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How to Prepare Otoshidama

photo of otoshidama bukuro envelopes - pochi bukuroOtoshidama is a Japanese custom in which adults give children money over the New Year's holiday. Bills are folded into three sections and put into small envelopes, then handed to the children of close friends and relatives.

Otoshidama is given when people visit friends, neighbors, and relatives between January 1-3. The money can be given after the holidays if you don't meet the child over the break, but never before the New Year begins. Children usually receive otoshidama until they finish high school, though it is not uncommon for university students to get money these.

How much money do you give for otoshidama?

Only bills are used for otoshidama so the minimum amount put in an envelope is 1,000 yen, the smallest bill in Japan. How much money given to a child depends on several factors, such as how old the child is, how many children you have to give otoshidama to, and, of course, how much money you make.

Traditionally, older children are supposed to get more money but many people today give the same amount to siblings to prevent jealousy and arguing. An elementary school child may get from 1,000-5,000 yen in each envelope, while a junior high or high school kid can expect up to 10,000 yen.

How much money do kids get for otoshidama?

According to a 1999 study by the Kumon Children's Research Institute, the average total amount of otoshidama for children in Japan was 40,000 yen. A more recent study states that the average amount in 2007 was 20,467 yen, up from 19,871 the previous year.

How to prepare otoshidama

Here is our video on how to make otoshidama for the Japanese New Year.

Wow, that was very interesting. Now I know how much to give. I also understand that only crisp, new bills are given. Is that correct?

Most people go to the bank and exchange their bills for crisp, new. Children love it even though they are folded when you put them into the otoshidama envelopes.

That being said, we didn't have time to go to the bank this year and they are closed over the New Years holiday, so my plan was to iron the wrinkles out of some relatively new ones. My mother-in-law said it wasn't necessary, but things may be a little more laid back than in Okinawa for this type of thing. I ended up just using some of the bills she got from the bank.

However, all of the children I have asked said they greatly prefer newer bills...the kids sure do love New Years here in Japan!

For a more detailed explanation in Japanese about how much to give children of different ages depending on your relationship to them, see these charts.

Why is Otoshidama money given to children? What is the expectation for how the money should be spent?

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