Have you ever seen small paper envelopes in places such as stationery goods stores in Japan? These are called “Pochi Bukuro”, which started to be produced around the end of the 19th century, and they were used to give a congratulatory gift of money (Japanese version of a tip to express gratitude) to people including Maiko (Apprentice geisha) at that time. “Pochi” is a dialect in Kansai region meaning a dot or something small. Japan has a custom where congratulatory gifts are given with a phrase, “It’s only a little bit” and they put their humble heart into their gift.
In the 1960s, Pochi Bukuro started to be used as an envelope to put money in for “Otoshidama”, money that adults such as parents and relatives give children, and since then it started to be used more commonly. It is now being used for other purposes, such as using it to give money for a party, to give a “tip” expressing gratitude for a service at a hotel or inn, and as an envelope to enclose a small message to attach to a present.
The typical sized Pochi Bukuro is long and thin so a Japanese yen note fits just right when folded in four. They come in a wide variety of designs including traditional patterns, seasonal flowers and Mt. Fuji. There are also ones with a message written on them and small ones for coins.
There are also templates for making Pochi Bukuro. These are popular because you can make your own original Pochi Bukuro, re-using wrapping paper or paper bags.
Pochi Bukuro come in a wide variety of designs, so you will find your favorite ones for sure. It is just several hundred yen for a packet, making it great for a souvenir that is easily affordable.
Top image: Teamnet “Koyomi (calendar) Pochi Bukuro, a set of 10”