“Happy Birthday” in Japanese: Everything You Need to Know

When talking about birthdays, what comes to your mind? Perhaps you think of a cake with your favorite flavor, gathering with friends and family, the blessing from everyone, or a wonderful overnight party! Whatever it is, I am sure you can always feel heart-warming to receive the blessing from others. In Japan, most of the young people also enjoy celebrating their own, friend’s, lover’s  birthday. Then, let’s check how to express your blessing, and say “happy birthday” in Japanese.

How to say Happy Birthday in Japanese?

お誕生日おめでとうございます!

o tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu!

”O tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu” is a polite way to give someone wishes on their birthday. It sounds quite long, right? Let me break this sentence down and have a simple explanation of every part.

誕生日 (hiragana: たんじょうび, tanjoubi) is a noun which means birthday. 

The お (o) in front of 誕生日 is one of Japanese honorific prefixes, another one is ご (go). お and ご are used to add feeling of politeness or respect to a word.

おめでとうございます (omedetou gozaimasu) means congratulations. It can be used on almost all occasions when you want to congratulate someone. ございます is a very polite expression in the discussion of 敬語 (keigo). Keigo is a polite form that Japanese use to convey respect. Japanese society has always emphasized hierarchy, therefore, keigo is used when talking with your professor, boss, client, and people you are not close to.

Below are two phrases that you might already know that are attached with gozaimasu.

  • ありがとうございます。 (arigatou gozaimasu) Thank you very much.
  • おはようございます。  (ohayou gozaimasu) Good morning.

On the other hand, during conversation with people close to you, it is allowed to say without ございます. 

  • ありがとう。
  • おはよう。
  • おめでとう。

After knowing the meaning of おめでとうございます, let’s take a look at the form below as well to learn more expressions related to congratulation! 

English Japanese
Happy New yearあけましておめでとうございます(Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu)
Congratulations on entranceご入学おめでとうございます(Gonyuugaku Omedetou Gozaimasu)
Congratulations on graduationご卒業おめでとうございます(Gosotsugyou Omedetou Gozaimasu)
Congratulation on marriageご結婚おめでとうございます(Gokekkon Omedetou Gozaimasu)

How to sing a birthday song?

With the influence from western countries, the birthday song is with the same melody and even same lyrics as the English version. Let’s take a look!

ハッピーバースデー トゥーユー happii basudee tuu yuu

ハッピーバースデー トゥーユー happii basudee tuu yuu

ハッピーバースデー ディア (Name) happii basudee dea (Name)

ハッピーバースデー トゥーユー happii basudee tuu yuu

Birthday wishes in Japanese

On your friends birthdays, there must be lots of blessing you want to convey more than just saying お誕生日おめでとうございます. The following are sentences that are frequently used to wish others a happy birthday. Also put these sentences on the birthday card to make sure your blessing is expressed properly!

素晴らしい一年になりますように。 (subarashii ichinen ni narimasu youni)

Hope you have a wonderful year. “~ように (~youni)” is attached in the end of the sentence to mean “hope you~”.

素敵なお誕生日をすごしてください! (sutekina o tanjoubi wo sugoshite kudasai)

Please have a Great Birthday!

お誕生日の願いが叶いますように! (o tanjoubi no negai ga kanaimasu youni)

Hope your birthday wishes come true!

いつもお世話になっております。 (itsumo osewa ni natte orimasu)

Thank you for always supporting me.

いつもありがとうございます。 (itsumo arigatou gozaimasu)

Thank you always for everything.

いつも友達でいてくれてありがとう。 (itsumo tomodachi de ite kurete arigatou)

Thank you for always being my friend.

Other Phrases and words related to birthday

Ask about age…

Q: 何歳ですか?(nansai desu ka) How old are you?

A: 私は19歳です。(watashi ha juukyuusai desu) I am 19 years old.

When…

Q: お誕生日はいつですか?(o tanjoubi ha itu desu ka) When is your birthday?

A: 私の誕生日は12月15日です。(watashi no tanjoubi ha juuni gatsu juugo nichi desu) My birthday is on December 15.

The respond to happy birthday from others

誕生日のお祝いありがとうございます。(tanjoubi no oiwai arigatou gozaimasu)

Happy belated birthday

遅くなったけど、お誕生日おめでとうございます。(osokunatta kedo o tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu)

遅れてしまったけど、お誕生日おめでとうございます。(okureteshimatta kedo o tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu)

When giving gifts to others…

つまらないものですが…(tsumaranai mono desu ga…)

Words relate to birthday

JapaneseEnglish
プレゼント (purezento)birthday present
ケーキ (kēki)cake
パーティー (pātī)party

Japanese Tradition

You might have already learned about some famous festivals held to ask for blessings from God in shrines or temples. There are also few traditional rites during a person’s life when turning to a certain age. Let’s take a look at two widely known traditions.

七五三 (Shichi-Go-San)

Shichi-go-san, literally translates to “Seven Five Three”, is a traditional rite usually held on November 15 for girls aged seven and three and boys aged five and three. 

There are several views on the origin of this tradition. One of the stories indicates that this tradition is quite long and can be dated all the way back to the Muromachi Period (1336-1573). At that time, due to the high infant mortality rate, children were not recognized as a member in the family until three years old. From then on, the ceremony developed, and gained popularity, spreading throughout Japan. 

Nowadays, shichi-go-san is to celebrate a child’s growth and good health, and it is also a way for parents to thank the gods. On the day, children are dressed in kimonos and taken to shrines to pray for health and a long, blessing life. They are also given 千歳飴 (chitose ame), literally a thousand years candy, to wish for a thousand years of health.

Coming of Age Day 成人式 (Seijin Shiki)

Another important tradition concerned with birthdays is Coming of Age day. This is an event held on the second Monday of January annually for the youth who turned 20 since the previous April and who are going to turn 20 years old before April in that year. In other words, it is held in the sophomore year. Everyone celebrates reaching their adulthood in kimonos or suits.

I am 20 years old.

20 is pronounced “nijuu” in Japanese. However, there is one fact that you need to remember, when Japanese say “I am twenty years old”, they normally say “hatachi desu” instead of “nijuu sai desu”. We can’t claim the mistake here, but “hatachi” is the way people use.

Summary 

Perhaps you have already started your life in Japan or you are carrying on with it. Wherever you are, I am sure you are doing your best to learn everything about this language and this country! Next time when your Japanese friends are having their birthday, don’t forget to say “o tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu”!

About YUJUNG 17 Articles
Hi! I’m Yujung from Taiwan. Decided to start my career in Kansai area Japan in 2019, I’ve always considered this a right decision ever made in my life. WHY? There are way too many things waiting for me to discover, such as the charming language, spectacular nature, colorful seasons and lovely people!

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