A lot of Japanese people complain about the tipping culture in the US and Canada. Although parting with more money than necessary is a big part of the complaint, a lot of people in Japan dislike the mental anguish of figuring out how much is appropriate.

However, the New Year’s traditional cash presents of otoshidama, while great for kids, are just as riddled with anxiety for adults. Rather than the ambiguous sentimental value of presents, an envelope filled with cash is instantly quantifiable and wide open to judgment.

To avoid looking like a cheapskate or breaking your own bank account, our reporter surveyed those around her to figure out what the going rates for otoshidama are these days.

When it comes to otoshidama money the basic rule of thumb is to adjust the value based on your relationship with the child as well as how well you know the parents. But to get a better idea with regards to a yen-amount here’s what some respondents of our mini-survey had to say.

“Isn’t it something like 500 yen [US$5] times the age? Then again, I don’t know much about when to give. For example, up to three years old you don’t give money?”
(34 year-old mother of one)

“If they’re in elementary school, I think… Around two to three thousand yen [$19 – $28]. If they’re in junior high school then 5,000 yen [$48].”
(28 year-old single man)

“Only because he’ll fight with brothers, I also gave 3,000 yen [$28] to an elementary school-aged kid.”
(28 year-old single woman)

“I guess there’s a difference between the child of a friend and the child of a relative. For a child I meet often, I give one or two thousand yen [$10 – $19] extra.”
(33 year-old married woman)

“For grandchildren that I haven’t seen in a while [university students] I give 30,000 yen [$287], but a little more up to 50,000 yen [$479] in some cases.”
(72 year-old grandfather of three)
*NOTE: In Japan 4 is an unlucky number, thus 50,000 yen is the next round amount and “a little more”*

“Until they’re in kindergarten 500 to 1,000 yen [$5 – $10]. A lot of people give a toy or candy instead.”
(38 year-old married man)

“I think if they’re in elementary or high school 5,000 yen [$48]. Middle school 10,000 yen [$96]. But I only do that with my niece because she’s very cute. I don’t give as much to other kids. Maybe 3,000 yen [$28].”
(35 year-old single woman)

As you can see everyone has their own little system for handing out the cash, but if we average out all the responses, here’s what we get as a general rule.

  Babies and Pre-Schoolers: 1,000 yen ($10) or a present
  Elementary School Student: 3,000 – 5,000 yen ($28 – $48)
  Junior High Student: 5,000 – 10,000 yen ($48 – $96)
*Additional cash will be given on the grounds of extra cuteness or strong relationship. Grandchildren will also receive higher than usual amounts.

There were also a few people who responded: “It depends on my cash flow at the moment,” meaning if they happen to be having a good month then everyone gets a little extra, but if times are tight so are the otoshidama. It may be controversial but adds a little suspense to the occasion and could even help teach kids the value of a yen.

So now you know the rules, and not a moment too… Oh.

Well, you can always bookmark this info for next year. Also, if you’re having a particularly hard year financially, now you know to just try and spend as little time around children as possible. That should reduce your burden come December.

Or, if you happened to have gotten an otoshidama this year, you can know exactly how much you mean to that person. And that, my friends, is why I’ll never speak to my sister-in-law again.

Original Article by Anji Tabata
[ Read in Japanese ]