Writing a letter in Japanese is quite the epic topic. It’s sadly not as easy as writing something, stuffing it in an envelope, stamping it, and sending it. Japanese letters require you to think about certain formalities, set expressions, styles of writing, and even relationships between you and the person you’re writing to. It’s so complicated and convoluted that even Japanese people will buy books on the subject so that they can “read up on” and study the latest letter writing rules. Don’t feel bad if you feel lost.
The goal of this article is to help you to understand Japanese letters. It will take a little more research and studying to be able to write a letter in Japanese, but I think I’ll be covering the difficult part. After reading this article, I want you to understand things like the relationship between you and the person you’re writing to, the format of a Japanese letter (both vertical and horizontal), how to write the address on the envelope, as well as the concept of “set expressions.” This will give you the tools to write a letter, make things less confusing, and eventually get you to the point where you should be able to piece together a Japanese letter on your own (resources included in the last section of this article).
Let’s get straight into the first thing you must think about even before you pick up that pen and paper keyboard and monitor, relationships. (read more!)