How to Say Happy Birthday in Japanese

Happy birthday in Japanese is 誕生日おめでとう (tanjoubi omedetou). Birthday celebrations in Japan are quieter and more personal than they are in other countries, but Japanese people do extend birthday wishes and cards. Several Japanese birthdays are considered to be extra special. In this article, we’ll cover the two major ways to say happy birthday in Japanese so you can celebrate with your friends.

1. お誕生日おめでとう (Otanjoubi Omedetou) – Happy Birthday in Japanese

As mentioned previously, the traditional Japanese way to say happy birthday is お誕生日おめでとう (otanjoubi omedetou). This is often the birthday greeting that is written on cards or inscribed on birthday cakes. In Japanese, tanjoubi means “birthday,” and omedetou means “happy” or “celebration.”

In Japan, it’s essential to respect your elders and people you don’t know well by using honorific language or 敬語 (keigo). If you want to say happy birthday in polite Japanese, add the suffix phrase -ございます (gozaimasu) at the end of tanjoubi omedetou

お誕生日おめでとうございます (otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu) is the more formal way of wishing someone a happy birthday in Japanese. If the person celebrating their birthday is older than you, more experienced than you, or is outside of your immediate social circle, it’s better to say tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu.

Examples

  1. Happy birthday, big brother! お兄ちゃん、お誕生日おめでとう! (Onii-chan, otanjoubi omedetou!)
  2. Happy birthday, Professor Nakamura! 中村先生、お誕生日おめでとうございます! (Nakamura-sensei, otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu!)

2. ハッピーバースデー (Happii Baasudee) – Happy Birthday in Japanese-English

The other common way to say happy birthday in Japanese…is to say it in English! Even young Japanese children know how to say ハッピーバースデー (happii baasudee), or the Japanese loan phrase for the English phrase happy birthday. 

Happii baasudee is used when singing for the birthday celebrant and when you want to wish a casual happy birthday to your friends or family in Japanese. When it’s written out, it is almost always written in English.  You’ll see “happy birthday” written on cakes, pastries, or even cards in Japan.  

Loan words and phrases are considered casual Japanese, so happii baasudee isn’t recommended when you’re celebrating a superior or someone older than you.

Example

  1. Hey, Tom! Happy birthday! ね、トム!ハッピーバースデー! (Ne, Tom! Happii baasudee!)

Conclusion

There are two ways to say happy birthday in Japanese, but they aren’t always interchangeable. Remember that the English loan phrase happii baasudee is considered a bit more casual than the traditional Japanese tanjoubi omedetou. Of course, a birthday is supposed to be a happy event—so don’t get too nervous about celebrating! 

How do you say happy birthday in your language? Let us know in the comments!

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