You can send a Whatsapp message or write an email, but nothing says it like a personally written and signed Japans Nengajo New Years Cards.
Take it one step further and do it the traditional Japanese way with Japan’s “Nengajo” New Year’s Cards.
Nengajo is one of Japan’s early traditions where people used to write New Year’s wishes and send them to all their loved ones.
These days people write them on postcards so they are also called “Nenga Hagaki” or “New Year’s Postcards”.
You can also delight your family and friends with some Nengajos and bring a smile on their faces.
Read on for all you need to know about Japan’s Nengajo New Year’s Cards:
Japans Nengajo New Years Cards
Origins of Japan’s Nengajo New Year Cards
Nenjago finds its origins in the ancient Japanese Heian Era between the years 794 and 1185. The aristocrats of this era used to visit people and wish them for the New Year.
Later, they began writing their wishes and greetings in letters for their friends and loved ones who were living too far away to be wished in person. This practice was soon carried on by their descendants as well.
Once technology improved and post offices came into being, Japan started creating postcards with printed New Year’s greetings that people could purchase, sign, write their name and address and send.
Even though modern technology has more number of people wishing through electronic means, Nengajo cards are still widely popular in Japan and many people still carry out this practice.
Buying or Creating your Own Nengajo New Year Card
Nengajo cards are sold in post offices, convenience stores and stationery stores from the month of November right up to early January.
So, even if you receive a nengajo from someone you forgot to send one to, you can quickly run to the closest store and pick up a nengajo to send one back to them.
Nengajo can be a lot of fun and a great outlet to show off your creativity. You have the option of buying a pre-printed and pre-designed card or a blank card and designing it yourself. The concept is similar to the postcards sold in the West.
Apart from these, if you want to design your own cards but lack the artistic talent, you can always use design websites to help you create your card. There are so many free websites that give you loads of designs you can choose from.
They are printable and very easy to put together. You can then write “nenga” or “年賀” on top to indicate that this is a New Year’s card.
Like the Christmas and New Year Cards people in the West send each other, you can also include some pictures that summarize your year.
It could be from an important event or just a happy family picture. You can also digitally include these pictures on the websites that you use to design your Nengajo cards.
The Chinese zodiac is followed in Japan as well, so you will come across many Nengajos sporting the animal sign of the year. For instance, 2021 was the year of the Ox, so you might have come across a lot of Nengajos featuring images of the ox on the card.
You could do the same and it will be appreciated by the recipient as this is considered good luck.
What to write in a Nengajo New Year Card
It is good practice and polite to address each person in the recipient’s family when you are sending out a nengajo card. Also add the right prefix that is considered respectful for the person.
If you are buying a pre printed Nengajo with greetings already on it, you can just write the date, sign your name and write the address of the recipient.
If you are making or buying a blank Nengajo, choose from one of the two greetings below to wish them a Happy New Year:
明けましておめでとうございます (Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu)
新年おめでとうございます (Shinnen omedeto gozaimasu)
Apart from wishing the recipient a Happy New Year, you can also include other wishes for them and their family.
What you write depends on who you are addressing the Nengajo to and whether you want it to sound formal or casual. Check out some phrases below and choose one or a few to write in your Nengajo.
ご健康で幸せな一年でありますようお祈りいたしております。(Go-kenkou de shiawase-na ichinen de arimasu you o-inori itashite orimasu)
= I pray that this is a year of good health and happiness
昨年はお世話になりました (Sakunen wa osewa ni narimashita)
= Thank you for everything last year
今年もよろしくお願いします (Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu)
= Thank you in advance for this year
明るく楽しい一年でありますように (Akaruku tanoshii ichinen de arimasu you ni)
= I hope you have a wonderful year
旧年中は大変お世話になりました。(Kyuunenjuu wa taihen osewa ni narimashita)
= Thank you for your kindness throughout last year
Who to send a Nengajo New Year Card to?
You must send a Japans Nengajo New Years Cards to anyone who has been there for you through the year, like your family (if they live far away), friends, relatives and colleagues.
Many businesses now make it a point to send Nengajos to clients and business partners as well to maintain a good relationship.
If you receive a Japans Nengajo New Years Cards from someone you did not send a card to, or forgot to send a greeting to, immediately buy or make one and send it to them, thanking them and wishing them good luck for the New Year.
It is considered extremely rude to not reciprocate the wishes.
Japan post delivers Nengajos until Jan 3rd which is the last day of the holidays.
In case you miss January 3rd, it is still acceptable for the recipient to receive the Nengajo until January 7th. Crossing this threshold means the wishes are for winter and not for the New Year.
But do remember, do not send a Nengajo to anyone who has lost a family member in the past year.
How to send a Nengajo New Year Card?
Once you are done writing your wishes in the Japans Nengajo New Years Cards and decorating it, write your address vertically on the left side, the recipient’s name in the centre and their address on the right side.
The Nengajos you buy mostly come with postage paid, so all you have to do is write in them, fill out the address and post them.
From December 15th to December 25th, all post offices will have specially designated slots for Nengajos to make sure that they are delivered exactly on New Years Day with your good wishes. They are hard to miss.
If you are wondering how efficient Japan Post is, you should know that it is around the New Years that the post offices work extra hard.
They ensure timely and efficient delivery by increasing their workforce around the holidays. All Nengajos are put on hold and delivered exactly on New Year’s Day.
The Japanese know this and look forward to all the Nengajos they will receive on the first day of the year, kind of similar to the excitement of opening presents from Santa on Christmas day.
How much does sending Japans Nengajo New Years Cards cost?
The cost of Nengajo New Year Cards vary depending on whether you are sending it to someone within the country, outside the country and also whether you are buying a blank card or a pre-designed and pre-printed card.
Here are some of the approximate costs involved in sending a Nengajo New Year Card:
Sending a Nengajo within Japan costs around ¥63.
If the Nengajo is pre-printed, requiring you to only write down name and address, it will cost you upwards of ¥68. The price changes depending on the design.
You can also send Nengajos to other countries with an additional stamp costing ¥7, but there is no guarantee that the card will reach before January 3rd as it depends on the postal system of the other country.
When to send Japans Nengajo New Years Cards?
The Japanese are very particular about timing, so you want to ensure that you send your greetings at the right time.
Since a Nenagajo is a card that carries New Year’s wishes, it’s best to make sure that they reach the receiver at least by the 3rd of January. Japan Post does special Nengajo deliveries.
They start accepting cards marked “nenga” as early as the 15th of December and deliver them on the 1st of January. The last date that they accept the cards for delivery are the 25th of December so do get your cards ready before that.
Bonus Luck From Japans Nengajo New Years Cards
Here’s something very important – the Nengajos that are ready made and sold in stores or post offices come with a lottery entry at the bottom.
That’s right! They might bring you a lot of luck and you might win one of the many cash and e-money prizes if the digits on your Nengajo get drawn sometime around January 17th. Of course the odds are quite low but hey, this might be your year.
So save all the Nengajos you receive, cos who knows, you might get rich overnight!