A New Year’s Card in Japan ~ Nengajo ~ | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

A New Year’s Card in Japan ~ Nengajo ~

By Guidable Writers Dec 10, 2016

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) Japanese Spanish Chinese (Traditional)

《What is Nengajo?》

We have a custom to send a New Year’s Card called “Nengajo” (年賀状) every year in Japan. The custom has a long history going back hundreds of years. We have started to use a special card for “Nengajo” issued by the Ministry of Posts and telecommunications which was taken over to Japan Post Co. Ltd in 2001. Nengajo has played an important role in communications for Japanese people to inquire after friends, families, or intimates, or to report the current situation even if they have not seen each other for years/decades. Those relations bonded by Nengajo are much more precious than that people from abroad could imagine. Nowadays, although e-mails and other communication tools have been replacing Nengajo, they are still showing their original good points by being followed by many people especially for the elderlies.


《The twelve zodiac signs》

When you have got the meaning of “Nengajo,” you may wonder what the animals on “Nengajo” means. It is from the twelve zodiac signs called Eto (干支) in China, and each year has a symbolic animal as the following chart shows.


English Chinese(Kanji) Japanese(Hiragana) Pronunciation
1 the Rat Ne
2 the Ox うし Ushi
3 the Tiger とら Tora
4 the Hare U
5 the Dragon たつ Tatsu
6 the Serpent Mi
7 the Horse うま Uma
8 the Sheep ひつじ Hitsuji
9 the Monkey さる Saru
10 the Rooster とり Tori
11 the Dog いぬ Inu
12 the Boar I


The cycle is completed every twelfth year; for example, a boy who is 12 years old, the boy’s mother who is 36 years old, and the boy’s grandfather who is 60 years old have the same zodiac sign. The year of 2016 falls on “the Monkey” on zodiac signs, so you will know that the next year, 2017 falls on “the Rooster.” When a new year is drawing near, we will see the symbolic animal of the year everywhere; key rings with the animal, ornaments of the animal are purchased to be with as a lucky charm. That is why you will see “roosters” everywhere recently. Roosters will appear everywhere as well as in “Nengajo.” Now, let us prepare “Nengajo” with roosters!


《Enjoy preparing “Nengajo”》

#1: Purchase Nengajo at a post office. It costs 52 JPY per one postcard which includes its postage; you need not pay for a stamp to be put on the card.


#2: If you want to ask for professional support, you can pay also at post offices for their printing services. Please refer to their homepage by visiting the following link.



#3: If you want to try printing by yourself, it is recommended to download or purchase software catalogue for “Nengajo” printing to be installed. There are many designs in each software catalogue, and you can add your name, address, etc. to be printed. Please refer to the following link.



#4: If you want to perform your artistic talent on “Nengajo,” you can draw, paint or use stamps. “Stamp art” on “Nengajo” will be quite exciting for some of you.

Here are some examples by visiting the following link.


《Don’t forget to …》

When you have decided the design for “Nengajo,” please try to put either word of the followings to express the happy day.


#1: あけましておめでとうございます。(A Happy New Year! )

#2: 謹賀新年 (きんがしんねん)        (A Happy New Year! )

***more formal than #1

#3: 迎春(げいしゅん)We welcome a new year

***春(しゅん) means the beginning of the year as well as spring


If your friends or acquaintances have lost their family member in the year, it is refrained from sending “Nengajo” to them. They are in “喪中”(Mochu,) and they usually send a greeting in advance like in October or November. The message on the greeting says that they are in Mochu, and they cannot send “Nengajo” on the New Year’s Day. So, if you receive the greeting, please don’t send “Nengajo” to the sender.


Please note that Nengajo must be posted by December 25th if you want your Nengajo to be delivered on the New Year’s Day. In addition, Japan Post will accept Nengajo from December 15 to be delivered on January 1st. If you post Nengajo before December 15, it might be delivered a few days later as a normal postcard.


Communications by Nengajo will tell you many original thoughts and ideas of Japanese people. Let us get along with roosters next year as the first step!