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‘The Miracles of the Namiya General Store’ unfolds in real world

Letters written by volunteers from Ongi Postbox (Ongi Postbox)
Letters written by volunteers from Ongi Postbox (Ongi Postbox)

The heartwarming Japanese novel “The Miracles of the Namiya General Store,” written by mystery writer Keigo Higashino, is coming to life in the real world.

The novel, which centers on general store owner Namiya who communicates with neighbors through handwritten letters and offers sincere advice, has been a steady seller in South Korea since its 2012 release.

In commemoration of the 100th printing, publisher Hyundae Munhak kicked off a project inspired by the story in collaboration with the nonprofit organization Ongi Postbox. Five postboxes have been set up across the five branches of the Kyobo Bookstore -- in Gangnam, Gwanghwamun, Yeongdeungpo, Jamsil and Incheon. After the project was launched Saturday, more than 40 letters were collected from the postbox in Gwanghwamun alone, according to the publisher. 

The 100th print edition of “The Miracles of the Namiya General Store” (Hyundae Munhak)
The 100th print edition of “The Miracles of the Namiya General Store” (Hyundae Munhak)

Volunteers from Ongi Postbox will reply to all the letters, including those written in English, said Cho Hyun-sik, who founded Ongi Postbox four years ago as a college student. He was inspired by the novel to start the organization.

“I am glad I can participate in the project, which is particularly meaningful to me,” Cho said. “We also write back to letters written in English. No matter what languages they are written in, I know we all have the same emotions and similar worries as humans,” Cho said.

Ongi Postbox has recruited more volunteers thanks to the project. Over the past few years, Ongi Postbox has sent out more than 8,500 handwritten replies to letters collected from 12 Ongi Postboxes set up across Seoul or sent to the office of Ongi Postbox. Since COVID-19 broke out, more letters are flooding in as more people are staying at home and going through difficult times fighting the pandemic, according to the organization. 

A booth for “The Miracles of the Namiya General Store” is set up at the Kyobo Bookstore’s Jamsil branch in southern Seoul. (Hyundae Munhak)
A booth for “The Miracles of the Namiya General Store” is set up at the Kyobo Bookstore’s Jamsil branch in southern Seoul. (Hyundae Munhak)

Many of the letters they receive are from people in their 20s and 30s. All the letters have different stories behind them, but a letter sent by a woman in her 30s remains deeply in his mind, Cho said.

“Ahead of her wedding, she lost her parents and was in deep sorrow. She said in the letter that she wanted to receive a letter written by her mother before her wedding. At the time, we had a volunteer of her mother’s age, and the volunteer wrote back to her as though it was written by her mother,” Cho said. “The woman later told us that she cried a lot after reading the letter. That really touched me.”

The project runs through Jan. 31 at “The Miracles of the Namiya General Store” booths at the Kyobo Bookstore’s five branches.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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