The rabbit on this nengajo even comes with a name and intriguing backstory. 

In Japan, it’s customary to send New Year’s cards called nengajo to family, friends, and those who’ve helped you out during the year. It’s a tradition that Studio Ghibli likes to take part in as well, but rather than only send cards out to bigwigs and head honchos behind the scenes, the beloved studio sends a special nengajo to fans via its social media channels.

A common image used in nengajo is the animal that corresponds to the sign of the zodiac for the upcoming year. Last year, for example, was the Year of the Tiger, and so that’s the image Ghibli used for its 2022 nengajo.

▼ The tiger was drawn by Ghibli co-founder and director Hayao Miyazaki.

Last year’s nengajo was extremely well-received by fans, so this year there were hopes that the studio would follow up with another card drawn by Miyazaki for 2023, the Year of the Rabbit. At the stroke of midnight, the studio delivered, sending out the below greeting to fans in the very first minute of 2023.

While last year’s tiger came with a standard style of New Year’s greeting that read: “Happy New Year. Thank you for your continued support in the year“, this year’s rabbit came with a message that gave us an intriguing backstory to the new character:

“Happy New Year. A rabbit drawn by Mr Miyazaki. Its name is Uu-chan. It appears to have a twin named Fuu-chan. Thank you for your continued support in the year.”

It’s fitting that the 81-year-old director lauded for his skills in character creation would not only draw a character for the new year but give it a name and backstory as well. The name “Uu-chan”, pronounced “Ooh-chan”, is a cute nod to “usagi“, the Japanese word for rabbit, while “Fuu-chan” serves two purposes, being short for both “futago” (“twin“) and “fuku” (“luck“), the latter of which is a word that’s often used at this time of year — in “fukubukuro” lucky bags, for example — to wish for prosperity.

While the rabbit is beautifully drawn in Miyazaki’s signature style, sharing the character’s backstory was like dangling a carrot in the faces of fans, who responded with:

“Where’s Fuu-chan?”
“I’d love to see U-chan’s twin Fuu-chan!”
“I wanna meet Fuu-chan!”
“U-chan is cute but now I’m curious about Fuu-chan!”
“If Fuu-chan looks like Uu-chan it must be cute!”

It’s true that if Fuu-chan is Uu-chan’s twin, this image has given us a pretty good idea of what it might look like. However, we’ll have to wait and see if Miyazaki does choose to share Fuu-chan with the world or whether he’ll leave its visage up to everyone’s imagination.

There is a chance that the mention of Fuu-chan was a hidden invitation for fans to draw the twin themselves in a return New Year’s card to the studio, which nobody has done yet, so if you’d like to send your well wishes to Miyazaki and the studio, why not give that a try?

There’s already plenty to thank the studio for this year, as it’s given us a great fukubukuro lucky bag and adorable beckoning Catbus and Totoro decorations for New Year!

Source: Twitter/@JP_GHIBLI 
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