Hakata (Fukuoka), Monday through Saturday:
08:53 People start to assemble outside the steel roller shutter door.
08:55 Voices behind the shutter make a declaration in unison.
08:59 An electric motor whirs as the shutter slowly rises.
The scene slowly reveals itself: an office with about 30 workers in business attire. Three are standing at the sides of the entrance, some are standing at their stations behind a counter, while others stand at desks behind the counter. They all face the rising shutter.
As one, they greet us with just the right level of enthusiasm:
Ohaiyo gozaimasu sumimasenThey bow, then the three employees at the entrance thank us as they politely gesture to us to enter the post office.
Note: as well as providing postal services, Japan Post is one of the world's largest financial services companies. It has been privatized and is about to undergo a partial market flotation.