In other countries, Christmas is often the time people send and receive greeting cards, but because New Year’s is a more widely celebrated holiday in Japan, the Japanese New Year’s greeting card, or nengajo, is the way to go. It is a tradition that dates back to around 1871, when the practice of sending postcards became accessible and popular. They were used as a yearly greeting and a way to thank anyone who had helped the sender that year.
Around New Year is when post offices in Japan are the busiest. Although email and social media have made the writing and sending of nengajo a little less common, it is always nice to send something with a personal touch, so the tradition is still going strong. For any international residents who are living in Japan, this simple gesture is a good way to impress your Japanese friends and colleagues.
When to Send
Your greeting should be sent so that it can be received at the start of the new year, meaning between January 1 and 3, with January 7 being the latest. Now is the perfect time to get started, though. Post offices will start accepting greeting cards from December 15 and it will take some time to go through all the different designs and layouts available to you.
How to Write
You can source nengajo with different designs and festive images from online stores, notary shops, or even the post office. Once you have settled on something you like, it’s time to write your message. Japanese greeting cards are usually very brief messages of gratitude for the past year and a message for the new one. To thank someone for their support in the last year, you can say sakunen wa osewa ni narimashita. After that, you can add your New Year’s greetings with the phrase akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. Next, you can tell them you are looking forward to the next year with them with kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Who to Write To
Who you will send your greeting to is up to you, but don’t feel that it is something that needs to be sent to everyone you know. The cards are meant to be used as a heartfelt message of gratitude to someone who has made an impact in your life during the year. However, be considerate of families who have suffered the loss of a loved one, as nengajo are not to be sent to families in mourning.
In the modern world of automatic emails, scheduled SNS posting, and text messages, don’t be afraid to slow things down and participate in this special part of Japanese culture. It’s a great way to connect with others in Japan, and thank those who have been important in your life. It also means you may receive a few greetings yourself!