Christmas gifts V Japanese New Year’s gifts (otoshidama)

In Western countries, we give not only our children and relative’s children gifts but also give adults gifts as well. In Japan, we have an custom called “otoshidama” We give our children or relative’s children money in special envelops to celebrate the new year.. I have heard some children in UK get monetary gifts and vouchers but it is not so common, most of the times we give goods. I used to get “otoshidama” until age of 20 years old.

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When did this custom of giving “otoshidama” start?

According to an article I read, it has been said that this Japanese custom of “otoshidama” was started about 800 years ago in Kamakura period, however, they were not money given and that was “omochi”. Long time ago, mainly the men of the houses used to visit shrines in the new year to worship and they were given 0mochi (kagamimochi). That was called “otoshidama”. Then when Edo period begun, this custom spread among mentors giving to their disciples and masters giving to their servants. it was not only Omochi but also goods and money were given. The custom of giving “otoshidama” from senior to junior has not changed up to now. However the custom of giving money to children started around 1955.

The History of Giving Presents at Christmas

It looks like Chrismas has a long history too. Christmas itself is really about a big present that God gave the world about 2000 years ago. If you are interested in more details please click below the link.,countries%20such%20Spain%20and%20Mexico.

How much money shall we give ? – Market price by age

Photo by Charles Parker on

One thing about giving “otoshidama” is that it is too hassle because the amount of money we give should be differentiated by children’s age. I do not even know who decided…..but it seems that we should not give less money or too much money.

[MARKET PRICE] just out of curiosity I have checked the market price. This information was about 5 years ago. All I have noticed is that more they get older much money they can get and the amount of money range from 1000 yen to 10,000 yen. It looks like we should not give more than 10,000 yen, which is approximately £50 to £65 .

With giving Christmas gifts, sometimes we ask what they want beforehand but sometimes leave it as a surprise! I like an idea of keeping it as a surprise and look forward to opening it on the Christmas day. We do not really care how much spend money on buying gifts, do we!

The manner when we give “otoshidama”

I am sure the readers of this blog now start to wonder how and why we should care about the manner. I am not going to write in details but just for your information I mention some of them below.

THE MANNER 1 – To give “Otoshidama” in special envelops.

Write the person’s name to whom you give on the front of the envelop and write your name at the back of the envelop.

THE MANNER 2 – To prepare new notes and coins.

Ideally notes should be new one and coins should be clean one.

THE MANNER 3 – Be careful how to fold the notes and put the coins.

ENJOY WITH FAMILIES AND FRIENDS – that is the same both in UK and Japan

Photo by fauxels on

So which one you prefer, giving gifts or “otoshidama”? I definitely prefer to give gifts! The important thing is that to enjoy these festive seasons! Hope you did have a great time!!!

About mkchatinjapanese

I am a native Japanese who teaches Japanese to non-Japanese speaker as a private tutor. Teach from a beginner to Intermediate level. location in London.
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