How To Say Happy Birthday In Japanese: Wishing Correctly

by Laura C. Jones
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Japanese is a language that offers users diverse ways to express themselves under different contexts. It’s an incredibly formal society and there are a number of ways of saying things based on whether you’re speaking to a close friend, a casual friend, a colleague, your boss, your partner, or your parents.

So, if you want to learn how to say happy birthday in Japanese society, consider this the complete guide.

Ways Of Saying Happy Birthday In Japanese

How to say happy birthday in Japanese, or any other pleasantry for that matter, depends largely on whom you’re speaking to — their demographic and/or relationship to you, to be more specific.

#1. Acquaintances

For acquaintances, you can say “Otanjoubi Omedetou.” This is the most casual way to wish someone a happy birthday. It translates in English to “Happy Birthday.” However, based on what your relationship is with them, if you want to formalize it a bit, you can say add a “Gozaimasu.”

If you’re wishing them via e-mail or in writing, you can say “Subarashii tanjoubi ni narimasu youni,” meaning “Wishing you a wonderful birthday.”

#2. Friends

If it’s a really close friend and you want to wish them heartily, you can go for “Anata no negai ga subete kanaimasu youni.” It means “May all your birthday wishes come true.” If you’re trying to keep it casual, you can still stick with “Otanjoubi Omedetou.”

#3. Seniors

Seniors include your managers, boss, or someone older than you, in which case you should use the formal “Otanjoubi Omedetou Gozaimasu.” Politeness is very important in Japanese culture.

#4. Partner

When it comes to your partner, you can wish them in any of the informal ways suggested above. If you want to convey your love in your wish, you can say “Aisuru anatani, otanjoubi omedetou,” which means “Happy birthday, my love.” However, please note that it’s weird to say this out loud even in Japan, so limit it to written wishes. To wish them verbally, you can just say “Otanjoubi Omedetou.” It works here too.

Accepting Birthday Wishes in Japanese

So, you know how to say happy birthday in Japanese, but what if it’s your birthday? How do you respond to wishes?

That’s fairly simple, you say “thank you,” right?

The most polite version of the phrase “thank you” is “Arigato gozaimasu.” If they have any more wishes or nice things to say, and at the end if you want to say thank you again, you should say “Arigatō gozaimashita.”

The difference between the two is that “Arigato gozaimasu” is something you say when a person is showing kindness or a favor to you, and “Arigatō gozaimashita” is how you thank them upon completion of the gesture.

The informal version, which you can use for friends or your partner, is “Duomo.” It’s succinct and means “Thanks.”

A Few Parting Words

Hope you found this article on how to say happy birthday in Japanese insightful about the Japanese language and Japanese etiquette. Remember to always be respectful and courteous when speaking to people in Japan — politeness goes a long way.

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