What to Write in Japanese New Year's Cards

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Every year, Japanese households send and receive New Year’s postcards called nengajō (年賀状). The cards are sent to friends and family, as well as to people you have work connections with.

Image: yubin-nenga.jp

If you post your cards in Japan before the cut-off date in late December, the postal service guarantees to deliver them on January 1st.

Card designs often feature the Chinese zodiac animal of the new year. For example, 2016 was the year of the monkey, so lots of designs that year included monkeys!

Cards sold in shops or at the post office usually have a lottery number on the bottom, too:

Nengajō greetings are a good opportunity to practice your Japanese handwriting. You might want to practice on a piece of blank paper before writing on the card itself.

Every year, we use printed templates to write New Year messages in class. I love helping my students write nengajō to their family and friends.

Photo by Bob Prosser

But what should you write in nengajō?

There are two key phrases to remember for writing nengajō:

1. あけましておめでとうございます!

akemashite omedetou gozaimasu

Happy New Year!

2. 今年もよろしくお願いします。

kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu

I hope for your favour again in the coming year.

You could also go for something like:

明るく楽しい一年でありますように

Akaruku tanoshii ichinen de arimasu you ni

I hope you have a wonderful year.

or:

旧年中は大変お世話になりました。

Kyuunenjuu wa taihen osewa ni narimashita.

Thank you for your kindness throughout the last year.

Photo by Bob Prosser

At the end of the greeting, you write the date (always writing January 1st).

2019 is the year Heisei 31 in the Japanese system, then you write the special word gantan 元旦, which means New Year's Day:

平成三十一年元旦

Heisei sanjuuichi nen gantan

(New Year's Day, 2019)

Photo by Bob Prosser

I’m looking forward to see what 2019 brings.

A very happy new year from me (Fran), and:

今年もよろしくお願いします!

Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

(I hope for your favour again in the coming year)