Sending Nengajō Overseas

If you’re planning to send winter holiday greetings this year, how about sending your friends and family back home a nengajō, a Japanese new year’s card? Nengajō can be purchased anywhere from conbini to department stores, and you can even make your own. If you are planning to send them via international airmail, the Japan Post has some guidelines to ensure that your greetings get to their destination in a timely manner.

The carbon-offset nengajô from Japan Post.

Read on for detailed instructions on writing and addressing the perfect nengajō.

  1. If you are using a postcard with postage included (a mark with the Chinese zodiac animal of the new year and 50 yen written on it), you need to add a 20-yen stamp to cover the 70-yen fee for international post card mail. If you are sending the postcard in an envelope, postage will cost 90-130 yen depending on the destination.
  2. Address the card horizontally like a Western letter (see diagram), not vertically like a Japanese postcard (see below).
  3. On the side with the recipient’s address, write “Air Mail” and “Post Card” in English.
  4. Although people who are not living in Japan cannot participate in the annual nengajō lottery drawing, it’s not necessary to remove the lotto number on the bottom of the card.

Please note

  • Nengajô design kits might not have the capacity to do foreign addresses.
  • If the country to which you are sending the nengajō does not have a special system for New Year’s mail, the card may not arrive on January 1.
  • If you are sending the card to China or Korea, see the guidelines for Chinese and Korean addresses and greetings.

If you are sending nengajō to recipients in Japan, there are a few customs you should know.

  • Cards must be taken to a post office between Dec. 15-26. There are sometimes bins to sort them into—local (your town), prefecture, or outside the prefecture.
  • The 2012 Nenjajo Lottery (otoshidama, お年玉) will be held on January 22, 2012.
  • If you receive a card from someone to whom you didn’t send a card, you have until 7 January to reply.
  • It’s inappropriate to send a card to families in mourning.
  • How to write a card: how to address a card (Japanese only; see below for English); how to write Japanese greetings (with English instructions); how to write very formal cards for business (Japanese only).

The back of your card has room for additional greetings and the recipient’s and sender’s addresses. To ensure your card gets delivered and that you have room to write your greetings, you should address it like so:

Image from jp-guide.net.

Addresses for postcards in Japan are written from the center, and then from right to left:

  1. Recipient’s name with 様 (sama) after it in the center of the postcard–中心線 (chūshinsen) on the diagram–should be written in larger script than the address. The 「様」  should be larger than the recipient’s name.
  2. Red boxes on the top right-hand corner are for the recipient’s zip-code.
  3. Recipient’s address–prefecture, country, city, town, then a line break for their ward or their apartment building and number–should be aligned on the right-hand red line–住所線 (jūshosen, address line).
  4. Sender’s address should be written with the zip-code under the stamp.
  5. Sender’s address (same format as recipient’s address) should be aligned under the zip-code.
  6. Sender’s name should be written in larger script than the address.

Happy New Year!

Leah Zoller is a former CIR (2009-11) and now works for The Art of Japan: Kanazawa/Discover Kanazawa. She is making homemade nengajō this year.

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