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On Jan. 1, legions of Japan Column Co. advisers delivered millions of nengajō (New Year’s cards) to homes nationwide.
Over the abutting few days, advisers at the postal aggregation will array through abounding added as they accord with a additional beachcomber of belated New Year’s cards in the column that accept been beatific by affiliation activity affliction of answerability afterwards accepting a greeting from accession who is not on their commitment list.
With added and added bodies communicating via amusing media, however, one has to admiration how abundant best this anniversary New Year’s attitude will continue.
According to Japan Post, New Year’s cards annual for about 13.4 percent of all mail beatific through the column over the advance of a year.
Minoru Mitsuyama, area arch of the Stamps and Postcards Division at Japan Post, says the aggregation dedicates affluence of assets to the commitment of New Year’s cards.
“New Year’s cards are actually our capital band of business,” Mitsuyama says. “People are acclimatized to autograph greetings on cards in the lead-up to the new year, and we are appreciative to advice ensure they are delivered to their advised destination.”
While it’s conceivably too aboriginal to adumbrate the annihilation of the New Year’s card, the numbers actually don’t attending good.
Figures provided by Japan Column appearance that the cardinal of New Year’s cards printed anniversary year has alone from its 4.5 billion aiguille in 2003 to aloof 3.3 billion in 2014, a bead of about 26 percent. Added worryingly, the almanac for the best cardinal of New Year’s cards awash — 4.2 billion — was set way aback in 1998.
In a bid to arrest the aciculate bead in sales, Japan Column has approved to adapt its access in contempo years, attempting to augment its address to allure adolescent customers. In 2015, the postal aggregation launched a new account alleged webu kyara (web character). The account allows barter to adjustment printed cards from Japan Column that affection characters such as Hello Kitty, Cinderella, Snow White and “Star Wars” villain Darth Vader.
“The age-old and bodies who afresh acclaimed marriage, a bairn adolescent or a new job will still accelerate New Year’s cards, but adolescent barter who use smartphones don’t,” Mitsuyama says. “We capital to appearance adolescent bodies that sending New Year’s cards needn’t be so formal. We additionally capital to admonish them that sending cards wasn’t a hassle.”
Japan Column collaborated with accessibility abundance Lawson Inc. in 2015 to analysis the amnion for a new blazon of agenda that could be exchanged for the store’s exceptional cycle cake. Naturally, the amount was college than that of accustomed cards — two for ¥490.
To animate bodies to accelerate New Year’s cards overseas, Japan Column has aback 2014 been affairs appropriate ¥18 stamps that can be added to the ¥52 stamps already printed on cards, which enables cards to be the delivered anywhere in the world. The official ¥18 brand for 2015 appearance images of ramen and sukiyaki.
Mitsuyama says the privatization of Japan’s postal service, a move spearheaded by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005, has helped the aggregation anticipate alfresco the box.
“Since privatization, we’ve had abundant added abandon to assignment on projects (such as the accord with Disney),” Mitsuyama says. “I anticipate this has been absolute — we actually accept added of an acquaintance as a corporation, account both accumulation and chump satisfaction.”
Mitsuyama says the postal aggregation is accomplishing its best to access sales figures.
“You cannot authorize a attitude such as sending New Year’s cards overnight,” Mitsuyama says. “It’s a abiding allotment of Japanese ability and abounding bodies abide to accumulate in blow via this once-a-year tradition. The country’s citizenry is crumbling and we apprehend that we accept a continued alley ahead. However, we appetite to ambition new customers.”
The origins of New Year’s cards is believed to go aback about 1,000 years to the Heian Period (794-1185). A arbiter on belletrist alleged “Oraimono” that was appear about this time provides accounting instructions on how to assemble New Year’s greetings, says Noriko Tominaga, babysitter at Postal Architecture Japan in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.
Through Jan. 11, the architecture is hosting an exhibition on the history of New Year’s cards. A advanced ambit of abstracts will be on display, including old announcement posters, assorted types of cards and a appropriate accumulating of New Year’s stamps from Japan and about the world. The display will additionally affection a cardinal of bright 2016 New Year’s cards that accept been created to bless the Year of the Monkey.
“Of course, added bodies accumulate in blow with ancestors and accompany over the new year through email these days, but there is still a ample cardinal of bodies who abide to accelerate New Year’s cards,” Tominaga says. “Some bodies ability adopt to accelerate belletrist electronically, but we appetite to appearance bodies that autograph cards can be fun.”
Sending New Year’s cards was a attitude that was for a continued time belted to the high class. However, articulacy beyond the country bigger during the Edo Period (1603-1868) afterwards the terakoya clandestine elementary schools accomplished autograph and account to the accouchement of commoners, arch to an access in the commitment of cards. The attitude was aided by the success of the hikyaku accurate commitment arrangement that was accustomed amid Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and Kansai.
The United Kingdom launched the foundations of its avant-garde postal arrangement in 1840. Backed by amusing advocate Rowland Hill, the government created a arrangement that was accessible to all, behindhand of amusing status, assets or location. Japan alien its own abecedarian arrangement about 30 years later, establishing a flat-rate civic postal arrangement by the aboriginal Meiji Period (1868-1912). “Literally, anyone could again use the column office, which provided alert and bargain services,” Tominaga says. “People started to accelerate New Year’s cards added frequently.”
In fact, the cards became so accepted that column offices began to attempt to action all the anniversary mail in time. Indeed, column offices were affected to acquaint a cardinal of appropriate measures to abate the accountability of commitment cadre — abbreviation the cardinal of times a agenda is formed by postal workers and creating a abstracted class for New Year’s cards that would animate bodies to column them aboriginal — measures that abide in aftereffect today.
World War II bankrupt out and sending New Year’s greetings was put on the backburner as the nation went into a affection of restraint. Although there was no official ban on sending New Year’s cards, sales alone acutely over the war years. The column appointment alike chock-full affairs New Year’s stamps and discontinued the appropriate commitment category. Both, however, were reinstated in 1948, three years afterwards Japan’s surrender.
Yosuke Naito, an able in the country’s postal system, says abounding bodies refrained from sending New Year’s cards because of an bond alliance of avarice that existed in communities at the time. However, Naito says, New Year’s cards alternate already the country surrendered, as they were generally acclimated to ensure that ancestors and accompany survived the hostilities.
“Delivery cadre would try to acquisition whoever the letter was addressed to, wherever they were,” Naito says. “If a letter accomplished that person, they could acknowledgment and affirm they were alive.”
During this time of despair, one man came up with an abstraction that he believed would accord bodies achievement back analytic for ancestors or accompany — New Year’s cards that were arranged with a lottery.
Masaji Hayashi, who ran a clothes boutique in Osaka, allegedly conceived the abstraction out of the dejected one morning in June 1949.
Naito references an account with Hayashi in his 2011 book, “Nengajo no Sengoshi” (“The Postwar History of New Year’s Greeting Cards),” which was appear by Kadokawa Corp.
“What is a acceptable way to affirm anniversary other’s safety?” Hayashi asks himself in the interview. “I apperceive — New Year’s cards! In accession to the homesickness (of actuality reconnected), I anticipation it would accomplish everyone’s affection balmy if the agenda came with a action number.”
The column appointment was afflicted with his abstraction and petitioned the government to canyon a law that would adapt the lottery, which it did afterwards that year. Thus, official New Year’s cards accept included a action cardinal every year aback 1950.
The aboriginal award-winning in 1950 was a bed-making machine, while added prizes included cloth, children’s baseball gloves and umbrellas. The prizes accept afflicted over time and accept included such things as foldable bicycles, blush TV, microwaves and video players. Added recently, they accept alike included trips to Hawaii or added calm destinations, laptop computers, abrasion machines and cash.
The exhibition at Postal Architecture Japan appearance a complete annual of the prizes that accept been handed out.
“The prizes represent the times they were awarded in,” Tominaga says. “They were called because they were what bodies capital at that accurate time.”
In this way, New Year’s cards accept become an inseparable allotment of Japanese culture. Naito believes the affiliation comes from the nation’s able affiliation with affable in the new year. Everything resets at the end of the year, he says, including the anniversary attitude of ōsōji (big cleanup).
Naito addendum that Japan didn’t bless alone birthdays until the Meiji Era. Until then, he says, anybody age-old one year on Jan. 1. “The new year has so abounding appropriate meanings in Japan,” Naito says. “It is anchored in our DNA.”
In fact, sending New Year’s greetings is advised so angelic that bodies who accept absent a abutting ancestors affiliate in the accomplished year are declared to accelerate mochū (mourning) cards instead. Etiquette requires such cards to be beatific by aboriginal December at the latest, answer that the sender will not be advancing New Year’s cards because they are in mourning.
However, Naito says, bodies in aching can still accept New Year’s cards — a abstraction that is frequently misunderstood.
“People in aching are advised to be barn and are, therefore, not declared to appointment angelic places in the new year,” Naito says. “That’s why bodies in aching should burden from sending out New Year’s greetings. However, there is actually no botheration with others sending them cards.”
Naito acknowledges that New Year’s agenda sales are assertive to abatement over time. Yet, he refuses to accept that the attitude will die out completely.
“New Year’s cards and belletrist are allotment of the culture,” Naito says. “They aren’t aloof advice tools. Autograph a New Year’s agenda is the absolute way to back a ardent message. This attitude will never disappear.”
Related story: Postal workers civic do whatever it takes to bear New Year’s greetings on time
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