How to Say Happy Birthday in Japanese

Two Parts:Wishing a Happy BirthdayRelated Terminology

The proper way to say “happy birthday” in Japanese is “tanjoubi omedetou” or "tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu,” but which of the two sayings you should use depends mostly on to whom you are speaking. There are also other birthday-related vocabulary that would be helpful for you to know. Here are some of the most important pieces of information concerning birthday greetings in Japan.

Part 1
Wishing a Happy Birthday

  1. Image titled Say Happy Birthday in Japanese Step 01
    Tell friends "tanjoubi omedetou." This is a casual, informal way of telling someone “happy birthday.”
    • Only use this expression with people you are familiar with and those whom you are able to speak informally. Generally speaking, this includes friends, most classmates, most children, and most siblings or younger cousins.
    • Avoid using this with anyone who has a higher status than you, such as a teacher, supervisor, stranger, or elder. Etiquette is very important within the Japanese culture, and using this informal phrase could be interpreted as rude if you say it to someone of greater status.
    • Tanjoubi means birthday.
    • Omedetou means “congratulations.”
    • The kanji for tanjoubi omedetou is 誕生日おめでとう.
    • You should pronounce the phrase as tan-joh-bee oh-meh-de-toh.
  2. Image titled Say Happy Birthday in Japanese Step 02
    Be more formal with "tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu." This phrase is more formal and can be used in as a polite or sincere way of wishing happy birthday.
    • This is the phrase you should use with anyone with a higher social status, including elders, teachers, supervisors, and strangers.
    • You can also use this phrase with peers and people you are familiar with in order to emphasize greater sincerity.
    • Gozaimasu means something along the lines of “very much” making this phrase similar wishing someone a “very happy birthday.”
    • The full kanji for this expression is 誕生日おめでとうございます.
    • Pronounce this expression as tan-joh-bee oh-meh-de-toh goh-za-i-mahs.

Part 2
Related Terminology

  1. Image titled Say Happy Birthday in Japanese Step 03
    Simply say "omedetou" or "omedetou gozaimasu."[1] While these are not birthday-specific expressions, they are congratulatory in nature and can be used to express well wishes on someone's birthday.
    • Omedetou means “congratulations." Use this simplified form with people you are familiar with or with those who have a social status similar or below yours. This includes friends, classmates, and young children.
    • The hiragana for omedetou is おめでとう. Pronounce the term as oh-meh-de-toh.
    • Gozaimasu is a way of emphasizing formality or sincerity, making omedetou gozaimasu appropriate to use with elders, teachers, supervisors, and anyone else whose social status is above your own.
    • The hiragana for omedetou gozaimasu is おめでとうございます. Pronounce the expression as oh-meh-de-toh goh-za-i-mahs.
  2. Image titled Say Happy Birthday in Japanese Step 04
    Exclaim "yatta!"[2] This is a term used to express excitement, similar to the English “yay!”
    • The kana for yatta is やった.
    • Pronounce yatta as yah-tah.
  3. Image titled Say Happy Birthday in Japanese Step 05
    Use "okurebasenagara" when the wishes are late.[3] This word can be translated to mean “belated.”
    • When wishing someone a belated happy birthday, say “okurebasenagara tanjoubi omedetou.”
    • The kanji and kana for okurebasenagara is 遅ればせながら.
    • Pronounce okurebasenagara as oh-koo-reh-bah-say-nah-gha-la.
  4. Image titled Say Happy Birthday in Japanese Step 06
    Ask for someone's age with "Toshi wa ikutsu desu ka?" This translates roughly into “how old are you?”[4]
    • Toshi (年) can mean "year" or "age."
    • Wa (は) means "the."
    • Ikutsu (いくつ) means "some."
    • Desu ka (ですか) means "is."
    • Pronounce the entire question as toh-shee wah ee-koot-soo des kah.
  5. Image titled Say Happy Birthday in Japanese Step 07
    Find out when someone's birthday is with "Tanjoubi wa itsu desu ka?" This question roughly means, “When is your birthday?”
    • Tanjoubi (誕生日) means “birthday,” wa (は) means “the,” and desu ka (ですか) means “is.”
    • Itsu (何時) means “when.”
    • Pronounce the entire question as tan-joh-bee wah eet-soo des kah.

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