New Year’s Postcards – Nengajo [年賀状]

New Year's Postcards - Nengajo

In Japan it is a custom to send out New Year’s postcards called Nengajo [年賀状] to friends, relatives, colleagues, bosses, customers, clients, etc.
It is similar to Western style christmas/ holiday cards, though there is no religious significance for Nengajo.

These postcards are used to express gratitude for things in the previous year and to maintain friendships.

Nengajo Manners

Nengajo are sold at post offices and convenience stores. There are several types of Nengajo available.

・Plain nengajo for self-decorating (people write the message in calligraphic style for example)
・Pre-designed nengajo with images from the upcoming year’s zodiac, new year motifs or cartoon characters (60 Yen)
・Plain Inkjet nengajo with glossy finish for self printing photographs (60 Yen)
・Charity donation nengajo (55 Yen)
Printing companies offer various pre-designed nengajo. (*image above)

Japan post starts to accept nengajo from December 15 every year. Nengajo mailed before 25th are delivered on January 1.
Opening the mailbox on New year’s day is an exciting moment for everyone. Nengajo are tied with a rubber band.
It is polite to send back nengajo to someone who has sent you but you haven’t.

Nengajo Lottery

Most Nengajo contain a lottery number printed the bottom (see image above ).
Winning numbers are announced on TV, in the newspaper and Japan Post official website from mid to late January. The prizes range from 40-inch Full HD LED TV and Digital SLR Camera to a set of postage stamps. The prize can be claimed at the post office until mid July.
Nengajo with lottery number is called Otoshidama-tsuki nenga hagaki [お年玉付き年賀はがき] .
Today more than 4.1 billion otoshidama-tsuki nenga hagaki are printed every year.

Mourning Postcard

If there has been a death in the family during the year, it is customary to send mourning postcards in November to inform people should not send nengajo, out of respect for the deceased.
Mourning postcards are called mochū hagaki [喪中はがき].
These postcards are not colorful as nengajo. (See right image above)