Wish Someone a Happy New Year in Japanese!

Wow! Where has the time gone? I can remember the beginning of this year pretty well and the list of things I wanted to accomplish. But now we have less than two months left until 2017!

Well, in the spirit of the new year that is rapidly approaching, let’s learn how to tell someone happy new year in Japanese!

Anytime prior to midnight, right before the new year begins tell people:

  • 良いお年を!
    yoi otoshi o
    Have a nice year

Then once the clock strikes 12:00 and the fireworks go off, shout out:

  • 明けましておめでとうございます!
    akemashite omedetō gozaimasu
    Happy new year!

Understanding Each Word

So let’s go into these a little deeper. 良い(yoi) means “good” and (toshi) means “year.” The first お (o) is added for politeness and the final を (o) gives it the nuance that we have interpreted as “have”. So this is pretty easy to translate as “have a good year.”

明けまして (Akemashite) means “dawning” as in the dawning of a new year and おめでとうございます (omedetō gozaimasu) means “congratulations.” So if we wanted a more direct translation of it, it would be more like “congratulations on the dawning (of a new year).”

But that would sound way too weird in English. Happy new year basically means the same thing.

By the way, this is the same おめでとうございます(omedetō gozaimasu) that you would use to wish some one a happy birthday.

Interesting since Japanese people used to all celebrate their birthdays together on new year’s day.

A Midnight Snack?

Did you know that it is common for Japanese people to eat toshikoshi udon or toshikoshi soba around midnight on new year’s eve in order to ward off evil spirits before the new year begins? I think I could get used to that 🙂

The word 年越しそば (toshi koshi soba) means “year-crossing noodles” and eating them is a Japanese tradition to finished off the old year and bring good luck into the new one.

Your turn! Have you celebrated new years in Japan or with your Japanese friends before? Or are you planning on doing it at the end of this year? I wanna know! Tell me about it in the comments below!


  • Carol

    Certainly these phrases seem really easy to learn for the new year. My friend’s son is fascinated with the Japanese language and always want to learn it. I am sure he will find this post helpful, so I will bookmark and share. Do the letters have the same English pronunciation?

  • DamronDuo

    Oh my goodness, you make Japanese seem so simple! I lived with a Japanese girl for a year, and she was always trying to teach me Japanese phrases, and feed me Japanese food. But being that she also lived in America for a while I can’t say any of her traditions were specifically Japanese, like eating Mac and Cheese with chopsticks, pretty sure that was her own created tradition. But I think your site is awesome! Will definitely try and remember some of those phrases and give my old roomie a call this year to impress her. Thanks! Oh, by the way, what is in the Toshikoshi dish?

    • Nick

      Hey that is super cool to have a Japanese roommate! I have to admit though, I’ve never heard of eating Mac and Cheese with chopsticks, lol.

      Oh you know, a typical toshikoshi soba is made in like a mirin and soysouce soup with some spring onions and maybe some other garnishes. I’ve heard it’s great with duck!

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