Otoshidama in Japan: How should you behave when you receive/give Otoshidama at New Year

Dec 27, 2018


1.  Why do people give out Otoshidama as New Year’s gift?

 

 

In Japan, there are some unique customs during the new year.
One of them, is a custom called “Otoshidama” in Japanese.
Have you ever heard of it?
If you haven’t, what do you think of when you hear the word?
It is a very unique and traditional custom during the new year in Japan, and it is basically the time that monetary gifts are given from adult to children.
Many children in Japan are looking forward to meeting their family and relatives on New Year’s Day because they look forward to receiving this gift.

Actually, there are quite a few countries where people give money as a gift, particularly in Asia.
Among these, the “Otoshidama” in Japan has some very unique aspects and it is also quite different as well.

For example, it is gifted to adult as well in Hong Kong and Viet Nam.
On the contrary, it is given only to children in most cases in Japan.
Why is the custom different?
The reason is because there was a custom to gift a rice cake to the Gods at new year, and the rice cake was used to be given to their children after finishing it.
It is believed that this custom was changed to gift money instead of a rice cake to their children many years later.
Because it was a custom to gift from parents to children, people in Japan still keep this custom as “Otoshidama” which is a money gift given on New Year’s Day from adult to children.
There are some rules when you give it to them or your children receive it from someone.
If you do not know the rules, you might behave rudely, so it is very important to learn it before you give it to children or your children receive it from someone.
This article introduces what “Otoshidama” is, and the manner when you give it or your children receive it, and how much you should give them based on their ages.
Let’s see this unique Japanese culture in detail.

 

2. The rules of receiving otoshidama

 

Although it is children who receive “Otoshidama”, parents need to teach them so that they will not receive it rudely.
For example, it seems it is a matter of course to say thank you, but there are many children who do not say this word when they receive it.
In this case, the person who gifted them it would feel bad, and they might even regret that they have given it to them.
To avoid such situation, it is very important to teach them to say thank you when they are gifted it from someone.
In addition to that, it is also very important to teach them not to request to adult for giving them it.
Even if he or she were willing to gift it to them, they may feel uncomfortable to do it if it was requested from them before gifting.
Therefore, parents need to be careful
so that their children will not be rude even when they just receive it.

 

 

3. The rules of giving Otoshidama

 

There are some rules when you give “Otoshidama” to children as well.
First of all, you should not give it without putting it in an envelope.
There are decorative paper envelopes available for this purpose at supermarkets when new year is coming, so you can get it and put the money in it.

Second, the important thing you need to be careful is that “Otoshidama” should be given from senior to junior.
This way of thinking is very important when you give it.
For example, it may be rude if you gift it to your boss’ children because it can be considered that you gifted it to your senior even if their children are younger than you.
If you would like to present them something, it will be no problem if you just gift them toys, books, etc.
The important point is that you should NOT give them a money gift: Otoshidama.
Please note it so that they will not misunderstand you and think that you are rude.

Finally, it is also important when you give children Otoshidama, it should be in front of their parents.
The reason is because they may hide it somewhere, and parents may not notice that they were given the otoshidama from you.
In this case, you may feel uncomfortable because they may not say thank you.
In addition to that, the children might use it without their parent noticing.
If they are too young to spend the money by themselves, it may be a bad influence for them because they may feel they are able to use money freely.
There are some parents who hold on to the money instead of allowing their children to have it, and will only hand to them the minimum necessary amount when they need it.
Therefore, you should be careful to gift it to them in an environment where their parents can see it.

 

4. How much should you give for Otoshidama?

 

 

Actually, it depends on the age of the person who you give the Otoshidama.
Let’s see the average amount of it divided by age.

a. Under 6 Years Old
If he or she is under 6 years old, from 500 yen to 1,000 yen may be enough.
There are many people who gift them only 500 yen because they are not able to buy themselves, and most children do not really know the value of money yet.
Therefore, 500 yen may be enough in most cases.
If you give them too much, their parents may feel sorry or offended, so please be careful.

b. From 6 to 9 Years Old
Because children go to elementary school from 6 years old in Japan, it is one of the boundary line of which the amount of Otoshidama becomes higher.
Therefore, in the case in which they are 6 to 9 years old, who are from 1st to 3rd graders in elementary school, the average amount is from 1,000 to 3,000 yen.
Among these ages, there are very few people who gift them only 500 yen, so please be careful when you gift it to the children in these ages.

c. From 9 to 12 Years Old
It is the children from 4th to 6th graders in elementary school in Japan whose age is from 9 to 12 years old.
Because children among these ages start to buy themselves and hang out with their friends, 3,000 yen is the average amount.
I do not recommend you gift them too much because they may feel it is easy to get money, and they may become the type of person who uses money easily or carelessly.
It will be the best amount for them who are starting to learn the value of money.

d. From 12 to 15 Years Old
Children start to go to junior high school from 12 years old in Japan, so it is better to divide the amount of the gift by whether he or she already goes to junior high school or not.
If they are still elementary school students, 3,000 yen is enough, however, in case they are already junior high school students, it would be better to gift them 5,000 yen.
Because they hang out with their friends much more than when they were in elementary school, under 5,000 yen will not be enough for them, and the average amount among these ages is 5,000 yen.

e. From 15 to 18 Years Old
In Japan, children go to high school from 15 years old.
Therefore, it is also one of the divided lines on which the amount of the gift gets higher.
In case they already go to high school,  giving them 5,000 to 10,000 yen is a great idea.
Because they often hang out with their friends, they will be very pleased if they are gifted 10,000 yen.
Because they are able to control how to use their money in most cases and understand money value, it will be no problem to gift them 10,000 yen.

The above is the average amount of “Otoshidama” based on each ages.
Do you think it is high, otherwise low?
The amount may change depending on each region as well, but most children will be pleased if they get the above amount because it is the average amount in Japan.

It is gifted for children under high school in most cases.
The reason is because it is a gift meant for children who are not able to earn by themselves, and children in high school often start to do a part time job and do not really represent this category.
It is, however, sometimes given to them as well because some people think it should be given as long as they are “students”.
It is up to you whether give them “Otoshidama” or not, it all depends on your the way of thinking.
They will be, however, surely happy if they are gifted it even though they have become colleague students.
So, if you are hesitating, it will be nice to gift them as well!

 

5. Enjoy Otoshidama; it is a unique Japanese culture!

 

What do you think of this Japanese unique culture: Otoshidama, after reading this article?
As it is one of the Japanese unique cultures, and it will be very fun to take part and experience it!
It was started long time ago as a custom of gifting rice cakes to the Gods in Japan on New Year’s Day, overtime, it was changed to a custom in which adults gift money to children instead of rice cakes.

First of all, you have to note that there are some rules when you give and receive it from someone.
When your children receive it, you should teach them not to be rude; such as not saying thank you or asking adults to give it to them in advance.
Please be careful because there are many children who behave in this way, and in such case, adults may feel very uncomfortable and regret gifting the Otoshidama to such children.
In addition, there is a rule when you give it to the children as well.
When you give it, you should not gift it without putting it in an envelope.
In addition to that, it is better that you should not give it to your bosses’ children.
It is, however, no problem if you just gift them some goods like toys instead of money.
Another thing to remember is that, it is also important to give it to them in front of their parents.
It is because they may hide it to somewhere, and their parents may not notice that they were gifted otoshidama from you.

Next, the amount of money you gift them is different based on the age of the children, and you need to be careful not to gift them too low and too much more than the average.
The reason is because it might be a bad influence to the children who are still not able to figure out the value of money yet.
If they get too much, they may feel getting money is very easy, and they may become a person who uses money easily or carelessly.
Also, it is up to you whether or not you want to give Otoshidama to a a children at the high school or college age.
Because it is the custom to gift money to children who are not able to earn by themselves, some people think they should not give it to college students because they usually have a part time job, and they are able to earn by themselves.
On the contrary, there are also some people who think they should gift it to them as well because they think it should be gifted as long as they are “students”.

What do you think of this unique Japanese culture: Otoshidama?
Do you think it is interesting?
Let me know in the comment section below!

Aika Kaise / Japan

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