Brother from Japan
Not many people know this but Mr. ZIP has family in Japan. His brother is actually the mascot for the postal code system in Japan, his name is Number-kun (ナンバーくん).
Number-kun is the character with postal mark face and body, legs and arms. The body is suppose to look like a post card. The number “123” written on the body is the first 3 digits of 5 digit postal code. Number-kun was designed by Noboru Matsuno and director Tsunehisa Kimura.
Postal mark face was created on July 1st, 1968 along with the introduction of postal code system in Japan.
Number-kun was created to spread and raise awareness of the 3 and 5 digit postal code. You can see this through Number-kun’s design, who always has one hand pointing to the postal code. According to documents found in the Japan Post Library, the officials working on the new post code system were aware of Mr. ZIP and his success in America and that influenced their decision to create and use a the friendly symbolic character to promote their new postal code system.
Number-kun appeared on 12 different stamps between 1968 to 1973, and on pamphlets of Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, part of postmark of post office, and former post office packages.
How Number-kun became Number-kun
The name ‘number-kun’ was decided on July 5th, 1968 with the most popular vote (1103 votes) through the public recruitment (April 20th, 1968 to June 20th, 1968) for the name. Until then, the character was called by several names such as ‘yubin-boya’ (post boy).
New Character ‘Poston’
A new character, Poston (later introduced in 1998), was introduced when the postal code was changed to 7 digits in 1998. Due to the introduction of Poston, Number-kun and the Postal mark face was not used anymore and cannot be seen in today’s postal related products.