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From Japan with Love: A Guide to Japanese Christmas Cards

On the run-up to Dec. 25, don't forget to send out some of these cute, cultural and creative cards.

By 4 min read

This time of year, Japan has a tradition of sending nengajo, or new year’s greetings, that dates back to the Heian era (794-1185). Thus, opening holly-jolly-filled Christmas cards only took off recently. Nowadays, you can find rows and rows of reindeer bouncing and sleigh bells chiming-themed Yuletide cards in the aisles of your local department store.

This Christmas, you may be looking for a card to send back home to your loved ones or just giving Sato from accounting an obligatory holiday message. Either way, these options might help.

Happy holidays with mini-Santa

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It wouldn’t be a Japanese Christmas without mini-Santa.

Santa is known for his large round belly, gigantic frame and occasional mishap with a chimney. So what if he was shrunk down to a more palatable size and multiplied?

You’ll journey from Hokkaido to Okinawa with this adorable mini-Santa series from Greeting Life, my go-to for family and friends back home. By meshing distinctive elements of Japan with our lovable festive icon, these cards create imaginative scenarios that will delight the receiver.

More ant-sized Kris Kringles can also be found in a special Sanrio showcase.

Mini-Santa highlights:

Distinctively Japanese

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This holiday season, brag to/remind your family back home where you are.

When you think of Christmas, your mind doesn’t generally conjure up images of pristine snow-covered pagodas and cranes flying overhead. Though, this doesn’t mean they are any less beautiful on a greetings card. So post your family and friends a little slice of Japan, and stand out amongst the generic well-wishes and lame puns (see Santa Paws below) of your peers.

Japanese-themed highlights:

  • These cranes may bring good fortune into the new year.
  • A maiko (apprentice geisha) gazing at a winter’s morning.
  • A Christmas tree with a Japanese aesthetic.

Santa Paws is coming to town

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How about a festive parade of fluffy and jovial animals for Yuletide greetings?

For the animal lovers who prefer to put catnip out on Christmas Eve instead of milk and cookies, there are piles of purr-fect (indulge me) cards for them to receive. These designs don’t just stop at cats but extend to a festive parade of fluffy and jovial animals with some masquerading as our most-loved Christmas characters.

Animal highlights:

Wrapped up by designer artists

These types of cards have beautifully crafted covers that are closer to works of art than your typical stationery store wishes. Moma Design Store has an impressive array of designers and works remarkable enough to be framed. The stationery store Itoya also works with quirky artists to give a creative Christmas card spread you won’t want to miss.

Designer highlights:

Two for the price of one

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Truly the next level of greeting cards.

The most fantastic cards to receive are multifaceted. Like a Transformer, they could reveal themselves to be an ornament for the tree, a music box or garland to hang over the fireplace. This time of year often feels wasteful, but you can kill two calling birds with one stone with a card brought down from the attic every year.

2-in-1 Highlights:

Design your own

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Add a personal touch this year.

If none of these have enough magic to fly your sleigh, then take some inspiration and make your own. You can choose from hundreds of templates at Canva for your New Year or Christmas cards. Photobook Japan also boasts a stocking full of customizable options, with free shipping on selected orders.

You can save money, time and energy by printing your design at the convenience store via a simple link. An easy way to show off that family portrait you spent a little too much money on.

Where to buy

  • Itoya: Its store in Ginza is a treasure trove for Christmas lovers but has locations across Japan. They even have a postbox for no-fuss mailing.
  • Loft: A must-visit for secret Santa presents. They have an irrefutable well-rounded card collection from many top brands.
  • Tokyu Hands: Found in all the major city hubs, this department store has practically everything—including Christmas cards.
  • MoMa Design Store: Perfect for finding unique designer cards that no one else will have.
  • Sekaido: The stationery giant that fulfills your every creative need—including cards in-store.

For more information on how to send your newly purchased card inside and outside of Japan, check out our handy mailing guide.

What are your yearly Christmas card habits? Do you give up and end up sending an e-card instead? Let us know your favorite designs in the comments below. 

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