Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
Whenever 25th December approaches, many of us will customarily exchange Christmas & Season greetings via cards, e-cards, emails or last-minute electronic text messages. Here in Japan, the Japanese are equally concerned with sending out well-wishes before Christmas. However, it is the Japanese New Year Card (Nengajo 年賀状) that they are preoccupied with, not the Christmas or Season greeting cards.
Then what makes 25th December so significance, you may wonder. Apparently, it is a cutoff date set by the Japan Post (JP), the last day to send out all New Year cards. The post office will keep and then devotedly delivered them all at once, so to ensure that everyone get their cards (in stacks) on New Year Day! According to my husband, if you miss the deadline and are not awfully late, plus the person you are sending to live in the same prefecture or near enough, the duty-bounded post office will accommodate you and get it delivered on the first day as well!
Japanese New Year cards are actually postcards in standard size (measuring 100x148mm), and come in a variety of bright beautiful illustrations and designs. The animal of the year from the Chinese zodiac sign (Junishi / 十二支) is usually the hallmark of Nengajo. Tiger, being the representative animal of 2010, definitely has its share of limelight this year. Other well-received designs include famous Disney characters, Snoopy, Doremon etc. Japanese also love to include their favorite photo as part of the design, taking the opportunity to share and update special events with their friends and relatives.
While many got their pre-printed cards from major stores, the prepaid blank postcard offered by Japan Post (JP) is extremely popular. Similar to an etegami, the blank side of the postcard (like an artist canvas) acts as an outlet for creative energy. Some will make use of their calligraphy, drawing or painting skills; some will use carved wooden block, rubber stamps, eraser for printmaking; while others depend on software designed specially for nengajo. Putting forth their best effort to create postcards with personalities.
Another reason for the popularity of JP’s postcard, is that each card has a set of lottery number at the bottom of the postage/address side (see picture). Postcard with this interesting feature is known as the Otoshidama-Tsuki Nenga Hagaki (お年玉付き年賀はがき). The draw date for 2010 is on 24th January, where the winning numbers (announced on TV and in the newspaper) will receive attractive prizes. What a fun way to begin one’s new year!
The post office offers a wide variety of prepaid postcards for local use.
Even the printer-friendly prepaid postcards come in two types:
For normal inkjet (50 yen) and photo inkjet (60 yen).
First, New Year postcards are NOT send to families in mourning. If someone had a death in the family, he or she will enter a year of mourning. Of which that person will send out another type of postcard known as Mochu Hagaki (喪中はがき). These bereavement postcards has only black wordings, with the color of the stamp or illustration kept dull and to the minimum. This cards are dispatched early in December, asking friends not to send any nengajo, and apologizing for not sending any, out of respect for the deceased.
Secondly. If you received a card from someone you forgot to send, it is only polite to promptly send yours in return, RIGHT AWAY. ^_^
Here is a link where I put my very first nengajo. Since all my relatives and friends are overseas, this is a e-nengajo (2010) (e-card) specially made for them LOL!