Photo/Illutration The Japan Paper Association has been running a campaign to encourage people to write letters to someone special to them on St. Valentine’s Day. (Provided by Japan Paper Association)

In 2011, the Japan Paper Association started a campaign to encourage people to write a letter to someone special on St. Valentine's Day.

A record 12,000 letters, handwritten and signed, were submitted to the association last year.

Below are some of the most memorable examples from the last few years.

A 22-year-old Saitama Prefecture man, probably a university student living away from home, wrote to his mother: "Don't phone me so often. You really don't have to send me so much money every month. I'm keeping sensible hours and sleeping fine, so don't worry. I know I'm always brusque when you call. But let me say this today: 'Thank you, and I mean it. Always.' "

A 53-year-old man from Shiga Prefecture wrote to his wife: "Why do people get sick? To bring wife and husband closer, I guess. What are letters for, when writing to each other isn't exactly our thing? To teach us to love each other and not let any illness defeat us. So, here I am, doing my best writing you this letter."

I can picture this middle-aged couple fighting an illness together and caring deeply for each other.

A letter by a 5-year-old preschooler named Misaki in Kagoshima Prefecture, written mostly in hiragana phonetics, went to this effect: "Dear Papa and Mama, I am going to become a first-grader soon. But even when I become a first-grader, will you still hug and carry me a bit?"

And here's my top favorite: "The very back row in our junior high school classroom. Do you remember the time when we secretly held hands under the desk? I've just turned 20, having never been able to bring myself to tell you my feelings. Goodbye, teenage romance."

The writer was a 20-year-old Saitama Prefecture woman. Her words suddenly revived my own bittersweet memory.

When you are embarrassed to speak your thoughts to someone's face, but you don't want to post them on social media either because they are too complicated, you can always convey them accurately in a handwritten letter.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 14

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.