Celebrating birthdays is a special occasion in every culture, and if you're fond of Japanese culture or have Japanese friends or loved ones, knowing how to say "happy birthday" can add a personal touch to your greetings. In this article, we’ll teach you the various ways to say "happy birthday" in Japanese, along with some cultural insights and helpful phrases to make your birthday wishes even more authentic. Whether you're planning a surprise for a friend or simply want to expand your language skills, you’re in the right place.
Did you know that, traditionally, birthdays weren't a big deal in Japanese culture? Most Japanese people celebrated their birthdays together on New Year's Day. However, with cultural shifts due to Western influence, individual birthdays are now recognized and celebrated. Certain ages hold additional significance, with big celebrations at ages three, five, and seven.
Before we dive into the actual phrases, let's talk about some general aspects of the Japanese language. Japanese has three distinct writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. For birthdays, the most common characters used are from the Hiragana and Kanji scripts. Each script lends itself to the richness and complexity of the Japanese language and culture.
Like most cultures, how to say "happy birthday" in Japanese can vary based on the person's age, your relationship with them, and the formality of the occasion. Here's a breakdown:
The most common and straightforward form of how to say "happy birthday" in Japanese is "Otanjoubi Omedetou," which literally translates to "Birthday, Congratulations." This phrase is a safe option for most situations and can be used with friends, family members, and even close colleagues.
If you find yourself in a more formal setting, or wishing a person of higher status (like your boss) a happy birthday, you'll want to use the more polite phrase "Otanjoubi Omedetou Gozaimasu." The addition of "Gozaimasu" at the end makes the expression formal.
When you're among close friends, you can drop the honorific "O" and say "Tanjoubi Omedetou." This casual phrase is perfect for birthday parties and informal gatherings.
Now that we've covered the basics, let's expand your vocabulary with some additional phrases that can add a heartfelt touch to your birthday wishes.
If you want to wish someone a great year ahead, you can use the phrase "Subarashii Ichinen ni Narimasu Youni," which means "May you have a wonderful year."
To make the birthday person feel special on their milestone, you can say the person’s age followed by "Sai Omedetou," meaning "Congratulations on turning __ years old."
For the romantic at heart or those wishing well for the future, this phrase means "May you continue to have happiness for a long time."
One fun way to surprise a Japanese friend on their birthday is by singing the happy birthday song in Japanese. The melody remains the same as the one you’re likely familiar with, so all you need to do is learn the Japanese lyrics. Here they are:
This phrase means "On your birthday..."
This translates to "On this day called today..."
The chorus, "Happy birthday, happy birthday," remains the same.
While singing, remember that in Japanese, each syllable is pronounced distinctly. So, for example, 'Anata' is pronounced A-na-ta, not An-ta. Practice makes perfect, so try singing the song a few times until you feel confident with the lyrics.
You can listen to the song right here to get a feel for the tune.
Writing a birthday card in Japanese is another meaningful way to express your best wishes. Here’s how to do it.
Start with the basic birthday greeting, "Otanjoubi Omedetou."
Express shared memories or gratitude by using "Tanoshii Omoide to Kansha," which translates to "fun memories and gratitude."
To end the card, you can use "Korekara mo Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu," which is a common phrase expressing continued good relations.
Now that you're equipped with how to say "happy birthday" in Japanese, how about taking it a step further with a full birthday card message? Whether it's for a friend, a romantic partner, or a family member, a heartfelt message in their native language can make your wishes even more special.
Remember: the Japanese language can be complex, and the level of politeness or the phrases you use can change depending on who you're addressing. These templates serve as a general guide and might need to be adjusted based on your relationship with the recipient.
Now, let's get to those templates!
Happy birthday my friend! The time we spent together is a treasure to me. Let's continue to make wonderful memories together.Looking forward to what's to come!
Happy birthday, dear!Every day spent with you is special. May you continue to have happiness for a long time. I deeply love you.
親愛なる(family member's name or relation)へ、お誕生日おめでとうございます！あなたが家族の一員でいてくれることに感謝しています。これからも一緒にたくさんの幸せを分かち合いましょう。これからもよろしくお願いします！
Dear (Family member's name or relation), Happy Birthday! I'm grateful that you are part of our family. Let's continue to share many happy moments together. Looking forward to what's to come!
Now that we've covered the language part, let's delve into how birthdays are actually celebrated in Japan. Understanding these cultural nuances can make your Japanese-style birthday celebration or greeting more authentic.
In Japan, birthday celebrations can range from quiet family gatherings to elaborate parties with friends. The choice of celebration usually depends on the person's age and personal preference. Young people often enjoy themed parties or outings with friends, while older family members may prefer a quiet meal at home or a favorite restaurant.
Interestingly, Japanese birthday celebrations often include a sushi meal and a strawberry shortcake — a light, airy sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries. It's a must-try if you're having a Japanese-themed birthday party!
Gift-giving is another aspect of Japanese birthday celebrations. However, it's important to note that four and nine are considered unlucky numbers in Japan, so try to avoid giving gifts in these quantities. Also, wrapping gifts in white is a faux pas as it's associated with funerals.
When you're at a Japanese birthday celebration, it's polite to wait until the birthday person starts eating before you begin — this applies whether you're in Japan or at a Japanese-themed party elsewhere.
The more you incorporate the Japanese language into the celebration, the more authentic it will feel. From using the phrases you learned in this blog to singing the happy birthday song in Japanese, your effort to embrace the language will definitely add to the joy of the occasion.
Remember, the most important part of any birthday wish or celebration is the heart behind it. So whether you're wishing "Otanjoubi Omedetou" or singing "Happy Birthday" in Japanese, do it with sincerity and joy.
Still have a few more queries or need a brief recap? (Can we just say, we love your thoroughness!) Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:
How to say "happy birthday" in Japanese depends on the level of closeness with that person. For a close friend, "tanjobi omedeto" should suffice. For a more formal or polite setting, the entire phrase "o tanjobi omedeto gozaimasu" is used. Interestingly, as more young people are exposed to Western culture, they often use the English phrase "happy birthday" pronounced happy bazde.
Japanese offers a casual way to wish someone a happy birthday, too! You can express "happy birthday" in Japanese as “お誕生日おめでとう”, pronounced otanjoubi omedetou. It's the most informal way to send birthday wishes in Japanese.
"Omedetou gozaimasu" is Japanese for 'Congratulations.' It's a phrase you'd use to congratulate someone in their language.
The typical birthday greeting in Japanese is "happy birthday," which is written as "誕生日おめでとう" (tanjoubi omedetou) in an informal setting and “お誕生日おめでとうございます” (otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu) in a more formal one.
To say "happy birthday" in Japanese, you'd say “tanjōbi omedetō.”
"Happy birthday" in Japanese is written as "お誕生日おめでとうございます," which is pronounced o-tan-jōbi omedetō gozaimasu.
Loved learning how to say "happy birthday" in Japanese? Let's take your linguistic journey a step further. Dive into our other guides to learn more essential phrases and expressions. Start by mastering the art of the Japanese greeting, or express your gratitude with our guide on how to say "thank you" in Japanese. And if you're ready to express your feelings to a special someone, learn how to say "I love you" and other words of affection in Japanese.
With iTranslate, you'll not only be saying "Otanjoubi Omedetou," but you'll also be carrying on full conversations in Japanese in no time. Unlock the beautiful world of the Japanese language with iTranslate today!
Greetings in Korean made easy. Learn how to say hello and make a memorable first impression.Read →
Learn how to greet in French with 'bonjour'! Discover how to say good morning in French and start your day off with a touch of French elegance.Read →
Celebrate birthdays in Japanese style! Master the phrases and expressions to wish someone a 'Happy Birthday' in the Japanese languageRead →