What to Write in Japanese New Year's Cards

What to Write in Japanese New Year's Cards

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.

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.

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New Year's Resolutions - 2018


明けましておめでとうございます! Happy New Year!

Did you make any New Year's Resolutions this year?

January is a really good time to think about goals for the year ahead.  Apart from anything else, it's cold! And it's nice to be inside making plans.

Here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2018:

1) blog once a week


This one is easy (I hope!) and a continuation of last year.

In 2017 I aimed to publish a blog post a week. I actually did 26, which is one a fortnight.

That's not bad, but I definitely want to beat that in 2018.

2) play more games


In class, I mean. I want to work on making classes more fun, and one easy way to do that is more games.

 My lovely students playing fukuwarai ("Lucky Laugh") game


When we laugh together, we learn together.

(Cheesy but true).

3) read every day


This is a personal one. Last year I tried to read more Japanese fiction, and kind of failed.

I did find, though, that once I actually start reading I'm ok. It's the getting started that's the tricky part.

This year, I'm going to read some Japanese fiction every day, and keep a note in my 5-year diary when I've done it.

(16 days in, this is going pretty well.)


4) go to more teaching events


This year, I'm planning to go to more Japanese teaching and education-related events in London.

I went to a couple recently - a Japanese grammar teaching workshop at SOAS, and a bunch of seminars at the Language Show London.

I found it super helpful to reflect on my teaching practice and discuss ideas with other teachers and linguists.


I definitely want to go to more events like this in 2018.

...and it's a good excuse to go to London for the day too.


5) track these goals


Waiting until the end of the year to see how your goals are going doesn't really work.

In 2017, I actually completely forgot about one of my resolutions (to watch more drama in class). I'm going to avoid that this time by pinning them above my desk.

I'd love to know what New Year's Resolutions you made. Let me know in the comments!

How did I do? A look back at 2017's goals


It's no use just making goals. You need to assess them.

How did I do with last year's New Year's Resolutions? Let's find out.

I scored myself a pass or fail for each one...

2017's goals were:

1. Blog more


I published 26 blog posts in 2017, up from 11 in 2016.

That's not the one a week I planned (it's literally half that!) but I'm still pretty happy.

I was helped along the way by an adorable twitter bot created by my student @EliteFreq which tweeted at me when I didn't blog that week:

This was genuinely very motivating.

Conclusion: PASS. Tell your friends your goals, so they can support you along the way.

2. Finish some books


My plan was to read more fiction and to actually finish a book instead of getting excited and moving on to the next one. This didn't exactly go to plan.

However, I reckon I read Japanese news every single day in 2017. I'm pretty proud of that.

I also completed Zero Escape 999, and two (nearly three) Ace Attorney games. Visual novels are reading too...


Conclusion: FAIL but maybe that's fine


3. Watch more drama with my students


This goal didn't come to fruition either. I was on the lookout for things to watch but never found anything "just right".

I planned to use Terrace House (Netflix's Japanese reality TV show - think Big Brother circa 2003), but the logistics of showing Netflix in class got the better of me...

We did watch some Japanese TV ads in class though. That was a lot of fun.

Conclusion: がんばれ! (KEEP TRYING!)


4. Have more parties


From Origami Night, to the Summer Barbecue, to the end-of-year Christmas Party, this year has been really busy. Good busy!

We definitely had more parties and attended more events this year. Onwards and upwards!


Conclusion: PASS


5. Be reflective


I think I have actually spent less time reflecting in 2017 than in previous years, and more time actively doing things. This is probably a good thing.

Conclusion: いいじゃないですか? (That's alright, isn't it?)

How did you get on with your New Year's resolutions in 2017?

And have you made this year's yet? I'm still whittling down my list...

New Year's Resolutions - 新年の抱負


明けましておめでとうございます!Happy New Year!

新年の抱負はありますか。Have you made any New Year's Resolutions?

My good friend Karli of designosaur (the brilliant people who make all those dinosaur necklaces I wear to class) writes a new year's post every year, and I always find it super inspiring. I don't always make resolutions, but this year I have loads and I'd like to share some of them with you!


1. blog more


This one should be easy. I like writing this blog, but it's always bottom of my to-do list! Karli's suggestion was to make a regular schedule and stick to it, so I'll try that.


2. finish some books


I often tell people that I read a lot of Japanese books, but actually what I do is start reading a lot of Japanese books. Then find a new one, get distracted and start the new one. That's good for variety, but not very satisfying.

I'm going to try and read one book at a time (currently reading マチルダは小さな大天才) and not start any new books until I finish!



3. watch more drama...with my students


I love J-drama and it's a great way to listen to everyday spoken Japanese - especially if the programme is centred around a family or group of friends. This year I'm hoping to use some drama clips in class. I haven't quite worked out the details yet but I think it'll be a lot of fun.

I'm currently watching Beautiful Rain (ビューティフルレイン) which is adorable and very tear-jerky. Have you seen it?

4. have more parties


We had a great time at the first annual Step Up Japanese christmas party, and one of my goals for 2017 is to have more school events like this. I've got a little list in mind, but if you have a suggestion please let me know!


5. be reflective


This one is less of a resolution and more of a humblebrag.

Some days I skip home from class because everything went swimmingly. Other times I'm left thinking how I could have explained something better / given you more chances to speak Japanese / had a good answer to your question on the spot instead of telling you I'll look it up.

My point is, it's good to be reflective - and not just because you won't get knocked off your bike. I really, really want to keep improving and bring you bigger and better things in 2017!


Have you made any New Year's resolutions? I'd love to know what yours are! 今年もよろしくお願いします〜

Hey Say What Now? A Brief Introduction to the Japanese Calendar



"Japanese Calendar? Oh, I think I got one of those free with my sushi delivery..."

Did you know that Japan has its own numbering system for the years? As well as the Gregorian calendar (the same calendar used in the west, the one that says it's 2016 now), Japan uses another system which names years after the reign of the emperor.


(The western calendar is commonly used too - and the two systems can be used interchangeably.)

So, what's the date?


2016 is the 28th year of the current emperor, whose posthumous name will be Heisei. So 2016 is the Japanese year Heisei 28.

January 15th 2016 can be written in Japanese as:

平成28年1月15日
Heisei 28nen 1gatsu 15nichi

(Japanese dates go from big to small: year → month → day)

Or even:
28/1/15
Cool, huh?


A year in seven days


The only confusing part comes in the year of the death of an emperor (and the ascension of their successor).

Because there are two reigning emperors in the same year, the two parts of the year get different names.

Emperor Hirohito died in the 64th year of his reign, on 7th January 1989. So the "year" Showa 64 was only seven days long. The rest of 1989 (from January 8th onwards) got the name Heisei 1.

Date-spotting in Japan


The Japanese system is commonly used in New Year’s greetings. You might see the year written in kanji too:

平成二十八年
Heisei nijuuhachi nen
(Heisei 28, aka 2016)
You can also see it on coins in Japan.

↓ What year is this from?
Image: Wikipedia
You don't need to memorise the dates of all the emperors, though (unless you want to). There are apps and online converters that will tell you any year in the Japanese equivalent.

Elizabeth 64

If this all seems strange, remember that we do this in other languages, too. When we talk about "the Victorian era" (the years of Queen Victoria’s rule) or “the Victorians” (people who lived during that time), that's basically the same thing.

We just don’t name the individual years after the current ruler. We could if we wanted, though, I guess...?