8. Shochu Mimai* and New Year’s/Christmas Card

*note “Shochu Mimai” is a seasonal greeting, frequently in the form of postcards, sent to friends in the summer.

Small things can be the source of great amusement sometimes. This summer, I received a card from an American friend of mine. She called it a “summer card,” and it was her version of a Japanese shochu mimai card. It made me really happy, realizing that I had successfully shared a small part of Japanese culture with this friend.

When I first moved to the United States, over 20 years ago, there weren’t as many Japanese media outlets as there are now. There was only one Japanese-language newspaper, and I was starving for Japanese text. I would check my mailbox, full of anticipation, several times a day, hoping to find a letter or a postcard from Japan. I wanted friends and family in Japan to write to me as often as possible, so I took the initiative and wrote letters to them frequently. Letter-writing became a routine.  When I returned to Japan 15 or 16 years ago, I also started to send my artwork as shochu mimai cards and Christmas cards.

I don’t call them “Christmas cards” anymore; I now call them New Year’s Cards. There is a funny story behind it. One year, I sent a Christmas card to an American friend. In his response, he wondered if I was Christian, since he had been under the impression that I was Buddhist. Sometimes Japanese people, myself included, forget that Christmas is a Christian holiday and not just a seasonal celebration. From that year, I switched to calling the greetings “New Year’s Cards.”

Quite a few of my friends would send me New Year’s cards in return, but in the 15 years I had been sending shochu mimai cards, no American friend had written a summer card back.  I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when I received the summer card from my friend. I was a great feeling, knowing I had imparted a little piece of Japanese culture to an American. (Japanese site)

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