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New Year's reward : New Year's money

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Japanese New Year

The New Year season in Japan is probably the one of most important holidays of the calendar. Rather like Christmas and the American Thanksgiving, families tend to get together and celebrate the start of the year here.

There are numerous rituals and traditions that surround the season, but in this Japanese teacher's blog for Japanese learners, Hachiyama sensei focusses on one nostalgic memory of this season from her childhood.

Read the Japanese and learn Kanji with the two versions and check the new vocabulary as well as listen to the video too to hear it spoken in natural Japanese.

New Year's reward : New Year's money




もうすぐお正月ですね。 お正月で子どもたちが楽しみにしているものの一つにお年玉があります。 子どもの頃のおもしろいエピソードを思い出しました。





To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video.


もうすぐお正月(しょうがつ)ですね。 お正月(しょうがつ)で子(こ)どもたちが楽(たの)しみにしているものの一(ひと)つにお年玉(としだま)があります。 子(こ)どもの頃(ころ)のおもしろいエピソードを思(おも)い出(だ)しました。



ところが、そこで納得(なっとく)がいかないことが起(お)こりました。 ある叔父(おじ)がわたしたち姉妹(しまい)を目の前(めのまえ)にポチ袋(ぶくろ)を二(ふた)つ取(と)り出(だ)すと、それらの厚(あつ)みを手(て)で確認(かくにん)しながら「はい、こっちはゆかちゃん、こっちは恵(めぐみ)ちゃん。」と言(い)って私(わたし)たちに渡(わた)したのです。子供心(こどもごころ)にそれが何(なに)を意味(いみ)するのかわかっていましたので、「お姉(ねえ)ちゃんはいいな。」と姉(あね)がうらやましく、お年玉(としだま)はもらえたのに何(なに)か損(そん)した気分(きぶん)になったのです。


New Year's reward : New Year's money

It is almost New Year's isn't it. During the New Year season, one of the things that children look forward to is 'Otoshidama' (New Year's money). I remembered an interesting episode from my childhood.

In the countryside in Japan, when New Year's season comes around, there is a tradition of all the relatives gathering together once to celebrate the new year and our family would go to each of these gatherings both on our mother's side and our father's side. I have an older sister and we used to receive this 'Otoshidama' from the gathered uncles and aunts and from our grandmothers and grandfathers. There were few siblings on my mother's side, though there were many siblings on my father's side and this gathering was really something that we looked forward to.

After we arrived at our father's main family home, we would go into the large formal Japanese room, our uncles who had arrived earlier, would be having a banquet. We would sit in a Seiza position and deliver the New Year greeetings, and look up right in front of us to check whether all of our uncles and aunts were all together. And then after a while we would be called over by our uncles and receive our 'Otoshidama' from each one.

But then something would happen there that left me feeling unconvinced.One uncle would pull out two envelopes for us sisters in front of us, and after checking the thickness of each one he would say, “Yup! This one is for Yuka. And this one is Megumi”, before handing them to us. In my child's mind I would understand what this meant, so I would feel jealous and think “Big sister is so lucky.” and even though I was receiving the 'Otoshidama' this would it feel like I was somehow being ripped off!

This is one of those nostalgic memories that came back to me.

※Japanese children receive gifts of money called as “Otoshidama” from parents and relatives on New Year.


しきたり;a tradition

集(つど)い;a gathering


本家(ほんけ);the head family

宴会(えんかい); a banquet

※As a general New Year's greeting; “あけましておめでとうございます。今年(ことし)もどうぞよろしくおねがいいたします。”

納得(なっとく)がいかない;I'm not convinced

ポチ袋(ぶくろ);petit envelope
※Otoshidama is enclosed in little envelopes called Pochibukuro.


子供心(こどもごころ);child’s mind

損(そん)した気分(きぶん);feel ripped off

思(おも)い出(で)がよみがえる;to bring back a memory


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Guest Sunday, 24 October 2021