In my June 21 column in The Japan Times, I write about Japanese money envelopes, used when giving gifts of cash. They’re called kinpū 金封 or noshibukuro 熨斗袋 and range in design from ultra-traditional to downright whimsical:
Warning: that teddy will set you back ¥9,300 (about $115). You could use it for presenting a gift of cash to celebrate a new baby, a matriculation or reaching the age of majority (20 in Japan). And how much would be appropriate for this one? About ¥100,000, or $1,250, according to the company that sells it, Mizuhiki-kan in Kyoto.
Some kinpū themes are strictly seasonal:
The goldfish is ¥6,500 (about $80). Mizuhiki-kan says it’s good for just about any happy summer occasion, including a wedding or birthday. The recommended outlay for this one? ¥30,000 ($375). And while it’s definitely not conventional, how about an iguana design? It’s ¥8,500 ($106).
For funerals, Mizuhiki-kan offers a nice lotus-flower design, below, for ¥2,700 (about $34). It’s suitable for an offering of ¥10,000 ($125) or more.
If these are all beyond your budget, perhaps model H0101 from the Iida Mizuhiki Association in Nagano Prefecture, below. It costs just ¥630 (less than $8) although it can carry a cash gift of up to ¥2 million ($25,000). The kanji on it are 御霊前 goreizen, which means “offering on the altar to the deceased.”
Admittedly, most gifts are smaller, and packages of five much simpler envelopes can be purchased for a little as a few hundred yen. You can pick this sort up in any convenience store.
Still, the conventions on giving money are so complicated that if you need or want to buy a kinpū, I’d recommend visiting a retailer that sells both ready-made envelopes and the supplies to make your own, and have a knowledgeable staff member advise you. Try “http://www.ito-ya.co.jp/”>Ito-ya in Tokyo’s Ginza district (2-7-15 Ginza, Tel 03-3561-8311, open 10-8 Monday-Saturday, 10-7 on Sundays); Kyukyodo in Tokyo (5-7-4 Ginza, Tel 03-3571-4429, open 10:30-7:30 Monday through Saturday, 11-7 on Sundays and holidays) and in Nakagyo-ku in Kyoto (Teramachi Anekoji-agaru, Shimohonnojimae-cho 520 , Tel 075 231 0510, open 10-6, closed Sundays) or check here for a full list of branches (Japanese only); and Haibara in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district(2-7-6 Nihonbashi, Tel 03-3272-3801, 10-6:30 M-5, 10-5 on Saturday. Closed Sundays.)
Finally, here’s a video to help you learn some of the kanji that appear on different types of kinpū: