For anyone who is not familiar with the Japanese custom of exchanging New Year's cards they are probably the equivalent of the Western World's Christmas cards. The main difference is that no matter how early you post them they will be delivered on January 1st and each year are based on the animal of the Chinese New Year - this year being the year of the tiger. As much as I used to think it was a bit of an obligatory thing, where people exchanged them with basically anyone they had ever had contact with in their lives, I now really look forward to receiving them. It sounds like in the bigger cities and with younger people they are being replaced with Internet greetings etc. (much like Christmas Cards are) however I still really enjoy getting something in the mail and this year my children have enjoyed making them for their teachers, classmates etc. This year we have already got over 90 of them and are likely to get a few more over the next few days.
The main problem I have with them is that I get quite a few from people that I really have NO idea who they are. It is standard to write one back to each person that you receive one from, but when you literally have no idea who they are it is sometimes a little difficult to write a personal message.... Fortunately there is the standard "I hope you have a great year in 2010" message that covers most people!