Penpals and letter-writing may seem a bit too old-fashioned to appeal to the wired generation, but the Japanese Post Service and Tokyo’s Oriental Land Company have taken a stab at reviving these lost arts by opening Japan’s first postal service for children.
The Kids Post House is a one-off retail outlet that launched in May 2004 inside Ikspiari, a large shopping complex in the Tokyo suburb of Maihama. The storefront is a place where kids can write letters, buy stamps and stay in contact with friends through traditional letter correspondence. But it also showcases consumer products based around OLC’s Nepos Napos preschool property.
This mainstay Japanese character brand was introduced in a 2000 picture book published by Kodansha. A live-action series called Nepos Kids’ Club has been airing on Japanese broadcasters BS Fuji, Kids Station and BS Megaport Broadcast since October 2004, and OLC is currently working on a CGI version of the show. Based on various fruit, vegetables and flowers, the Nepos Napos characters spend their time teaching kids about nature, and that theme carried over in the design of the postal outlet.
The shop looks like an indoor forest, with lots of greenery and even a huge tree. Shelves are filled with Nepos Napos plush and other merchandise, and the characters are splashed all over themed letterhead, postcards, stickers and shipping boxes. The post house’s best-selling item is a greeting card called the Skip Time Letter, which sells for 504 yen (around US$5). Buyers can choose a specific delivery day for Skip Times, so they’re a really popular way for kids to send birthday and holiday greetings to their friends and relatives.
OLC runs the retail end of the business, supplying and selling the merchandise. And the postal service takes care of delivering the mail that gets dropped off in small tree-shaped mailboxes located in and just outside the store.
There are no plans at the moment to open more Kids Post Houses in Japan, but the partnership between OLC and the Japanese Post Service extends into Japan’s 24,700 regular post offices. In March ’04, OLC published manymany, a mail-order catalogue with a circulation of 800,000. Refreshed four times a year, the catalogue features roughly 260 products from the Kids Post House, as well as other Nepos Napos licensed merchandise.