Thursday, December 31, 2015

Otoshidama お年玉:New Year's Money Gift

As another year comes to a close an important Japanese tradition will soon begin. This tradition revolves around giving Otoshidama (お年玉). Otoshidama is the annual giving of money to children to celebrate the new year. Each year children, and sometimes even college students, eagerly await an influx of freshly folded bills given to them by parents and family members. This tradition was originally based on the giving of rice cakes, which were called Otoshidama (God's spirit) to help give people power. This tradition changed from giving rice cakes to giving money during the Edo period (1603-1868).

In today's society children and teenagers get money during the New Year's holiday (January 1-3). It's important to note that children don't get money before the New Year's holiday. How much money is given varies depending on the age of the recipients, the location in which you reside, your income, and how close you are to the family member(s). The average amount (in Okinawa) is ¥1,000 and it's not unheard of for some high school or college students to receive over ¥10,000. It's important to note that in mainland Japan the average is higher. For larger families, family members sometimes give the exact same amount regardless of age (to allow for everyone to feel equal or to not hurt anyones feelings). The money is put into envelopes named pochibukuro/otoshidamabukuro  (ぽち袋/お年玉袋). Then at a family gathering or family visit during the New Year's holiday they are given out to the various children in the family. 

Now we will talk about how to prepare Otoshidama to give to children.

First you will need some nice crisp bills. You should plan ahead by a week or two and get your bills and pochibukuro early. Many banks and stores will refuse to give out (or run out of) ¥1,000 bills. 

Second, you'll need to pick up some pochibukuro. They have smaller and larger sized envelopes and which you choose is a matter of preference. There are many different styles of pochibukuro available to buy at Daiso, ¥100 stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, and department stores. They are priced from ¥80-500 for a set of 6-10 envelopes. 

Next, you will want to prepare the bills to be inserted into the envelopes. It should be noted that some people will fold their bills differently. My family prefers to showcase Mt. Fuji (although our 95 year old grandmother prefers to showcase Hideo Noguchi because, "It's someones face!" as she says). We will be using ¥1,000 bills to demonstrate how to do this.

First have the face side of the bill facing you (as seen above). Next fold from the left side to the right side. You should bring the edge of the bill to the "券 (ken)" kanji and then crease it (as shown below).

Next, allow the folded side to rise and fold the left side to the newly created corner and crease it.

Finally, fold the first fold over again so you can see Mt. Fuji. Woo hoo! The folding part is finished. Pretty easy, right? 

Next you'll need to write on the pochibukuro. Some envelopes only leave a space for one name. This is to let the recipient know who the money has come from, so write your (family's) name. We tried to chose envelopes with two spaces; one for the recipients name and one for our name (mainly to help us organize them to give out at family gatherings later). 

Next you'll need to put the money in. Since this is a happy occasion the money's face (in this case Mt. Fuji) must face toward the front of the card (the decorated side). 

The view from the backside of the envelope

The view from the front side

Put the money in, seal it with glue or stickers and you're finished! 

Otoshidama starter kit

Happy New Year!

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