tokugawa Shogunate (Edo era), when two-sworded men wearing a special uniform carried official correspondence between Kyoto and Yedo. In 1663 the business men of those cities and of Osaka organized a service of runners who made the trip between Yedo and Kyoto, via Osaka, about 3 times a month.
“In 1871 the present government formally opened a letter-post service between Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, and Osaka, and the system was modeled upon those in vogue at the time in America and Europe.
“The first set of postage-stamps was issued on the day the plan became operative (March 1871). Early in 1872 the service was extended to Kobe, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Hakodate. The first postal convention between Japan and the U.S.A. became effective Jan. 1, 1875. Japan was formally admitted into the General Postal Union on June 20, 1877.”
– Terry’s Japanese Empire: A Guidebook for Travelers, T. Phillip Terry, 1914
“In 1907 Japan had 6.563 post offices and 53,321 letter boxes. Clearly the postal system was a well-established success, as the emperor himself demonstrated in June 1902 by celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Japan’s membership in the Universal Postal Union and making Maejima Hisoka a baron. Maejima was the ‘father’ of the Japanese post office and as successful in his Meiji way as his institution.
“The impoverished son of a farm widow, Maejima managed to educate himself, and by his quick wits attract the attention of Okuma Shigenobu, who put him in charge of planning a national post office. In 1871, after a visit to England, Maejima started a British-type system.
“Within a decade he had created 5,000 post offices, started a postal savings system the Japanese still enthusiastically embrace, and secured Japan’s full membership in the Universal Postal Union. This last move made Japan, at least as far as mails went, equal to any other nation. Outwitted, foreign post offices in the treaty ports reluctantly closed their doors.”
– Meiji Revisted: The Sites of Victorian Japan, by Dallas Finn, 1995