Cash in for a Japanese New Year
In Japan—a nation renowned for its cutting-edge technology—cash reigns supreme. Around 82 percent of payments involve notes and coins, and though cashless payments have gained ground during the pandemic, cash demand has also risen. The importance of physical money can be seen not just in these figures, but in traditions going back centuries, such as the gifting of New Year money.
New Year is Japan’s biggest holiday, and a major part of celebrations for children is otoshidama: gift money presented in decorative envelopes by adult relatives. While they typically receive more as they get older, a recent survey by All About News tried to settle once and for all the most appropriate amounts to give at each age.
The prevailing opinion was that preschoolers should receive around 1,000 yen or less, equalling around $8.50 or €7.50. This amount was considered ideal because it was sufficient to buy sweets and similar small treats without being overwhelming for children under six who are unlikely to appreciate the value of larger amounts. The preferred way to present this money was as ten, shiny hundred-yen coins that have instant eye appeal.
Once in elementary school, the equation becomes a thousand yen multiplied by grade, reaching around 5,000 yen ($43 or €38). With this amount, children can buy themselves a game, and the annual increase gives them a pleasing sense of progression as they grow.
Entering Junior High School aged 12, the amount rises to between 10,000 and 15,000 yen—$130 or €114 at the high end—with respondents feeling this reflects the cost of ‘shopping and playing today’. High School students from 15 to 18 tend not to see further increases since there is an expectation they will begin earning their own money with part-time jobs.
Opinions on whether or not to continue giving otoshidama to university students aged 18 and over are mixed, with around 43 percent of respondents saying they do not give any money at all. Overall, the upper limit for receiving cash is 20 years old, which is considered the age of adulthood in Japan.
The final question on the survey covered traditions unique to each family. These included someone who would not hand over the money until their children gave them a proper New Year greeting, someone who awards a bonus 1,000 yen if their child is able to correctly answer quiz questions, and a household in which young children are challenged to catch small coins.