Halloween decorations are still up but holiday music is already playing in the malls. Yes, it’s that fuzzy time of year in Japan where holidays and seasons get mixed up. And before you know it, it’s time to get those nengajo New Year’s Cards ready. Here are a few pointers for preparing and sending them.
Why send them?
Everyone wants to know what you’ve been up to! Just like Christmas cards, nengajo are a great way to show a picture of the children to family and friends.
So, who to send them to?
Family, friends, and those you haven’t seen in a long time. After exchanging nengajo for several years, people expect to receive one in their mail on New Year’s Day.
Basic design and wording
Making nengajo can be fun. Before computers were so popular, families often used stamps to create designs. Now various templates are available with your printer software or with Japan Post’s Hagaki Design Kit (http://yubin-nenga.jp/design_kit/ 2015 version available after Oct. 30).
Most people print their nengajo on cards available from October 30th (varies by year) at the Post Office. These have a lucky number for a draw in a national lottery. (Winning numbers are announced January 15th.) If you use a plain postcard, make sure to write 年賀 (New Year’s card) on the address side. Postage stamps with the lucky number are available at the Post Office.
Generally, nengajo with family photos are not sent to business acquaintances. Send a generic one with business wording to your boss and co-workers.
sample of business type nengajo
sample of informal type with spaces for photos
When do you need to get them out by?
Japan Post accepts nengajo usually between December 15 and 25 for delivery on the 1st. One side of the red mailboxes is usually designated for nengajos. These days may vary by year, so ask your local post office for this year’s dates.
So, you didn’t get your cards in the mailbox by the 25th? Don’t worry! Your nengajos will still be delivered, just a few days late. If you receive a nengajo from someone you didn’t send one to, get one in the mail by the 7th.
After the 7th, you should send a 寒中見舞い (Winter Greetings) card instead. Do not use a nengajo card with lucky number in this case, and instead, use a special card available at the Post Office or print one with a 寒中見舞いtemplate.
喪中ハガキ - Postcard for families in mourning
In Japanese tradition, a family is in mourning for one year after a close relative has passed on. This means that nengajo are not sent out or received. Send out a 喪中ハガキ between mid-November to early December to let your nengajo contacts know that you are in mourning. Close relatives can be defined broadly. Usually it refers to parents including your spouse’s, spouse, children, grandparents and siblings (in some areas, your spouse’s siblings as well). The wording is usually preset and very simple, and includes name, age and relation of the deceased. Personal messages are not written on these cards. A special post stamp is available at the post office. If you want to send a personal message, try a Christmas card or send a card after the 7th.
Sarah is a long-time resident born and raised in Japan. She spends her time trying to raise her children, translating and making soy candles on the side. She loves the beach, paddle boarding, mountain lakes and Japanese beer :)