The Hagaki Life

Japanese people, in general, are very thoughtful and considerate of the relationships they have in life. It can be seen in so many aspects, but in the next 2 posts I’ll talk about some of the things we’ve caught on to while living here.

The first year my daughter was in preschool (it’s a 3 year program here), she got a postcard (hagaki) with a short note over summer vacation from her teacher.

“Oh, that’s sweet,” I thought.

I didn’t realize that we were supposed to send one back. I mean, she was 4 years old at the time.

Well, you are supposed to.

And the next year, you send a card to both the current teacher and the teacher from the previous year(s).

I’m not sure how you keep track of it all! I guess I should start a list somewhere.

This year as part of my child’s summer vacation “homework package”, we got a booklet about writing postcards. She had to send some as one of her assignments, and so off I went to the store to buy blank postcards for my kids to write/draw their cards.

The little booklet is quite handy though– it gives examples of the different types of postcards you send.

Thank you post cards, holiday postcards (different holidays than we have), summer post cards, reply post cards, event post cards, New Year cards.

We do New Year postcards, which has its own etiquette and rules– like if you have a death in the family, you send another black-and-white postcard in advance, explaining why you won’t be sending a colorful New Years card.

In the booklet, they explain with examples how to write to various people in your life– teachers, friends, family relations. I’m actually going to keep this little booklet in my “work” folder, where I keep copies of these kinds of things I need to know.

This year, I learned that there are two summer post-card categories– those being sent before August 7th, and those afterward (Shochuu-mimai and Zansho-mimai).

I’m not so good at vertical writing, especially in kanji. But I’m sure getting lots of practice this year!

As I mentioned before, these are all a part of maintaining relationships you have with those in your life. You send cards throughout the year to inquire about people and keep communication flowing– because you should get a reply if they haven’t already sent you a card. And at the end of the year, you write New Year cards to everyone in your address book to show good will, to ask for favor for the next year and to show that you think their relationship is important.

It’s kinda like the Christmas card tradition– just year-round.

Anyway, while it’s a bit of a hassle to keep track of it all, my kids and I enjoy getting cards. They feel special and it’s a good practice in being considerate of others.

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