Working on our Nengajou (Japanese New-Year Cards) and Christmas Cards

We're finally making progress on our Christmas Cards and nengajou (Japanese New Year's cards, as mentioned in my previous post). Last week, I had a horrible time trying to get them made. We had a few photos from which a nice card might be constructed, and I spent considerable time with some web sites on which you can construct/order cards.

The format for a Japanese New Year's card is pretty standard, with these items:

  • A seasonal greeting (“Happy New Year” or the like, in English or Japanese)
  • Perhaps a more personal greeting (“our family expanded this year”)
  • The names of everyone in the household (with ages for the kids)
  • Your address and, if you like, other contact info (phone, email)
  • Some kind of picture or drawing (of the family, the season, or whatever)

Of course, there's great variety in how these are presented — the messages, layouts, and such — and they can be made quite beautifully.

All the above is generally on one side, with the other side reserved for post-office stuff.

You can order cards from shops all over (e.g. convenience stores, photo shops, etc.), and these days, online as well, so the latter is what I tried. You generally choose a template, choose from among pat phrases, enter your address and other info, and voila, you have a personal card ready to be printed en masse and sent to you, so you can then address and send to your friends. They can even come pre-stamped, if you like.

The Web Sites

The web sites I checked were very poorly constructed, with pages that give details about the process, but have no link whatsoever to actually start the process. It was infuriating. Time and again I would just get stuck and have to start over, or, if I got somewhere and made the mistake of going back, I'd not be able to find the page again.

Certainly, some of my problems could have been my lack of Japanese skill, but these sites were universally bad (universally worse than my Japanese skill). On the fourth site, I finally found one that had a clue.

Using Multiple Photos

Unfortunately, we didn't really have any good family photos. We tend to take pictures around Anthony (and have nice shots of Mom+Anthony and Dad+Anthony), so we needed a site that would let us use several photos with which to compose the card. Some sites allowed three photos to be used in a few of their templates, but even then, the three photos combined used only half the postcard (why such a silly restriction?), and so the images would be just too tiny.

Using One Photo

Some of the sites allow you to make postcards with one photo completely covering one side. I finally decided to use my as-of-late not-too-bad Photoshop skills to build a card myself, and use this printing option. So, I took some photos, combined them in a way I thought would look nice, added some of those pat phrases, our address and names, etc. and ended up with a photo that was ready for printing.

So, I go to one of the sites and upload the picture, and the preview shows that the outer quarter inch or so has been cropped off. Sigh, I'd spent so much time getting things just right and here they arbitrarily lopped it off.

So, I went to another site and lo and behold they had explicit instructions, down to the pixel, as to the size of the image to be submitted and area they will print. Finally, a clueful site! This site was Konica Minolta's photo-printing service.

I adjusted the image to the proper size, uploaded, and ordered. I actually prepared two — a “Christmas 2005” version in English, and a “New Year's 2006” version in Japanese. They arrived over the weekend, and I actually got some sent out today. (My experiences at the post office today are worth another post, to appear tomorrow.)

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