The Postal Savings system was a fundamental institution in the Meiji modernization, enabling reliable low-cost long-distance transactions (including remittances from overseas, which is where my research comes in) and accumulating small deposits into a pool of capital that was agressively used for investment in railroads and other heavy industrial development.I know I've been relying on the post office ATMs while I've been in Japan these past six weeks, since a lot of combini don't give equal access to accounts overseas.
My first comment on the recent election is that it provided me a great opportunity for language-learning that kept listening and reading skills in synch. The constant repetition of restricted sets of visual and oral clues with each new set of results (enough to keep me watching) gave me time to look stuff up in my handy-dandy new Canon WordTank: 当選の当 (short for 'elected')、確実の確 (short for 'called')、比例の比 (short for 'proportion[ally elected]')、圧勝 ('pressure=overwhelming victory')、plus a lot of surnames and placenames that I'm always a little shaky on.
Two more points: (1) Koizumi seems to be creating the equivalent of Blair's New Labour or Clinton's DLC (which is where I feel most comfortable on the political spectrum). Can we call the current LDP the New Tories? (Please, not Neocons!) (2) The DJP really got wiped out in Greater Kanto. I'm right now in Ashikaga, on the border of Tochigi and Gunma, where all but one out of maybe 18 wards went for the LDP. You can see the economic growth (industrial parks, tract housing, strip malls, big box retailers, lots of cars and parking) all around the edges of the Kanto plain.