Jul 1, 2018

They have "Obon-dama" now?

Hello webverse, have you seen this?

They have "Obon-dama" now? photo

Apparently, Japan Post is now selling little envelopes for “Obon-dama.”

Can this really be a thing? I’ve only ever known “Otoshi-dama…”

For those who don’t know, Otoshi-dama is a long held tradition (at least several decades, anyway) where relatives and close family friends give children money in small envelopes. The exchange happens at New Years, which (before Christmas gift exchange started to take greater root here) proved to be the way children received gifts from relatives when returning with parents to the family home for the holiday season.

As a kid who received otoshi-dama from Japanese relatives growing up (and who has since started giving it to their children and grandchildren), it’s a cherished tradition. I remember receiving the money, and then all of us kids would go out for a day at the Game Center or a local shopping center to have fun together. Now, I enjoy seeing the excitement on my little relatives’ faces as they receive their envelopes, knowing that they’ll be able to spend it on something for themselves.

But I’m not sold on “Obon-dama.” I get that the concept is basically the same—Obon, like New Years, is a time when relatives gather, so it stands to reason that a similar gift giving tradition could go along with that. Still, that wasn’t the way it was when I was growing up, and it just makes me wonder a few things:

- How long has Obon-dama been a thing?

- Was it always a thing and my relatives just didn’t go along with it?

- Is this just Japan Post’s way of circulating more money through the Japanese economy? (I mean, Japan Post is one of the largest financial institutions in the world, after all). 

But maybe I’m putting too much thought into it. Who knows, maybe someone will enlighten me in the comments section below. In the meantime, I have to start saving up in case I run into any Japanese relatives this coming Obon season...



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).