Happy New Year


The year 2004 ended on a very sad note. My hope is that this new year will open with humanity showing its better side. Please give to the rescue effort in any way that you can.

This is my new year's card (nengajo 年賀状) for this year. Nengajo are Japanese traditional season's greeting cards. Unlike American Christmas cards which are sent and arrive rather randomly from Thanksgiving to December, nengajo are collected by the Japanese post-office starting December 24th. You have to stamp your postcard with "nenga" otherwise it is delivered immediately. Properly marked nengajo are stored by the postoffice and delivered in one huge pile on the morning of January 1st (yes, the Japanese post office works on New Year's day, it's one of their busiest).

You're supposed to send cards to all of the people who you were indebted to in the year because they helped you in some way or another. This is a rather Japanese concept - that one is continually indebted by the help and assistance of others. In reality, this means that you might send out about 100-200 cards a year to all of your kin, co-workers, friends, company management, vendors, etc. etc.

Managing nengajo lists requires a major database. The ones on the market are quite sophisticated, such as Atena Shokunin to the right here. It will let you know if the person you are sending the nengajo sent one last year, or the year before (missing two years in a row frees you of the obligation to send one in return); if there was a death in that family (you send a bereavement card instead of a nengajo); fill in the address using the 3+4 digit zip-code; print the cards and so forth.

Receiving a big bundle of nengajo on new year's is exciting. Tradition has it that you should do your own nengajo so each one is unique. Also, each official nengajo postcard comes with a lottery number pre-printed on it. If you match digits, the post office will give you small presents. For folks that receive 300+ cards, this means that you can usually get several sheets of stamps, Hello Kitty post office items, etc.

p.s. You're also supposed to send greeting (and gifts) in the middle of the year as well (ochugen お中元) and department stores make a big fuss about this, but many people don't get around to that.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on January 1, 2005 7:00 AM.

The end of the year was the previous entry in this blog.

Photo: New Year's visit to the Matsuo Grand Shrine is the next entry in this blog.

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