One popular part of the culture in Japan is celebrating the New Year’s Day. It is a time for merriment such as eating osechi and mochi, ringing temple bells and of course, sending out dozens of postcards!
Postcards are known as “nengajo” in Japanese. The original purpose it served was telling people who were living far away that they were okay and doing well.
It is said that the Japanese culture of sending many postcards every New Year is similar to the Western culture but lacking in some religious reasons. Nengajo helps the person express many things such as gratitude and friendship. In writing nengajo, the zodiacal animal of the year is used as a design. The graphical elements come in abundance depending on the New Year’s motif such as kadomatsu (decorations of pine branches), plum flowers, kites, the sun rising behind Mt. Fuji and many more.
Nengajo always begins with a greeting. There are different expressions used such as the following:
Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu.
Shinnen omedetou gozaimasu.
Tsutsushinde shinnen no oyorokobi o moushiagemasu.
All of these, basically, have the same meaning of “Happy New Year.” Then, you have to write down your thoughts such as words of gratitude. Here are some of the expressions used.
Thank you for all your kind help during the past year.
Sakunen wa taihen osewa ni nari arigatou gozaimashita.
I hope for your continued favor this year.
Honnen mo douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Wishing everyone good health.
Minasama no gokenkou o oinori moushiagemasu.
Remember to use the name of the Japanese era when putting the year in your card. This is based on counting the years according to the reign of an emperor. In dating the card, you have to use the word “gantan” (元旦) which means the morning of January 1st. If you live outside the country and you want to send postcards to Japan, you have to put the word “nenga” in red at the front. This will help tell the post office that the card will be delivered on the 1st of January. It should never arrive before New Year’s Day. The post office does its best to deliver them all on time.
Meiji 1868/9/8 – 1912/7/30
Taisho 1912/7/30 – 1926/12/25
Showa 1926/12/25 – 1989/1/7
Heisei 1989/1/7 – present
Nengajo seems more like a social duty of every Japanese. They do not send it only to close family members but to almost everyone they know. It has become a way of keeping in touch and warming the hearts of the people around you.