Many countries’ postal systems have a type of “dead letter office” which handles mail that has been inappropriately addressed and could not be sent. In most cases, if the sender cannot be found the messages are destroyed in order to maintain privacy.
The Missing Post Office, on the other hand, welcomes unaddressed post cards and keeps them for eternity if need be until they end up with the rightful owner even if they aren’t alive. The unusual post office opened on the island of Awashima on 5 October and welcome all to come and read their discarded messages of humanity.
■ A work of art
The Missing Post Office was created by artist Saya Kubota as a part of the Setouchi Art Festival around the Islands of the Seto Inland Sea in Kagawa Prefecture. It’s actually a renovated post office which closed down in 1991.
Much of the office remains intact aside from the addition of some art pieces and changes to the sign. The standard 〒 symbol which identifies post offices was stylized into a wavy version symbolizing the ocean which carries messages in a bottle – a central theme to the Missing Post Office. The symbol can be seen all around the place including the uniforms of its staff.
■ Meet the staff
Director – Katsuhisa Nakata
Mr. Nakata was the director of the Awashima Post Office for 45 years until retiring. After serving his community for most of his life he was asked to return as acting director of the Missing Post Office, a post which he accepted with pride.
Clerk – Saya Kubota
The creator of the Missing Post Office, Ms. Kubota wanted a place where human thoughts and emotions could accumulate like flotsam on a beach. Only instead of tossing a message in a bottle and possibly losing it to the depths of the ocean (an act which she compares to posting on the internet), the Missing Post Office will protect it and allow it to be found by its rightful owner and anyone else who needs to share that same feeling.
■ Inside the office
The main piece of the Missing Post Office is the Drifting P.O. Box. Tin boxes are suspended on standing piano wire all atop a revolving wooden table. Visitors are encouraged to reach into a box and pull out a message. The messages are anonymous but 100% real. They might be written to deceased relatives, unborn children, or even a traffic light. Whatever people were motivated to write down or needed to get off their chest can be found in these boxes.
The following are some sample messages from the Drifting P.O. Box:
When you died last summer I didn’t cry. When you were alive it was like we only said horrible and spiteful things to each other… If we met now I think we still would… But a year has passed and I have only loving memories from childhood left.
I have when we made pudding together.
I have when we read books.
I have when you bought me my piano. That was the happiest.”
“To my future grandchild,
When will you arrive? The sooner the better, come on and be born! I can’t wait to finally do for you everything I couldn’t do for my own kids.”
“Actually, I was hoping to do the folk dance at school with you. My heart was pounding with excitement as our turn together was coming around soon but… just before it happened, the song cut off.
Since then several autumns have gone by. What might have happened to you by now?”
■ How to send to the Missing Post Office
If you’d like to send a message to the Missing Post Office, just write it on a post card and send it to the address listed below without including the name of the recipient, your own name or address. Only post cards though. They will not open envelopes since the message is not meant for them.
In the case that your message is too long to fit on a post card, then they encourage you to use several. Whoever it’s meant for should be able to piece it together. Also, in the event that the person who the message is intended for appears at the Missing Post Office, they will be able to leave with it.
Although the Setouchi Art Festival will come to an end on 4 November, it looks as if the Missing Post Office will live on. The 79-year-old Mr. Nakata said he will continue to serve as its acting director.
The autumn is a very nice time to visit the islands of Kagawa Prefecture, and even if conceptual art is not your thing, it’s hard to ignore the raw humanity that can be felt in the Missing Post Office.
Missing Post Office (Hyoryu Yubinkyoku)
Hyoryu Yubinkyoku Dome
Awashima 1317-2, Takuma Town, Miyoto City, Kagawa Prefecture