Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The importance of the New Year's Cards

One very important custom here in Japan are the customary New Year's cards. These cards go out in huge volumes and usually is just a postcard with the customary new year's greeting on the printed side, maybe some animals of the season mixed in (rabbit this year, tiger last year), either extremely cute or more traditional. For younger families such as the Salaryman family, kids are usually heavily featured.

One good thing about these cards is that space to write a message is usually quite limited, not that I particularly mind writing a message to friends and family, but it can be quite daunting when you have a pile of 100 something cards piled up in front of you , some of which you barely know but are family of Mrs. Sunshine and would like to see something written by the husband. Usually I could get away with "Happy New Year" in English on those to add a little exotic cultural flavor, but sometimes a little longer greeting is required and a "thank you" for some gift we did receive during the year.

To do things in a correct way, the cards should be put in the mailbox by the 25th of December at the latest to arrive in the morning of the 1st of January. A few days of delay might be acceptable, but more than that and it gets clear that the cards were actually posted after the end of the year and thus unacceptably late. Neither me nor Mrs. Sunshine are particularly fascist about this, we're quite ok with some cards coming in late (some are obviously responses from people who realized that they received a card from us but did not send us any and rush to send one back without it being obvious), but the stray bunch of cards (all my friends and not Mrs. Sunshine) that came in the mail during the second week of January felt a bit lame, they didn't even try to rush it...

Now, some people, like the Father in Law is extremely diligent about this, keeping exact notes on cards received, cards sent and you do not want to end up on his black list by not sending a card back in relatively short order. If you fail to do so, you risk ending up shunned and might need to spend several years diligently sending cards on time before possibly being put back on probation. Sloppy handwriting or bad formatting if you're lazy enough to use a word processor for printing (generally frowned upon by the puritans, we printed ours though) the names and addresses could also be causes for being put on probation. Thankfully, we're now blood relatives but to not risk being shunned we do send our cards timely.


It's a rough game with little margin for error with few rewards and hard work, but that's how it's played! (My hopefully last card came last week, hopefully we can all move out of the new year zone by now!)

10 comments:

Martin said...

Is there any rewards doing this right? Other than not turning into an outcast of the japanese society?

Roberto said...

True of ALL fathers-in-law, I think. Mine is a member of that club.

Blue Shoe said...

The true reward is feeling good about yourself (phff).

Is there any reward for sending out Christmas cards in America? It's basically the same thing.

Ainsley said...

I love this idea. I am definitely going to do it next year. What about family portrait cards, are those commonly used?

jlpt2kyu said...

The best thing about the nengajo and xmas cards is that they are great for the environment and totally necessary.

Lalique said...

visit from Turkey
discovering Korean & Japan blogs.
sorry if disturb you :)

Mr. Salaryman said...

Martin - Well, you do get some cards...?

Roberto - I only have one FIL, but I'll take your word for it!

BS - My reward was exposing everyone to the homemade card which at least was mildly funny

Ainsley - Oh yeah, the family pictures... Don't get me started, but usually not formal ones, more stuff from some vacation or so during the year

Jlpt - Don't say that out so loud, you might become shunned!

Lalique - Well, very welcome here then! For some reason I have not yet really figured out, I have found myself working closely with a distributor in Turkey last year, nice guys

Eva said...

Our Japanese teacher actually taught us how to write a proper new year card last year! It's so troublesome and stressful to keep track. Why do they make things so complicated for themselves...

RMilner said...

>>Why do they make things so complicated for themselves...

To show that they care.

A lot of cards have lottery numbers on.

Has anyone ever won anything?

Hanta said...

I never write these because I'm a lazy git. Also, I'm usually off enjoying a cocktail on a beach outside of Japan. Waheh.

Related Posts with Thumbnails