Bento&co Blog : All you need to know about Bento, Cooking, Japan and our New Products!
Pens and pretty paper
So, since we have these new stationary products, Deco Rush Animals and Mini Craft Tape, which many of you are likely to use with letters, it got us thinking about the differences between letter writing in the West and in Japan. We thought we would tell you a little about it in case your are curious or maybe you have a Japanese friend that you want to write to.
So, first we start with the paper. There are many beautiful stationary products in Japan that have elaborate patterns. Many times the the paper looks similar to kimono fabric like some of the ones we have below. Different patterns go with different seasons.
And, of course, they have matching envelopes.
So, first, we pick our paper. It is spring, so let's go for the cherry blossom (sakura, 桜) motif.
Now, technically, the more savvy writer would not do this, but since we are still learning, we take out the lined guide paper in the back of the paper pad and put it under the piece of paper we are going to write on. Like so...
Now, back in the day, people used to all write vertically (top to bottom, left to right), but these days it is up to the writer. Most young people will write like one does in English, horizontally, but we wanted to show you the traditional way so we wrote our letter vertically for your entertainment (^-^)
The content of Japanese letters has a set format, which I will attempt to explain to you now.
So, first you start with the person's name, family name that is. See the first line all the way to the right, below? Ok, the first two characters are Takahashi (高橋), the family name of the person we are writing (I often use the word "family name" here in Japan because "last name" can be confusing since Japanese people write their "last name" first!). Right after the name and a one space comes the suffix -sama (様). This is the same as -san like "Mr." or "Ms.", but it is more polite.
After that we have a line break and then comes haikei (拝啓), which is like "dear" in English. Yeah, it comes after the name.
Next line... This is an important part: the seasonal greeting. The seasonal greeting are a bit decided. Can you see that yellow text above the paper? That is the cover of the paper and it has many seasonal greetings written there so you can use them when you write your letters. What a life saver.
For this letter we did shundan no kou (春暖の候), which means "warm spring season", or maybe more like "It's becoming warm, isn't it?"
The next line is the opening of the letter and is also decided. It means something like "We are hoping for your health and happiness." I won't go into the details of that but, if you are interested, here is the phrase: 皆様におかれましては益々御健勝のこととお慶び申し上げます。
After this you would put the content of your letter and then there would be more phrases to add at the end to make it a proper letter, but that is a whole other blog post!
So, we are going to use the pretty envelope that goes with this paper, but we also wanted to show you the standard envelope that people use in Japan. It has boxes for the zip code.
If you look at the pretty envelope on the left, since the envelope doesn't have the boxes for the zip code and we want to make it more presentable, we write the zip code in in kanji, Chinese characters, on the right side. To the left of that is the address and then the big characters in the middle are the person's name: family name, name, and -sama. In this case, it is Takahashi Nao-sama.
It is best to write the name in the center of the envelope. We didn't do too well at that, but "even monkeys fall from trees" (saru mo ki kara ochiru. 猿も木から落ちる。). That is a well known Japanese proverb (^_-)
Well, we hope you find that interesting. It truly is an art. If you are learning Japanese and want to write one yourself, good luck! You can do it!
If you want to send us letters, we would love it. That is our address there on the envelopes. Can you write it? Try, and say "hi" to us.