Many people outside of Japan are surprised to learn that this country has a thriving telegram culture. You read that correctly. Telegram. If that conjures up images of a gentleman with a curly mustache tapping Morse Code, that's because the practice of sending and receiving telegrams has gone out of style in most other parts of the world. Yet in Japan, it not only remains, but continues to thrive and evolve.

There are several reason for this. First, telegrams are almost always gift gestures, and Japanese people traditionally love to give each other gifts on occasions such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, promotions and retirements but also messages of condolences for funerals. Beginning with fancy cards or fancy paper, the message itself is presented in a beautiful way, turning the message into a gift. Then, it was a natural move for telephone carriers like NTT and KDDI to begin offering real gifts together with messages as a package service. Thus, the "gift telegram" was born. This is the market that has been thriving in the last ten years, with startups competing with major services for customers' business.

Since it began operating in December 2016, gift telegram service Mitsuboshi (not to be confused with department store chain Mitsukoshi) has distinguished itself from other gift telegram startups with its selection of high-quality gifts. This selection already included a certain number of traditional craft products. Now, the service has been revamped with an expanded selection including 7 brands and 26 products, many of which feature traditional Japanese crafts.

To begin with, the message cards, shown above, are made by combining the traditional washi technique of tamezuki (paper layering) with a patented digital printing technique called DECO-WASHI, resulting in a one-of-a-kind card that will convey your special message with beauty and elegance.


(EJP) East Japan Project collection:

Created by architect Kengo Kuma, EJP taps into a network of traditional craft makers from East Japan. For Mitsuboshi, he has curated a collection of products facilitating "a sustainable and minimal new lifestyle" while "making full use of time-honored materials and techniques." For example, products like OTO and Tachiagare Pen, below.

According to EJP's website, "OTO, a collaboration between Danish industrial design trio KiBiSi and Japanese ceramic artist Kosho Ito (...) is a ceramic analog speaker for smartphones. A sort of hybrid of wind instrument and bowl. It combines analog sound enhancement of portable music with a storage bowl for trifles and blends modern tech lifestyle with a traditional object."

  • Name: OTO
  • Price: 45,000 JPY (including message card and delivery fee)
  • Materials: ceramic, walnut
  • Design: KiBiSi
  • Manufactured: Kosho Ito Atelier (Ibaraki Pref.)
  • Dimensions: W 23 0 × D 230 × H 115 mm
  • Available colors: Shinju Blue, Matcha Green, Ume Violet, Sumi Black, Indigo Blue, Murasaki Purple

  • Name: Tachiagare Pen ("Stand Up, Pen!")
  • Price: 9,000 JPY (including message card and delivery fee)
  • Materials: washi (traditional Japanese paper)
  • Design: MOUNT FUJI
  • Manufactured: Dekoyashiki Daikokuya (Fukushima Pref.)
  • Dimensions: W 32 × D 32 × H 140 mm
  • Available models: Medama ("eye"), Mizutama ("spotted"), Shimajima ("stripes")

Ken Okuyama collection:

Ken Okuyama is the first Japanese designer to work for the famed Italian sports car company Ferrari. He brings his unmistakable design touch to Mitsuboshi's new lineup, for example, in this URUSHI Japanese cutlery set manufactured by Yamaco:

Yamaco (Yamazaki Kinzoku Kogyo Co.,Ltd.) is a Japanese steelworks company with a long tradition and commitment to high quality cutlery. It was already providing fine cutlery to Europe before the Second World War. The URUSHI (meaning "lacquer" in Japanese) cutlery set is the latest from their Ken Okuyama Design collection, 2013 winner of "Best of the Best" in Germany’s Red Dot Design Award (for the EDA cutlery set).

  • Name: Cutlery Set URUSHI
  • Price: 20,000 JPY (including message card and delivery fee)
  • Materials: stainless steel, Japanese lacquer
  • Design: Ken Okuyama Design
  • Content: 4-piece set inc. knife, fork, tablespoon, teaspoon

Other fine telegram gifts:

  • Name: Komonoire Goju-Suzu (basket for trifles)
  • Price: 18,000 JPY (including message card and delivery fee)
  • Materials: bamboo
  • Manufactured: Suruga Takesensuji Takezaiku bamboo basketry (Shizuoka Pref.)
  • Dimensions: W 16.2 × D 16.2 × H 13 cm

source: (C) humony Co., Ltd.

  • Name: Goemon teapot
  • Price: 18,000 JPY (including message card and delivery fee)
  • Materials: clay
  • Dimensions: W 11.5 (inc. spout) × D 10 × H 6.5 cm
  • Design: Junichiro Hayashi
  • Manufactured: Seichajo Yamashina (Yamashina Green Tea Company)
  • Content: teapot in the Hasamiyaki pottery style

source: (C) humony Co., Ltd.

  • Name: Furoshiki wrapping cloth
  • Price: 9,000 JPY (including message card and delivery fee)
  • Materials: 100% cotton
  • Dimensions: 100 × 100 cm
  • Design: Akiko Sekimoto
  • Manufactured: Shirushizome
  • Content: The furoshiki's motif is the animals of the Japanese (and Chinese) zodiac. You can choose between the twelve. Inu (dog) is pictured above

source: (C) humony Co., Ltd.

This map shows all the brands providing the fine selection of products included in Mitsuboshi's expanded lineup

Although Mitsuboshi cannot deliver to addresses outside of Japan, you may be able to arrange a delivery through a third party forwarding service. Moreover, since they accept foreign credit cards, you can order from outside of Japan if you wish to send a very special gift telegram to a friend or family member living in Japan.

You can look through the entire collection and place an order on their website.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.