There are a lot of envelopes seen at the gift area of the convenient stores of Japan. The 100 yen shops also have a small collection of these gift envelopes. These envelopes are called "Noshibukuro". They usually have a colourful cord at its front side. There are various varieties of gift envelopes with different titles. Japanese people give gift money during the occasions like New Year, wedding, funeral, baby’s birth, school admission etc. Different occasions have different fancy envelopes to enclose the gift amount.
The tiny ribbon like cord over the envelope will be varying for different functions and they have special meanings too. The knots made at the front part of the envelope are called ‘Mizuhiki’ which is closely related to the history and culture of Japan. Mizuhiki is a Japanese art form in which washi paper strands are used to make knots of various shapes and colours. These knots could be also seen on gift wrappers, New Year arrangements, envelopes and things associated with other important occasions in Japan.
There are many kinds of Mizuhiki. The two common types of Mizuhiki are the one with complicatedly tied ends called the "Musubikiri" and the other with simply tied ends known as "Chou-musubi". We could see Mizuhiki of various shapes like flowers, Koi fishes, animals, etc. made out of these strands. The shapes are usually made based on the seasons or the areas in which it is sold.
When a baby is born to a relative or a close friend, it is a Japanese tradition to give gift money to the parents of the baby which is called “Shussan-iwai” or "Uchi-iwai". It is usually enclosed in envelopes with a Mizuhiki having untied ends or loosely tied ends hanging down which is named as “Chou-musubi”. The Mizuhiki knot will be left loosely tied in such envelopes as child birth is an event that is hopefully to reoccur in one's life. The colour of the Mizuhiki will be usually red and white. Other kinds of gift are also given for the new born baby.
“Go-shu-gi” is the name of the gift money given during this occasion. For wedding, the relatives have to give gift money to the couple only once in life, the envelope used will have a tied Mizuhiki knot over it which is called “Musubikiri”. The complicated knot means that the relation of the couple will last forever without any issues and couldn’t be untied. Some mizuhiki will not have any ends at all. The ends if left out after making the knot will be directed upwards. The knot will be multicolored with red, golden, white or silver strands making the envelopes looking gorgeous. The gift amount varies based on the relationship with the person, age, social status etc.
Those envelopes used for giving money during the funeral occasions will be having a Mizuhiki similar to the ones used during the wedding, but more simple. The money given during this occasion is called “O-ku-motsu”. The mizuhiki named “Musubi-kiri” will have tied knots with the ends directed upwards, as death is an event occurring once only in a life. Since it is a sad event, the Mizuhiki strands will be coloured in black and white. Most of these envelopes have a picture of lotus on it or will be plain white.
Admission to new school
The gift money amount is called “Nyu-gaku-iwai” and it will be given by grandparents and close relatives to the students admitted to a new school. It has a "Chou-musubi" type mizuhiki with untied ends on the envelope in red and white colours.
During the New Year, gift money named "Otoshi-dama" will be given to every child by the family members and relatives. The envelopes used for this is now available in various colours, designs, etc. This envelope is called the "Otoshi-dama-bukuro". These envelopes might also be of the "Chou-musubi" type with open ended knots as New Year is an event that occurs repeatedly.
There are still many other occasions when Japanese used to give money gifts: during housewarming, Adulthood celebration, visiting someone at hospital, visiting people who met with some misfortune etc. For events happening once in a life the "Musubi-kiri" type mizuhiki envelope is used while for those events that occur continuously or more than once in a life time, the envelopes with "Chou musubi" mizuhiki is used.
"Aajimusubi" is another type of Mizuhiki with the meaning that people will have good relations forever and is used during both happy and sad events. For glad events colourful envelopes and red, golden, white coloured Mizuhiki strands are used while for sad events plain envelopes with black and white or silver strands is used.
Things to be taken care of while gifting money in Japan
The name, address and the amount of money inside the cover should be written in specified positions over the envelope before handing it over. While giving money gifts in Japan, there are many thins to be taken care of. Most of the gift amounts will be starting from 5000 yen or 10000 yen which varies based on the depth of the relation with the person to whom you are gifting it. For wedding and other happy events, the amount enclosed in the envelope should be an odd number of currency notes with good appearance. Also the numbers 4 and 9 are considered to be bad which means don’t enclose amounts like 40000 or 90000 inside the envelopes. If you happen to attend any of such events while in Japan, be always careful in selecting the appropriate envelopes with correct Mizuhiki knots and also about the amounts to be enclosed. And if you are gifted with money during some special occasions, it’s a Japanese social custom to give something- either some eatables or other presents- in return after some days of the event.