Otoshidama (New Year Money) – Top 10 Must Knows

Do you know the history and present day etiquette of otoshidama (お年玉 )? If you have children in the house, child relatives and or special friend’s kids you must know about this Japanese tradition, especially if you are living in Japan. As part of the Japanese New Year’s celebration, it is a tradition for grown-ups to give children money. For most kids, the biggest highlight of New Years is not the food or family time, but otoshidama. Click here to read more about Japanese New Year preparations.

Otoshidama - Top 10 Must Knows

  1.  The otoshidama tradition originated from kagami mochi (rice cakes) that are offered to visiting New Year deity (toshigami-sama) in the New Year.  Long ago the small rice cakes were called toshidama. Parents used to give their children these small rice cakes. Over time, the rice cakes were replaced by small gifts of wooden and paper toys. However, the toys have been replaced by money in most cases today. 
  2. Otoshidama is given to school age children from parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, close family friends and neighbours.
  3. On average it is reported that Japanese kids receive gift money from 5-6 people.
  4. The average amount is reported as 5,000 yen per envelop.
  5. Amount of money given depends on relationship and age, but averages seem to be: elementary kids 2,000-3,000 yen per envelope, junior high 5,000 yen per envelope and sr. high 10,000 yen per envelope. Amounts of 4,000, 8,000, etc. are not given due representing bad luck.
  6. Babies and toddlers usually do not receive money, but rather toys.
  7. Half of college students reportedly receive otoshidama.
  8. Money is presented in small envelopes called puchibukuro or otoshidama bukuro which are usually decorated in cute illustrations of New Year symbols or characters popular with kids.  It is rude to give money unwrapped. In case of pinch all convenience stores sell the envelopes.
  9. It is considered impolite to open envelopes in front of others.
  10. The top items that Japanese kids spend their gift money on are 1. video games, 2. mobile apps and music and 3. apparel.


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