Did you know that saying “Happy Birthday” in Japanese is simple? The phrase “Tanjoubi Omedetou” simply translates to “Happy birthday.” However, there’s more! In Japan, giving the celebrator a small gift or money on their birthday is customary.
So if you want to impress your Japanese friends or colleagues, you can also say “Tanjoubi Omedetou Gozaimasu,” adding a more formal and polite tone. So next time you celebrate with your Japanese friends, don’t forget to wish them a heartfelt “Tanjoubi Omedetou!”
History of Birthday Celebrations in Japan
Historically, there is an ancient but interesting story behind singing the “Happy Birthday” song in Japanese culture. In Japan, a birthday party was not traditionally celebrated until after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Before then, ages were counted differently, and people tended to celebrate their “coming of age” at 20 instead of their actual birthdays.
During the American occupation of Japan after World War II, the concept of birthday celebrations and singing “Happy Birthday” in English was introduced. However, it was not until the 1970s that a Japanese version was created and gained widespread popularity.
Today, saying “Happy Birthday” in Japanese is easier than you think. All you need to learn is how to pronounce each word in Japanese. You will learn to say Happy Birthday – “Tanjoubi Omedetou” correctly. You may want to learn the practical ways here. Learning to speak Japanese for the first time is no joke, but you can learn it easily.
How to Sing Happy Birthday Song in Japanese
In Japan, they have their version of the happy birthday song called “Tanjoubi Omedetou,” and it goes like this:
- “Tanjoubi Omedetou” (Happy birthday)
- “Ookina ki ni natte” (Grow big and strong)
- “Ii ko ni natte” (Become a good person)
- “Ureshii koto bakari aru youni” (May good things always happen to you)
- “Tanjoubi Omedetou” (Happy birthday)
- “Omedetou Gozaimasu” (Congratulations)
Six Top Japanese Traditions on a Birthday Eve and What They Stand For
- Kazari-bina or decoration-hanging
Kazari-bina or decoration-hanging is a tradition where families hang decorations such as kadomatsu and shimenawa outside their house to welcome the new age of the birthday person. This tradition symbolizes a fresh start and good luck in the upcoming year.
- Otoso or sake tasting
Otoso or sake tasting is a tradition where families gather around the birthday person and drink otoso, a special type of sake that is believed to have medicinal benefits. This symbolizes good health in the upcoming year.
- Mei-Kuyo or rice scoop splitting
Mei-Kuyo, or rice scoop splitting, is a tradition where the birthday person breaks their rice scoop in half as an offering to appease any anger from the kitchen god. This symbolizes maintaining good relationships and harmony in the upcoming year.
- To-ji or pillow changing.
To-ji or pillow changing, is a tradition where the birthday person changes their pillow to a new one. This symbolizes getting rid of any negative energy and inviting good luck in sleep for the upcoming year.
- Toshi-koshi soba, or year-crossing noodles
Toshi-koshi soba, or year crossing noodles, is a tradition where families eat soba noodles on New Year’s Eve to symbolize longevity and long life. This can also be done for the same symbolism on the birthday person’s birthday eve.
- Tomodachi, or visiting friends
Tomodachi, or visiting friends, is a tradition where the birthday person visits their friends to express gratitude for their friendships. This symbolizes maintaining solid relationships in the upcoming year. Overall, these traditions all have the theme of wishing for good luck, health, and harmony in the upcoming year for the birthday person.
Fun Games and Activities That Will Help Add Spice to Your Japanese-Themed Birthday Party.
- Janken (Japanese Rock-Paper-Scissors).
This classic game is a staple at Japanese parties and can be used for various activities, such as determining who goes first in a board game or deciding who gets the last slice of cake. Guests can try their hand at traditional janken gestures or add a fun twist by dressing up in their chosen shape (rock, paper, or scissors).
What better way to celebrate a birthday than belting out some of your favorite tunes? Set up a karaoke machine and let guests take turns singing their hearts out to popular Japanese songs. For an added challenge, have them try singing in Japanese!
Impress your friends with paper folding skills by teaching them to make traditional Japanese origami figures such as cranes, flowers, and boxes. You can even use the finished pieces as party décor or use them to play games like “guess the origami figure.”
- Sake tasting
Take a break from the usual wine and beer and introduce your friends to the world of sake. Taste different varieties and see who can identify the subtle flavor differences.
- Japanese calligraphy
Give guests a crash course in Japanese calligraphy by teaching them how to write their names or phrases in kanji. Provide a stack of small cards or paper for them to practice on and take home as souvenirs.
Encourage guests to dress as their favorite Japanese characters or have a cosplay-themed costume party. You can even make it a competition and have a panel of judges determine the winner based on accuracy and creativity. Bonus points if they speak a few character lines!
Eight Other Useful Words at a Japanese Birthday
- おたんじょうびおめでとう (otanjoubi omedetou): Happy birthday
- お誕生日おめでとう (otanjoubii omedetou): Happy birthday
- プレゼント (purezento): present
- カード (kaado): card
- サプライズ (sapuraizu): surprise
- パーティー (paatii): party
- ケーキ (keeki): cake
- やすらぎ (yasuragi): peace, tranquillity (often used as a birthday wish for someone to have a peaceful and enjoyable birthday)
Popular Dishes Served on a Japanese Birthday
- Sashimi platter.
Consisting of fresh slices of raw fish, it is considered a luxurious dish and a symbol of celebration in Japan.
Lightly battered and fried seafood or vegetables, tempura is a popular dish for special occasions.
- Teriyaki chicken.
Marinated in a sweet and savory sauce, this dish can be easily prepared in large batches for a party.
- Sushi platter.
A combination of various sushi rolls, including but not limited to tuna, salmon, and eel.
- Steamed white rice.
A staple in any Japanese meal, and often served with other dishes as a side or base.
- Miso soup.
A traditional soup made from fermented soybean paste is often served as the last dish in a Japanese meal.
While these dishes may vary depending on personal preference or region, they are commonly seen at Japanese birthday celebrations. So, if you’re invited to one, be prepared for a delicious and festive feast!
5 Birthday Gift Ideas for Your Japanese Friends
When it comes to celebrating the birthday of your Japanese friend, you want to give them something that speaks about their culture and shows how much you appreciate them. To make your hunt for a perfect gift easier, here are 5 great ideas!
- Traditional Kimono.
A kimono is one of the most iconic pieces of clothing in Japan. It’s a traditional style of dress that will make your friend feel special on their birthday.
- Bento Box.
A bento box is a great gift for any Japanese food lover. It includes an assortment of delicious, high-quality meals that will make the perfect meal for them to enjoy on their special day.
- Tea Set.
A tea set is an essential part of Japanese culture; gifting it to your friend will show them how much you know about their traditions. It also makes for a beautiful display piece in any home.
- Origami Kit.
Origami has been a popular art form in Japan for centuries, and gifting it to your friend shows them you appreciate their culture. Get a kit that contains origami paper and complete instructions so they can start on their creations.
- Anime Merchandise.
Anime is one of Japan’s most popular forms of entertainment, and gifting some anime merchandise to your friend will show them that you understand their interests. There’s an abundance of merchandise available online, so you can easily find something they’ll love.
15 Other Celebratory Phrases in Japanese and English Translation
- Otanjoubi omedetou – Happy birthday
- Tanjoubi omedetou – Happy birthday (more formal)
- Tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu – Happy birthday (very formal)
- Otanjoubi niwa totemo ureshii desu – I am very happy about your birthday
- Otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu, yoroshiku Onegai shimasu – Happy birthday, please treat me kindly (formal)
- Tanjoubi niwa kanari ureshii desu – I am quite happy about your birthday
- Otanjoubi omedetou, yoroshiku onegai shimasu – Happy birthday, please treat me kindly (informal)
- Tanjoubi ni wa subarashii toki wo issho ni iraremasu you ni – May we have a wonderful time together on your birthday
- Otanjoubi niwa subarashii toki wo issho ni iraremasu you ni – May we have a wonderful time together on your birthday (informal)
- Tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu, yoroshiku onegai shimasu, yume ga kanau you ni – Happy birthday, please treat me kindly, may your dreams come true (very formal)
- Otanjoubi hatsukoi – First birthday
- Tanjoubi sain – Birthday gift
- Otanjoubi asobi – Birthday party
- Otanjoubi utage – Birthday celebration
- Tanjoubi supootsu – Birthday sport (such as a birthday game or activity)
Don’t let “happy birthday” be the only thing you can say on someone’s special day! Show off your language skills and impress your friends with these 15 different ways to say “happy birthday” in Japanese. From formal to casual, these phrases will make any birthday celebration even more special. And don’t forget a small gift or gesture to make it a happy birthday for everyone involved truly.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Saying Happy Birthday in Japanese
Yes, of course! Birthdays are a big deal in Japan, and people of all nationalities are welcome to join in on the fun physically or virtually through their mobile devices.
The standard ways of celebrating Japanese love include celebrating with families and friends. It’s common for families to have a small celebration at home with a cake and presents, but many Japanese also like to go out for a special birthday dinner with friends or co-workers.
Absolutely, Yes! It’s polite to bring a small gift or bouquet when attending a birthday celebration in Japan, as it is popular in Western culture.
Japanese people prefer to eat their favorite foods on their birthdays. The birthday person often gets to choose their favorite meal for the celebration, but having a cake with candles and making a birthday wish is also popular.
Yes. In Japan, people often have a big celebration for their 20th birthday, 30th, 40th, 50th birthday, 60th birthday, 70th birthday, 77th birthday, 88th birthday, and 99th birthday. These milestones are called “kiju” in Japanese, and the celebrations often include special rituals or gifts.
The traditional Japanese saying, “Happy Birthday” is “Tanjoubi Omedetou.” However, if you want to add flair to your birthday wishes, you can also say “Kanpai! Tanjoubi Omedetou!” This translates to “Cheers! Happy Birthday!” Another fun option is “Otanjou-bi wa totemo ureshii desu!” which means “I am thrilled it’s your birthday!” So next time you celebrate a birthday with your Japanese friends, impress them with one of these phrases and truly make it a happy birthday celebration.