Writing Japanese New Year's Cards

Common New Years Expressions, Who to Send Cards to and More

Traditional Japanese scene
Yuji Kotani / Getty Images

Do you send Christmas cards? The Japanese send New Year's cards (nengajo) rather than Christmas cards.

If you want to send nengajo to your Japanese friends, here are common greetings and expressions you can write to wish them all the best for the new year.

Happy New Year

All the following expressions basically mean, "Happy New Year". You can choose any of them to begin your card.

  • 明けましておめでとうございます。
    Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu.
  • 新年おめでとうございます。
    Shinnen omedetou gozaimasu.
  • 謹賀新年
    Kinga Shinnen
  • 恭賀新年
    Kyouga Shinnen
  • 賀正
    Gashou
  • 迎春
    Geishun
  • 謹んで新年のお喜びを申し上げます。
    Tsutsushinde shinnen no oyorokobi o moushiagemasu.


"Kinga Shinnen (謹賀新年)," "Kyouga Shinnen (恭賀新年)," "Gashou (賀正)" and "Geishun (迎春)" are seasonal words that are not used in regular conversation.

The rest of the expressions can be used as a greeting. Click here to hear the sound files for New Year's greetings.

Expressions and Phrases

After the greeting, add words of thanks, requests for continued favor or wishes for health. Here are some common expressions, though you can add your own words as well.

Thank you for all your kind help during the past year.

昨年は大変お世話になりありがとうございました。
Sakunen wa taihen osewa ni nari arigatou gozaimashita.

I hope for your continued favor this year.

本年もどうぞよろしくお願いします。
Honnen mo douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Wishing everyone good health.

皆様のご健康をお祈り申し上げます。
Minasama no gokenkou o oinori moushiagemasu.

Date

When dating the card, the word "gantan (元旦)" is used instead of the date that card was written. "Gantan" means the morning of January 1st, therefore it is not necessary to write "ichi-gatsu gantan".

As for the year, the Japanese era name is often used. For example, the year 2015 is "Heisei nijuugo-nen (平成27年), the 27th year of the era, Heisei.

Although nengajo are often written vertically, it is acceptable to write them horizontally.

How to Address Cards

When sending New Year's cards from overseas, the word "nenga (年賀)" should be written in red on the front side along with a stamp and address. This way post office holds it and delivers it on January 1st. Unlike Christmas cards, nengajo shouldn't arrive before New Year's Day.

Write your name (and address) at the left side of the card. You can add your own message or draw the picture of the present year's zodiacal animal (eto). 

Who to Send Nengajou To

The Japanese send nengajou not only to family and friends but also to classmates, coworkers, business partners and so on. It can be a more like social duty to many Japanese. 

However, personal nengajou often play an important role in connecting people. There were many heart-warming stories about nengajou submitted to "The Memorable Nengajou Contest (Nengajou Omoide Taishou)".

Here is a top prize winning short story (with Romaji below):

「年賀状ってなんですか?」

昨年から私たちと働き出した十六歳の少女が尋ねた。母親から育児放棄され、今は養護施設にいる彼女。定時制高校もやめてしまった彼女を見かね、うちの病院長が調理補助員として雇った。

平均年齢五十歳の調理場。十六歳の少女が楽しいところとは思えないが、彼女は毎日元気にやってくる。ひょっとして離れて暮らす母親の面影を私たちに見ているのか。

十一月半ば、年賀状の準備の話題になった。そんな私たちの会話に不思議そうな顔で尋ねる彼女。無理もない。母親と一緒にいた頃は、住居を転々としていたと聞いた。年賀状どころではなかったのだろう。

みんなでこっそり彼女に年賀状を出す事に決めた。たくさんの幸せに囲まれることを願い。

「初めて年賀状もらった。大切に額に飾ったよ。」

仕事始めは彼女の満面の笑顔で幕が開いた。

年賀状はすべての人を幸せにしてくれる。

"Nengajou tte nan desu ka."

Sakunen kara watashitachi to hatarakidashita juuroku-sai no shoujo ga tazuneta. Hahaoya kara ikujihouki sare, ima wa yougoshisetsu ni iru kanojo.Teijisei koukou mo yameteshimatta kanojo o mikane, uchi no byouinchou ga chourihojoin to shite yatotta.

Heikin nenrei gojussai no chouriba. Juuroku-sai no shoujo ga tanoshii tokoro towa omoenai ga, kanojo wa mainichi genki ni yatte kuru. Hyottoshite hanarete kurasu hahaoya no omokage o watashitachi ni mite iru no ka.

Juuichi-gatsu nakaba nengajou no junbi no wadai ni natta. Sonna watashitachi no kaiwa ni fushigisouna kao de tazuneru kanojo. Muri mo nai. Hahaoya to isshoni ita koto wa, juukyo o tenten to shiteita to kiita.

Negajou dokoro dewa nakatta no darou.

Minna de kossori kanojo ni nengajou o dasu koto ni kimeta. Takusan no shiawase ni kakomareru koto o negai.

"Hajimete nengajou moratta. Taisetsu ni gaku ni kazatta yo."

Shigotohajime wa kanojo no manmen no egao de maku ga hiraita.

Nengajou wa subete no hito o shiawase ni shitekureru.