Patricia MaclachlanJun 8, 2012
The People's Post Office
The History and Politics of the Japanese Postal System, 1871-2010
Harvard University Asia Center 2011
Patricia Maclachlan's recent book The People's Post Office: The History and Politics of the Japanese Postal System, 1871-2010 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2011) is a fascinating political and institutional history of the postal system in modern Japan. Over the course of a story that takes us through the development of road and rail and into elections and workers' unions, Maclachlan introduces us to an institution responsible for far more than simply delivering the mail, incorporating health consultation, filling prescriptions, helping the elderly and infirm deposit money into accounts, and providing life insurance at various points in its history. We follow postal workers through the ups and downs of their careers, through earthquakes and elections, watching as they develop a powerful influence in Japanese policymaking and navigate the crossroads of tradition and modernity. Many readers (myself included) will be surprised to find that the postal system in Japan has deep political roots, let alone a history that has been so central to helping shape the electoral system of modern Japan. The People's Post Office will enrich the way its readers understand the politics of Japan of today, and it was a pleasure to talk with Patti about it. Enjoy!