Sunday, March 22, 2009

don't flash the cash

Money envelopes are a big deal in Japan. It's poor taste to show money around, especially in formal situations. So I have about a million pochibukuro, cute little pocket-sized money envelopes that I've received with my private lesson fees. I've been working on re-routing them to my Spanish teacher and my Pilates instructor, so the pile is diminishing a little.

Something else I recently learned is that congratulatory money envelopes and sympathy/funeral money envelopes are handled even more specifically than I knew and differently from each other. It's funny, because this is stuff even my Japanese family members don't seem to know. I got this information from my Japanese teacher, who is about 60 and knows a lot of traditional stuff.

When giving congratulatory money, say, for a wedding, it's best to use new, unfolded, crisp bills. The bills should be facing UP in the envelope – that is, with the face side of the bill looking up toward the front/decorated side of the envelope.

When giving condolence money, like for a funeral, it's important to use old/creased bills. If your bills don't have creases, you should crease them before putting them in. These bills need to be face down, denoting sadness.

In both cases, the money needs to go first in the plain, inner envelope before going into the fancier, outer envelope.

Good to know, although, oops, I've already done it wrong a few times.


  1. Itself is a Japanese custom but when a christian past away,It is written as お花代 in a Kanji...
    Perhaps I have kept my first Otoshidama-pochibukuro.

  2. Hi,

    I've never been to a Christian funeral in Japan, only Buddhist ones, so I guess it's ok.