Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Otoshidama for the New Year

Photo: John Nakamura Remy on Flickr

Otoshidama for the New Year

Sanny Soedjatmiko Hartanto

Otoshidama is a Japanese traditional custom where the adults must give some money to a child in their family. Originating from a shrine ritual which kagami-mochi (round rice cakes) are offered to the god of New Year (Toushi-kamisama). After the ritual was over, the cakes were given to the people worshipping the shrine. Over the centuries, otoshidama became the name for gifts offered during New Year period, though they were originally called onenshi or onenga (New Year’s greeting).

The Custom

Photo : Laura Tomàs Avellana on Flickr
Otoshidama usually given by grand-parents, parents, as well as uncle and aunts. The amount depends on the children’s age and it’s put in a small pouch before being given to the child. The amount varies from 500 up to 10,000 yen depending of the child's age. The older the child, the more money they receive. Many children will buy the toys they wanted with their otoshidama, but some parents will take the half of the total to keep in the children savings. There are many kinds of pouches to put otoshidama in, from the simple ones to those with popular characters or cute patterns.

The Amount

There is a wide age range in which one will receive otoshidama and it depends on the household, but usually, people will receive it from either babyhood or toddlerhood to around 20 years old, which is legal adult age in Japan. In large families, the otoshidama expenses are large for the adults, but for children it is an annual time to look forward to. Every year Japanese children dream about what they will buy with this year's otoshidama.


Otoshidama were received on the first up to third January every year but it can be sent afterwards if parents and children didn't meet each other. Otoshidama is similar to a Chinese New Year custom, to shugi-bukuro, and to Handsel Monday. The difference is that shugi-bukuro is for married couples and usually the money given is worth 30,000 up to 50,000 Yen. The difference with the Chinese New Year's money giving tradition is that it always falls on a different date every year according to the Chinese calendar. Handsel Monday is a tradition from Europe and the money gift is always done on third Mondays.

At Last

Photo : tecking on Flickr

The meaning of giving otoshidama to children is to give some appreciation to them, and give them some new hopes for the New Year. Not only that, but their parents also want to teach about savings! Although they get some money, they must keep some of them, not use all of it at once. If they use it all at once, they will not be able to buy the other things later if they want something in that year. No wonder that some of the children want to use it all at once, and at that time, their parents only give them some advices, and let them to choose their own way. Well, learn from experience! So, there are many lessons behind this simple habit in Japan. How about your country? Does your country have these kinds of habits too? Let us know in the comments section!