Published on: January 5, 2024
The start of the year in Japan is a time for both celebration and unique marketing opportunities. To succeed in Japan’s dynamic market, global brands need to grasp the cultural nuances and key events during this period.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the Japan e-commerce calendar from January to March, helping you make the most of this vibrant season.
January in Japan is synonymous with prosperity and new beginnings. This period is marked by the distribution of winter bonuses to employees, often amounting to 1 to 5 months’ salary. Additionally, children receive otoshidama, a New Year’s monetary gift, making this a prime time for consumer spending.
Oshōgatsu, the Japanese New Year, is steeped in tradition. Unlike Western countries, where fireworks are synonymous with New Year celebrations, in Japan, these are reserved for summer festivals. Instead, the New Year is marked by visiting temples at midnight, spending time with family, and enjoying osechi ryōri, (おせち料理), a special New Year’s cuisine.
Sending nengajo, or New Year’s greeting cards, is more common in Japan than birthday or Christmas cards. These cards often feature the zodiac animal of the year and traditional designs like Mount Fuji, crane, and bamboo. They are a crucial tool for businesses to connect with clients and customers during this festive season. Their importance is underscored by the over 3 billion nengajo printed in 2015.
January sees significant retail activity with the “New Year’s First Sale”. A highlight during the sale is the fukubukuro event, which involves the sale of sealed bags containing mystery items at substantial discounts after New Year’s Day. They’re a hit across various sectors, from fashion and electronics to dining, offering a clever way for businesses to clear out old stock and make room for new arrivals.
Celebrated on the second Monday of January, Coming of Age Day marks the transition to adulthood for 20-year-olds. It’s a public holiday characterized by ceremonies and festive gatherings, where traditional kimonos and suits are worn. This day offers unique promotional opportunities for businesses.
Mid-January sees the first Rakuten Japan Shopping Marathon of the year, offering discounts, free shipping, and bonus points.
January is also prime time for winter sports, presenting opportunities for brands in this sector.
February is a crucial month for students with entrance exams determining their academic future. This period sees a surge in products and services aimed at supporting students. However, it’s not all about studies; February also brings unique marketing opportunities.
Valentine’s Day in Japan comes with a twist: traditionally, women give gifts to men, who reciprocate on White Day in March. This tradition is a significant sales driver for chocolate manufacturers, who often make half their annual profits during this period.
This tradition diversifies into various forms of chocolate gifting, from romantic (honmei choco) to familial (fami choco) and obligatory (giri choco).
February is also when strawberries take centre stage, with fairs and themed buffets across Japan. This presents a sweet opportunity for businesses in the food and beverage sector.
March is a month of transition, preparing for the new academic and fiscal year starting in April. This period sees heightened demand for products related to new beginnings, such as furniture, home appliances, and clothing.
March 3rd is Hinamatsuri, also known as Doll’s Day or Girls’ Day, is a day dedicated to girls’ happiness and well-being.
It’s marked by special dishes, festive gatherings, and decorative dolls, offering unique marketing angles for relevant brands.
A month after Valentine’s Day, White Day sees the return of gift-giving, this time from men to women. Popular gifts include chocolates, cookies, and white-themed accessories.
March symbolizes the start of a new life cycle, known as shinseikatsu (新生活), as April marks the beginning of the new fiscal year in Japan.
Many individuals relocate across the country for new jobs or university, making March busy month for preparations. Products and services related to moving, home setup, and new lifestyle adjustments are in high demand.
Farewell and thank-you gifts are also popular during this period, leading many businesses to launch ‘new life support’ campaigns and offer early bird or bulk-buy deals.
On March 21st, spring officially begins, and Japan transforms into a sea of pink cherry blossoms, or sakura.
This is one of the most attractive times for tourists to visit Japan. As the first trees bloom at the end of March, people enjoy hanami (flower-viewing) picnics and parties under sakura trees. Limited edition sakura-themed products and events can significantly attract customer interest.
With the onset of spring, hay fever remedies and air purifiers become essential for many, presenting a niche market for health and wellness products.
At WPIC Marketing + Technologies, we specialize in providing digital marketing services in Japan and the APAC region. If you’d like to learn more about how we can accelerate your brand’s growth in Japan, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
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