Writing New Year’s Cards to Friends in Japan

Dec 29, 2021
Writing New Year’s Cards to Friends in Japan
My right hand is sore 😂
Handwriting “nengajou”, or New Year’s Cards, has turned out to be a huge task for me.
Sending friends New Year’s postcards is a dying Japanese custom. New Years is their biggest holiday, similar to Christmas in America, a time for family and holiday off work.
I’m so used to typing and emailing, that my hand muscles for writing have weakened. I still type up what I’m going to say first, and then copy to paper while looking at my phone, in order to minimize mistakes while writing with a pen. There’s no backspace button when using paper. (Or copy-pasting sentences around.) So I’m writing extra carefully to make every letter legible. It has taken me hours to do just 3 cards this year: figuring out my message for each, handwriting it, drawing a simple yet cool graphic, and then addressing the envelope in the correct English and Japanese.
For 2015 and 2016, I wrote many nengajou to Japanese friends that I had met in university. For me, it’s almost an artistic endeavor, crafting every Japanese kanji character. It’s certainly just as energy-intensive as any creative endeavor or content creation. Japanese friends have complimented me on my handwriting and how easy-to-read it is. That would be because I’m mimicking how it’s typed. I can’t write from memory. I think of what to say, type it in English, translate it to Japanese (with some help from Google), then write down the result. There’s a difference between handwritten Japanese and typed Japanese fonts. So my handwriting probably comes across as stiff, with a little bit of wonky proportions that are obviously non-native, but with every stroke clearly legible.
Last year, I said I would send cards to a couple of Japanese friends. And they sent me cards. But I didn’t keep my word. I found it to be overwhelming, and kept putting it off until it was way past January 1st, too late. I’ve felt guilty all year, and rarely contacted those friends because of this. (I just remembered a similar situation happening over a decade ago with a penpal, who sent me the first letter, and I never replied 😢)
So this year, I want to make up for my missed cards last year. But even now, I’ve waited too long. It can take 1-3 weeks for a letter to be delivered overseas, and here it is already 2 days before the new year 😰
What are the fears that overwhelm me? That it’s too much work? Why do I let perfectionism, and fear of them thinking my letter is boring, freeze me? Wouldn’t they think worse of me for not writing at all, like how I think of myself? Even if it’s boring, at least the thought counts. They send me a quick little message that’s not so fancy and it makes me feel good, so why can’t I simply do the same in return? This all feels so silly to get hung up over and procrastinate on. But there are deep-rooted issues here that have plagued me in projects and writing assignments all through high school and university...
At least now that guilt nagging in the back of my head for the past year has subsided.