There are plenty of reasons why you would want to know how to say “Happy Birthday” in Japanese. Whether you want to wish a happy birthday to a close Japanese friend or write a formal birthday card to your Japanese boss, I have covered all the important birthday wishes for you in this post. So let’s learn how you wish someone a happy birthday in Japanese.
The formal phrase to wish somebody “Happy Birthday” in Japanese is “O-tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu”. In Kanji and Hiragana, it is written “お誕生日おめでとうございます”. For friends, you can use the more casual “Tanjoubi omedetou” (誕生日おめでとう) or “Happii Baasudee” (ハッピーバースデー) which is popular among younger people.
With these 3 phrases, you are already good to go. However, when you are celebrating the birthday of your significant other or your best friend I’m sure you want to be able to say “Happy birthday” in a more special. So below I have more phrases including 10 beautiful birthday wishes that you can add to make your birthday greetings more meaningful and personal.
How to Say “Happy Birthday” in Japanese
In order to find the most common and popular Japanese phrases to wish someone a “Happy Birthday“, I have looked up hundreds of birthday wishes and birthday cards written in Japanese. I also reached out to my Japanese friends and asked them about their personal favorites and these are the 5 most popular ways to congratulate someone on their birthday:
- Otanjoubi omedetou
Happy Birthday (casual)
- Otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu
Happy Birthday (formal)
- Happi Baasudee
Happy Birthday (loan word)
- Subarashii tanjobi ni narimasu you ni
I wish you a wonderful birthday
- (Age)-sai no tanjobi omedetou
Happy (age)th Birthday
In case you are unsure which one you should choose, I recommend you to use the standard “Otanjoubi omedetou” or “Tanjoubi omedetou” with your friend. For your senior at school or your boss/coworker at work, o the other hand, you should use the formal and politer “Otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu“.
If you want to address the person by name you can say “(name)-san otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu” or “(name)-chan/kun tanjoubi omedetou“. Which suffix you should choose depends on the gender of the person and how close you are. San (さん) is politer, while chan (ちゃん) is for close female friends, and kun (くん) is for close male friends.
On a birthday card, you can add へ (e) after the person’s name and suffix to say “To...” or “Dear…“. And you should end the card with your name plus より (yori) which translates as “From…” or “Sincerely…” or “Best wishes…“.
- (name)-san, otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu
Happy Birthday Mr./Mrs…
- (name)-chan/kun, tanjoubi omedetou
Happy Birthday …
- (name)-san e, otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu
Dear Mr./Mrs. …, Happy Birthday!
- (name)-chan/kun e, tanjoubi omedetou
Dear …, Happy Birthday!
1. Otanjoubi Omedetou
This is the most basic and common phrase. Tanjoubi (誕生日) is the Japanese word for “birthday” and Omedetou (おめでとう) translates as “Congratulations“, “Best wishes“, or “All the best“. Omedetou can be used in all kinds of situations to congratulate someone or celebrate a special moment, day, or achievement in someone’s life.
The O (お) added before the word “Tanjoubi” is an honorific prefix that can be added to nouns and will make you sound more polite and respectful. So you actually do not have to use it. To your close friend, you can also just say “Tanjoubi omedetou” (誕生日おめでとう).
Personally, I prefer to use the slightly politer version, though.
English: Happy Birthday (casual)
Kana: おたんじょうび おめでとう
2. Otanjoubi Omedetou Gozaimasu
You can make the phrase even politer and more formal by adding Gozaimasu (ございます) at the end. Explaining the exact meaning of this word needs an entire post on its own. However, in short, it is an extremely polite expression that is related to the Japanese copula desu (です) and translates as “to be” or “to exit“. When added it turns an expression or phrase into its politer version.
O-tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu
English: Happy Birthday (formal)
Kana: おたんじょうび おめでとう ございます
3. Happi Baasudee
I hope this sounds and looks familiar, since this is the Japanized version of the English phrase “Happy Birthday“. Happi (ハッピー) is “Happy” and Baasudee (バースデー) is “Birthday“. Just pronounced in a Japanese way.
It is probably as commonly used as the original Japanese phrase “Otanjoubi omedetou” since using loan words is so popular in Japan – especially among the younger generation.
English: Happy Birthday
4. Subarashii Tanjobi ni narimasu you ni
This is a phrase that is often used in combination with Happi baasudee (ハッピーバースデー) as a follow-up birthday greeting. Subarashii (素晴らしい) means “wonderful“, “splendid“, or “magnificent“, but it can also be translated as “fantastic”.
The expression ~ni narimasu you ni (〜になりますように) is a common phrase to express a wish or desire and translates as “I wish…” or “I hope…“. So in English, the phrase could either be “I wish you a wonderful birthday” or “I hope you will have a great birthday“.
Instead of Subarashii (素晴らしい) you could also use the word 素敵な (suteki na) which means “nice“, “wonderful“, “great“, or “fantastic“.
Subarashii tanjobi ni narimasu you ni
English: I wish you a wonderful birthday
Kana: すばらしい たんじょうび に なります よう に
5. 〇〇Sai no Tanjobi Omedetou
If you want to congratulate someone on their round birthday or include the person’s age this phrase will come in handy! Sai (歳) means “-years old” and No (の) is a Japanese particle that shows possession and is used to connect two nouns or clauses.
Since explaining how to count in Japanese and how to say a person’s age is also too much for this post, here are just a few examples for the round birthdays:
- 10-years old is Jussai (10歳、じゅっさい)
- 20-years old is Hatachi (20歳、はたち)
- 30-years old is San-jussai (30歳、さんじゅっさい)
- 40-years old is Yon-jussai (40歳、よんじゅっさい)
- 50-years old is Go-jussai (50歳、ごじゅっさい)
- 60-years old is Roku-jussai (60歳、ろくじゅっさい)
- 70-years old is Nana-jussai (70歳、ななじゅっさい)
- 80-years old is Hachi-jussai (80歳、はちじゅっさい)
- 90-years old is Kyuu-jussai (90歳、きゅうじゅっさい)
- 100-years old is Hyaku-sai (100歳、ひゃくさい)
So “Happy 30th Birthday” would be “San-jussai no tanjobi omedetou” (30歳の誕生日おめでとう) and “Happy 100th Birthday” would be “Hyaku-sai no tanjobi omedetou” (100歳の誕生日おめでとう), for example. Also, be careful with “Happy 20th Birthday” because it has an irregular reading without “sai“. So the phrase becomes “Hatachi no tanjobi omedetou” (20歳の誕生日おめでとう).
Of course, you can also say it more politely by adding Gozaimasu (ございます) at the end. 〇〇sai no tanjobi omedetou gozaimasu (〇〇歳の誕生日おめでとうございます).
〇〇sai no tanjobi omedetou
English: Happy 〇〇th Birthday
Kana: 〇〇さい の たんじょうび おめでとう
10 Beautiful Birthday Wishes in Japanese
After wishing a “Happy Birthday” with one of the basic phrases we have just learned you can add a personal touch to your birthday greeting and make it more meaningful by adding one or several of the beautiful Japanese birthday wishes below.
1. Suteki na Ichinichi o
This is one of my favorite phrases and I use it all the time when I wish someone a Happy birthday. Ichinichi (一日 or 1日) means “day” or “one whole day“. The phrase can be translated as “I hope you will have a wonderful day” or “I wish you a wonderful day“.
Instead of Suteki na (素敵な) you can also say Subarashii (素晴らしい) or Tanoshii (楽しい) which best translates as “fun“.
- Suteki na ichinichi o
- Subarashii ichinichi o
- Tanoshii ichinichi o
Suteki na ichinichi o
English: I hope you will have a wonderful day
Kana: すてき な いちにち を
2. Suteki na Otanjobi o Sugoshite Kudasai
Sugoshite Kudasai (過ごしてください) means “please spend” or “please have“. So this phrase can be translated as “Please have a fantastic birthday” or “I hope you will have a great birthday“. Same as with the birthday wish above you can exchange Suteki na (素敵な) with one of the other words.
Suteki na o-tanjobi o sugoshite kudasai
English: I hope that you will have a fantastic birthday
Kana: すてき な おたんじょうび を すごして ください
3. Subarashii Ichinen ni Narimasu You ni
While Ichinichi (一日) means one day you can also wish a wonderful year by saying Ichinen (一年 or 1年). Some of the possible translations for this phrase are “I hope it will be a wonderful year for you“, “May this year be a wonderful one for you“, or “Wishing you a wonderful year ahead“.
This is a phrase that sounds quite formal so it is good to use it with your boss or coworker. Another (maybe slightly more casual) version is Happi na ichinen ni narimasu you ni (ハッピーな一年になりますように) which means “I hope you will have a happy year“.
Subarashii ichinen ni narimasu you ni
English: May this year be a wonderful one for you
Kana: すばらしい いちねん に なります よう に
4. Anata no Negai ga Subete Kanaimasu You ni
Negai (願い) means “wish” and Kanaimasu you ni (叶いますように) means “I hope…will come true” or “I wish…will come true“. I translated it as “May all your wishes come true“, but it can also be “I hope all of your wishes will come true“.
Anata no negai ga subete kanaimasu you ni
English: May all your wishes come true
Kana: あなた の ねがいがすべてかないますように
5. Suteki na Ichinen ni Naru Koto o Kokoro Kara Negattemasu
Kokoro kara negattemasu (心から願ってます) translates as “from the bottom of my heart“. Therefore it is a phrase I would only use with your significant other or a really, really close friend.
Suteki na ichinen ni naru koto o kokoro kara negattemasu
English: From the bottom of my heart I hope you will have a wonderful year
Kana: すてき な いちねん に なる こと を こころ から ねがってます
6. Kono Ichinen ga Suteki na Hibi ni Narimasu You ni
Suteki na hibi (素敵な日々) means “beautiful days” but you can also think of it as “wonderful time“. So if we translate it less literally this phrase means “I hope you will have a wonderful time this year” or “I hope this year will be a wonderful one for you“.
Kono ichinen ga suteki na hibi ni narimasu you ni
English: May this year be filled with beautiful days
Kana: この いちねん が すてき な ひび に なります よう に
7. Kore Kara mo Douzo O-Genki de Ite Kudasai
O-Genki de ite kudasai (お元気でいてください) means “please stay healthy” and Kore kara mo (これからも) means “(even) after this” or “keep…after this“. Directly translated the phrase means “I hope you will stay healthy after this” or “Please continue to stay healthy (even) after this“. However, we wouldn’t use this kind of expression in English so below is a better translation.
Kore kara mo douzo o-genki de ite kudasai
English: Please take care of yourself and stay healthy
Kana: これ から も どうぞ おげんき で いて ください
8. Tabesugi Nomisugi ni Chuui shite, Genki de Ite Kudasai
This is one is a funny phrase so I don’t recommend you use it with your boss or a person you hardly know. Tabesugi (食べ過ぎ) means “eat too much” and Nomisugi (飲み過ぎ) means “drink too much“.
Chuui shite (注意して) is used as a warning or to give advice and can be translated as “Please be careful…” or just “Don’t….“. So this birthday wish is a fun reminder for your friend: “Do not overeat and overdrink on your birthday!“.
Tabesugi nomisugi chuui shite, genki de ite kudasai
English: Don’t eat too much, don’t drink too much, and stay healthy
Kana: たべすぎ のみすぎ に ちゅうい して、げんき で いて ください
9. Kore Kara no Jinsei ga Shiawase de Afuremasu You ni
Jinsei (人生) means “life“, Shiawase (幸せ) means “happiness“, “joy” or “good fortune“, and Afuremasu (あふれます) means “overflowing with” or “brimming over with“. So in other words you are wishing the person a life full of happiness or a life with an abundance of joy.
Kore kara no jinsei ga shiawase de afuremasu you ni
English: May your life overflow with happiness and joy
Kana: これ から の じんせい が しあわせ で あふれます よう に
10. Sono Yasashii Egao de Zutto Genki de Ite Kudasai ne
Egao (笑顔) means “smile” or “smiling face” and Yasashii (優しい) means “gentle” or “graceful“. Zutto (ずっと) is the Japanese word for “always” or “all the way“. You can also think of it as “forever“.
So while the literal translation is something along the lines of “Please smile gently and stay healthy always” a better English translation is “Keep on smiling a stay healthy” or “Please stay happy and healthy“.
Sono yasashii egao de zutto genki de ite kudasai ne
English: Keep that gentle smile of yours and stay healthy
Kana: その やさしい えがお で ずっと おげんき で いて ください ね