Tuesday, January 3, 2017

a chicken-y new year (2)

Every year the Japan Postal Service offers postcards pre-printed with specially designed postage stamps and cancellation marks depicting the zodiac animal of the new year. These postcards are meant to be used for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings (nengajou). According to the Chinese zodiac, 2017 is the year of the rooster-- although in Japan, we prefer to broaden the term to include all chickens.

You may remember a post from two years ago about this very tradition. In fact, it wasn't until that year that I began to pay attention to the design of these stamps And when I started paying attention, I began noticing some delightful things that increased my already high admiration for the Japan Postal Service.

This year, my favorite of the pre-printed stamps depicts a rooster taking a selfie with his smart phone, a happy young chick hopping at his side. The cancellation mark depicts the same rooster in a pose of Zen meditation-- seated in the traditional manner, eyes closed and head slightly bowed-- while the chick plays the role of a temple priest brandishing the wooden stick that is used to remedy lapses in concentration. I was impressed with this clever combination of the new and the old in Japanese life, and I hope it amuses you too.


  1. Thanks so much Debbie for explaining yet another custom (nengajou)I didn't know. I agree the Japanese Postal System is to be admired.

  2. Such details! Enchanting. Plus it makes us think ;-)
    Happy New Year! You are lucky to have it twice a year.

    1. Therese, Japan celebrates the New Year only once, and that is on January 1. We don't celebrate Chinese New Year, in case that's what you are thinking.

  3. Today I received a nengajou with a chick busting the top off Mt Fuji ! Thanks for alerting me to look at the details of my mail --learning from you is always a treat.