Jan 14, 2016
Around New Year Japanese children are all eagerly waiting to receive otoshidama. It seems there is no such custom abroad. Friends often ask me why it is that in Japan children are given money at this time, and actually, I’ve begun to wonder myself.
I also wonder what people from outside of Japan think of this custom.
For example, I have two children, 5 and 2. The eldest gets 2,000 yen in otoshidama, the youngest, 1,000 yen. For most families, the amount given depends on the child’s age. Exactly how much, changes from family to family.
Even though I’m Japanese myself, culturally, I don’t know the backstory of giving otoshidama. For people from overseas then, I guess it must be even more of a mystery.
Also, once children receive this money, the question then is, ‘What do they do with it?’. After a bit of research I’ve found 3 common patterns:
1 - Parents make a bank account for their children, and put the money in there for saving.
2 - Children can use the money freely.
3 - Parents set aside the money to be used for their children’s upbringing.
The reason for No.3 is usually in situations where only one parent is working and there isn’t so much money available. That said, most households don’t choose No.3.
With No.1 and No.2, parents who choose these seem to be split 50/50. People choose No.1 so that their children will have money in the future for things like education, getting a driver license, or buying a car. When it comes to weddings, there are many who said that they (the parents) pay for everything themselves.
The reason for No. 2 suprised me. Parent who choose this want their children to learn that money has a limit. Like, if their child uses it to buy something that’s not good and they get bored of it, they can learn from this experience.
How about you guys? Would you like to start the custom of otoshidama? Oh, actually maybe this is tough time to start, after the Christmas/New Year season!
At what age do parents usually stop giving otoshidama to their children?
Hi Junko, I know in Hong Kong married people also give otoshidama (red envelopes) to children/unmarried adults in their family. It must be a custom for Chinese culture. I'm not sure if they have this culture in Taiwan, Korea, and other Asian countries or not. I think option 2 is good to teach children about managing their own finances, but I don't have kids.