Celebrate Japan’s most traditional time of year with the help of these famous anime characters.

With the end of 2023 fast approaching, people in Japan are preparing for all the jobs they have to do in December, a month so busy it’s traditionally known as “shiwasu” (“師走 “).

Shiwasu, which contains the kanji for “monk” (“師”) and “run“(” 走 “),  literally translates to “monks running“, and refers to the busy state of Buddhist priests during the last month of the lunar calendar, as they run around completing chores in preparation for the New Year.

They’re not the only ones who are busy, as the New Year period in Japan is like Christmas overseas, with people planning to take time off work to spend time with family. One of the big tasks that people need to finish before the holiday period is the sending of nengajo New Year’s cards, and while this can be a time-consuming undertaking, it’s one we’ll be looking forward to this year, now that Studio Ghibli has released a special lineup of stamps to help make the job easier.

There are a few different options for creating nengajo cards in Japan, ranging from paying a company to print them for you, or simply buying the plain cards from the post office and then printing your own design on them with special software and a printer at home.

However, Studio Ghibli prides itself on handmade processes, so it’s no surprise that their chosen method is the third option — making your own designs with stamps and other handmade details.

▼ The studio has even provided us with a suggested design you can make with four of the stamps in the range.

The largest stamp in the design above is also one of the cutest, showing Totoro grinning on a koma or spinning top. Spinning tops are a traditional New Year’s activity that’s said to bring good luck by making things run smoothly and encouraging a good flow of money. The design is complete with a medium and small Totoro peeking out from a banner that reads “Shoshun” (“初春”) , which literally means “beginning of spring” but is commonly used to mean “New Year”, while a scattering of plum blossoms signifies new beginnings in early spring.

Another large stamp sees Totoro staring at a snowman version of itself, with a couple of Soot Sprites and a medium and small Totoro looking equally puzzled by the whole thing. This cute, humorous design comes with the message, “あけましておめでとうございます” (“akemashite omedetou gozaimasu”) which means, “Happy New Year”.

Between the large and small stamp designs is one that shows a small Totoro staring up at some acorns, which have fallen from a hole in the sack carried by the medium Totoro.

This adorable scene is accompanied by the common nengajo message, “今年はたいへんお世話になりました。本年もよろしくお願い申し上げます” (“Kotoshi wa taihen osewa ni narimashita. Honnen mo yoroshiku onegaimoushiagemasu”), which means: “Thank you for your help this past year. I hope for your continued support this year.

Rounding out the collection are three small stamps, starting with the Plum and Soot Sprites design.

▼ Then we have the Snowflakes design…

▼…and because 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, the studio has produced a Dragon Figurine stamp to complete the lineup.

Despite this being a prime opportunity to feature Haku, the dragon from Spirited Away, on the zodiac stamp, this range is dedicated to My Neighbour Totoro, so fingers crossed there’ll be a Spirited Away range coming our way in the near future.

The stamps can be purchased at Donguri Kyowakoku stores and online, with the large sizes priced at 1,540 yen (US$10.30) each, the medium at 1,045 yen and the small sizes 715 yen each.

Source: Donguri Kyowakoku
Top image: Donguri Kyowakoku
Insert images: Donguri Kyowakoku (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
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