Japan Post Co. has begun accepting nengajо̄ (traditional New Year’s greeting cards) for delivery on New Year’s Day with the hope that those who cannot return to their hometowns due to a resurgence of coronavirus infections will instead send greeting cards.
The initial issuance of the postage-paid cards issued for 2021 hit a record low of about 1.94 billion, down 17% from the previous year, falling for the 10th consecutive year and slipping below 2 billion for the first time, according to Japan Post.
The figure marked a record high of 4.45 billion for 2004. The number has dropped in recent years due to the use of email and social media. This year, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the trend, with the number of companies using such cards for advertising purposes plunging as part of cost-cutting efforts to respond to declining earnings amid the pandemic.
Amid these headwinds, Japan Post held a ceremony in Tokyo on Dec. 15 to mark the start of the acceptance of nengajо̄ cards for 2021. Singers Masaki Aiba and Kazunari Ninomiya, both members of Arashi, attended the event.
“Because we are in a time like this, please try to write New Year’s cards,” Ninomiya said.
Japan Post hopes that demand for nengajо̄ cards will increase toward the year-end, as government and public health experts are recommending that people stay home during the New Year’s holidays to prevent the virus from spreading further.
“As many people cannot see others in their hometowns in person, I think demand for sending nengajо̄ cards will increase,” said Kenji Tashiro, a spokesman for Japan Post.
Japan Post has set Dec. 25 as the recommended “deadline” for sending the cards to guarantee they can be delivered on New Year’s Day.
Online orders have increased about 20% from the previous year as people are refraining from going outside amid the pandemic, Japan Post said.
Another bright spot is the brisk sales of nengajо̄ cards with characters from the blockbuster “Demon Slayer” film, manga and anime.
The total number of sales and orders of cards with Demon Slayer characters exceeded 2 million, a record for nengajо̄ cards issued by Japan Post that depict characters.
At the Tokyo Central Post Office in Chiyoda Ward, a special mailbox with traditional decorations for the new year has been set up.
Yuhi Tanaka, a 22-year-old senior at a university in Tokyo, together with his sister, dropped about 30 cards into the mailbox to send them to relatives and others living in Shiga and Shimane prefectures.
“I continue feeling lonely as I cannot see my grandparents,” Tanaka said. “I will start working as a teacher next spring, so I expressed my gratitude in the cards.”
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