The New Year in Japan is one of the biggest holidays of the year. It is a time when people travel back home to be with their family and to eat お節 (osechi), or traditional Japanese New Year’s food. These traditional Japanese foods consist of many dishes and take a lot of time to prepare.
Typical items include things like:
- 海老 (ebi): shrimp
- 黒豆 (kuromame): black beans
- 蒲鉾 (kamaboko): fish cake
- 伊達巻 (datemaki): Japanese egg omelet with fish/shrimp paste
- 昆布 (konbu): kelp
These foods are also arranged and displayed beautifully in 重箱 (jūbako), or multi-tier, Japanese food boxes. You can buy premade osechi from many stores in Japan, but it costs anywhere from $100 to $300 plus USD.
While good food is important, greeting others properly during New Year is essential. Here are some of the most vital and frequently used expressions native speakers use. Use them all to sound like a pro!
1. 明けましておめでとうございます (Akemashite Omedetō Gozaimasu): Happy New Year
You will hear this expression many times during the New Year in Japan. Like many other countries, wishing people a “Happy New Year” is common and appreciated.
明けましておめでとうございます (akemashite omedetō gozaimasu) is actually a shortened version.
The full version is:
(Shinnen akemashite omedetō gozaimasu).
Happy New Year.
The difference is that the full version includes the word 新年 (shinnen) at the beginning. 新年 (shinnen) means “new year.”
This expression is used in both written and spoken language.
If you’re speaking to people around your age that you are close to (like close friends), you can say the casual phrase, “あけおめ (akeome).” This is a very informal greeting, so you wouldn’t say it to anyone older than you or who you don’t know well.
2. 去年は大変お世話になりました。(Kyonen Wa Taihen Osewa Ni Narimashita): Thank You Very Much For All You Did For Me Last Year
This phrase expresses gratitude to people who helped you during the past year. It can be used in spoken and written language, but it is a common phrase often used in formal formats such as New Year’s greeting cards.
去年 (kyonen) means “last year.” However, in Japanese, there are other ways to say “last year.”
Here are two other ways to say “last year” in Japanese:
- 昨年 (sakunen)
- 旧年 (kyūnen)
3. 今年もよろしくお願いします。(Kotoshi Mo Yoroshiku Onegai Shimasu):I Look Forward to Your Continued Goodwill in the Coming Year
This phrase is uniquely Japanese. It is hard to capture the nuance of this phrase, as it describes a concept that does not exist in most Western languages. It has a nuance of “Please continue to treat me well this year.” or “Please continue our (good) relationship this year too.” Basically, it is a polite way to say that you want to maintain a good relationship with someone you know or work with.
This phrase is often found in cards, letters, and other written New Year’s documents.
If you want to greet your close friends more casually, you can say:
(Kotoshi mo yoroshiku!)
Some young people say a very informal New Year’s expression that combines あけましておめでとう (akemashite omedetō) and 今年もよろしく (kotoshi mo yoroshiku) into one expression:
(Akeome koto yoro.)
Happy New Year. Let’s enjoy it!
Young people use this expression in emails or texts to their close friends.
4. 今年一年があなたにとって、素晴らしい年になりますように (Kotoshi Ichinen Ga Anata Ni Totte Subarashii Toshi Ni Narimasu You Ni): I Hope You Have a Wonderful Year
This standard phrase is often found on New Year’s greeting cards. It is a phrase to express health and good wishes for the upcoming year.
Similar expressions could be used in New Year’s cards and greeting cards, such as:
(Gokazoku ni totte kōfuku de subarashii ichi nen ni narimasu you ni.)
Wishing your family a wonderful year filled with happiness.
(Minasama no gotakō to gokenkō o oinori itashimasu.)
Praying for your health and happiness.
(Honnen mo yoi toshi de arimasu you ni oinori mōshiagemasu.)
Wishing that you’ll have another happy new year this year.
(Kotoshi ichi nen ga ii toshi ni narimasu you ni.)
Hoping that this will be a great year for you.
(Sachi ooki ichi nen to narimasu you ni.)
Wishing you a year filled with happiness.
5. よいお年を！ (Yoi Otoshi O): Have a Great Year!
Many people say this phrase at the end of the year to people they won’t see again for a while (or at least after the new year). It is to wish someone “a good/happy new year).”
Since this is a year-end greeting, it is usually not used in New Year’s greeting cards. The more formal phrase, “よいお年をお迎えください (Yoi otoshi o omukae kudasai),” is often used on greeting cards. It also means, “I hope you have a good/happy new year.” It can also be said to someone at the end of the year.
Be sure to remember these phrases if you are ever in Japan for the New Year season. People will appreciate it if you say these new year’s greetings to them in Japanese!