A modern twist on Japan’s traditional gift-giving culture.

There’s never a shortage of cool stuff waiting in Japanese vending machines, which sell everything from crab hot pot soup to toothbrushes. But there’s still room to expand on the variety, as a newly installed vending machine in Tokyo proves.

The machine is operated by Maruai, a paper products company from Yamanashi Prefecture, and it sells envelopes. Not just any envelopes, though – this machine is stocked with the traditional Japanese envelopes called shugibukuro.

“Shugibukuro” is written with the kanji 祝儀袋, which translate directly to “congratulatory pouch.” These elaborately decorated envelopes, festooned with cords and auspicious symbols and color schemes, are used to hold gifts of cash which are given on important occasions.

Most commonly, shugibukuro are used for weddings. Unlike in the U.S., where newlyweds often receive household goods or other presents from friends and family, the custom in Japan is to give cash to the couple. Specifically, you’re supposed to use brand-new bills, which banks supply, upon request, for this exact purpose, and in order to preserve their crisp, uncreased condition, shugifukuro are long enough that the bills can be inserted without folding.

Shugibukuro are also used for giving monetary gifts in celebration of a newborn baby’s birth or a child starting school. On the other end of the spectrum are fushugibukuro (fu meaning “not”), envelopes for bereavement monetary support or other showings of sympathy, such as someone who’s undergoing hospitalization.

▼ A Maruai hospital visit (御見舞) envelope

The Maruai envelope vending machine went into service at the start of the month in Tokyo’s Yurakucho subway station, located near the D4 exit/entrance, where it’ll be operating until 2 p.m. on November 30. Ironically, the machine only accepts cashless payment methods.

Obviously, these envelopes cost more than plain ones you can buy in bulk in at office supply stores, with most of the machine’s versions being around 700 yen (US$4.70). Still, that seems like a reasonable amount to mark special occasions and show loved ones that you care, and even if a 700-yen outlay does cut into your vending machine budget, don’t forget that Tokyo also now has a vending machine that gives things away for free.

Source: PR Times
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: PR Times, Maruai
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!