Birthdays are that one time a year when it’s all about you. People wish you a good time, they give you presents, and you get to have a party just for being yourself. In today’s post, we’re going to cover how to say happy birthday in Japanese.
In addition to that, we’ll take a look at an alternative way to say Happy-B and then we’ll also take a look at how to write it in case you want to mail your friend a card.
Finally, we’ll go over the Japanese song for “Happy Birthday” (video included) and then wrap this lesson up.
How To Say Happy Birthday In Japanese
In Japanese there are two primary ways that they say happy birthday, and then there are also some abbreviations that often get used by younger people when they are among friends.
Let’s take a look at the first way to say it and break down each part of the phrase.
- o-tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu
- Happy birthday
The first word in this phrase is 誕生日 (tanjoubi) which is the Japanese word for “birthday.” You will notice that the character お (o) has been attached to the front of 誕生日 in the phrase and this is done to make the word more polite.
It’s a pretty common thing to see, other examples are お茶 (o-cha) for “tea” and お金 (o-kane) for “money.”
The next word in our phrase is おめでとう (omedetou) which literally means “an auspicious occasion” but is really just used to tell people “congratulations” and the like.
This word can be used for birthdays, graduations, marriages, and any other good life-event.
The final word in the phrase is ございます (gozaimasu) which is a word that is only added to this phrase in order to make it more polite.
If you were in a formal situation or didn’t really know the person whose birthday it was too well, this is the phrase that you would want to use.
But what if you were with a close friend? You wouldn’t want to be overly formal in that situation because then you would come off as being distant and cold. You would be better off using a more casual form of the phrase.
Well, all you have to do is drop the polite parts of the phrase which would include the initial お and the word ございます which would end up being just 誕生日おめでとう！
Or another way that you could do it is by simply saying おめでとう to them which is kind of like saying “congrats” in English.
What’s interesting about Japanese is that there are a ton of abbreviations that they like to use in order to contract long phrases into super short ones.
For birthdays, the abbreviated version is おたおめ (ota ome) which takes the first two syllables from the words おたんじょうび (birthday) and おめでとう (congratulations).
So now you know how to praise someone on their special day for both formal and informal situations. You also know a cool slang version that you can use with your friends.
But there is actually another way to say it in Japanese…
What Is The Other Way To Say Happy Birthday?
As I’m sure you know, the people of Japan love to take words and phrases from the English language and make them their own.
In this case, Japanese people take the exact phrase we use in English.
- happī bāsu dē
- Happy Birthday
This is more commonly used among the youth of Japan since English words have that cool factor going for them, but it’s common enough be worth learning.
What’s pretty funny is that even this version has an abbreviation for it!
Based off of how the first abbreviation was formulated, you might have already guessed what this one was. Here’s how they shorten it: ハピバー (hapi bā).
I think it sounds pretty cute. What do you think?
How To Write Happy Birthday in Japanese
When it comes to writing in Japanese, you generally want to be more formal and polite than when you’re just speaking.
This means that we want to take the full, formal version of “happy birthday” along with a couple of other key elements that are typically included in cards and letters.
You want to start the card off by addressing them politely. We’ll use the name of Shigeru Miyamoto in our example.
In Japan, you typically address people by their surname, and when doing so in a letter you want to use へ (e) for the “to” part and then add on 様 (sama) to the end of their name for respect.
- miyamoto sama e
- To Mr. Miyamoto
We then would wish him a happy birthday with the first phrase we covered お誕生日おめでとうございます。
If you wanted to personalize the card a little bit by adding something extra like “here’s to another great year” or “hope to see you again soon” you would add it in at this point.
Finally you would end it with より (yori) for the “from” part and then add your last name. I’ll just use my own which is Hoyt for the example below.
- hoito yori
- From Hoyt
Here’s a full version of it that you can use as a template:
What Is The Birthday Song In Japanese
In America we have our famous Happy Birthday Song that we sing for the boy or girl of honor. So how do they do it in Japan?
Well, actually… they use the exact same song!
The reason is that historically speaking, birthdays in Japan weren’t really that big of a deal. The way they saw it, everyone had their “birthday” on the same day on January 1st.
I guess that makes sense, right? It’s a new year so everyone is now one year older.
However, in the last century there has been a lot of change in Japan. There has especially been a lot of influence from Western cultures and things like celebrating individual birthdays have been integrated into the Japanese culture.
At any rate, the song they sing is titled:
- happī bāsu dē tū yū
- Happy Birthday To You
Here’s a video of some Japanese kids singing the song. Note that when it comes to the name part of the song, there is a ○○ (maru maru) placeholder. When singing, you would simple insert the birthday boy or girl’s name there.
Question? Comments? Let Me Know!
That’s all for today’s article on wishing someone a happy birthday in Japanese.
If you’ve got any questions, then ask away! Or if you would just like to make a comment about the topic, then you can do so by entering it into the box below.
Thanks for reading, and I will catch you later!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: