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Nengajo: How to send a Japanese New Year postcard


Japanese nengajo (年賀状), or New Year greetings cards, are a fun and easy way to show your appreciation to everyone you care about over the holidays. They’re also a great way to send cool Japanese well-wishes to your friends and family back home.

However, there are rules on who, when and how to send your nengajo. There are even restrictions based on what happened the previous year. To avoid offending a large group of people too early on in the year, here’s a step-by-step guide to sending your New Year’s cards.

Step One: Buy or create your own nengajo

You can pick up pre-printed nengajo in stores like Loft and Don Quijote, stationery shops, post offices and even supermarkets from late November. There are hundreds of different designs to choose from, but most will have a version of the upcoming year’s zodiac sign.

Some people like to include photos of themselves or their family, and there’s usually an option to create digital designs and print them off. Some websites offer free printable designs. The Japan Post has a whole section dedicated to creating your own nengajo. You can also just buy a standard card and write nenga (年賀) next to the address to indicate that it’s a New Year’s card.

Step Two: Write your message

Once you’ve made your nengajo, it’s best to include a message (there’s nothing more mysterious or creepy than an empty greeting card), and Japanese has many stock phrases to wish somebody a happy new year so that you can mix it up a bit.

Of course, you can write a more personal message. The custom of nengajo is based on nenshi mawari, or the New Year’s holidays. Traditionally, people would visit family, friends and neighbors in person to say thank you for their support or help during the previous year. 

Japanese New Year Phrases

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

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Here's how you send a New Year's card.

Step 1: Throw out any and all addresses you feel obligated to send to, and don't send to them. If it's not from the heart, it has ZERO meaning.

Step 2: Buy or make your own and send to those you WANT to send to.

Easy as that. One of the saddest things here is watching people sigh and moan about how they "have to" start filling out year-end cards, as though it's doing taxes, and sadder still is when they talk about having to write "mourning cards" to tell people they can't write cards this year.

People who want to send cards, should. Drop the obligatory stuff, and the okaeshi.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

One of the biggest mistakes I made was to get started with the nengajo. Nightmare. I only got out of it after a few years of bereavements during which I didn't send any, and after that I just carried on not sending.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

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