In Japan, greeting people with appropriate Japanese words is very important. The New Year, in particular, is the most important time of the year in Japan, equal to the Christmas or the yuletide season in the West. So, knowing how to say Happy New Year in Japanese is probably the most important phrase you can learn if you plan to visit this country, which is steeped in social custom and norms.
Japanese New Year Background
Before learning the myriad of ways to say Happy New Year in Japanese, it's important to understand the significance the new year has in this Asian country. The Japanese new year is celebrated for the first three days-or up to the first two weeks-of ichi-gatsu (January). During this time, businesses and schools close, and people to return to their families. The Japanese decorate their houses, just after they do a complete house cleaning.
Saying Happy New Year in Japanese can involve giving good wishes on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, but they can also cover greetings for the coming year that you might express until mid-January, and they can even include phrases you would use when reconnecting with family or acquaintances after long absences.
How to Say Happy New Year in Japanese
Use the following phrases for saying Happy New Year on Jan. 1 through Jan. 3, and even up to the middle of January. The transliteration for the following phrases, which mean "Happy New Year," is listed on the left, followed by an indication as to whether the greeting is formal or informal, followed by the greeting written in Kanji, the most important Japanese alphabet. Click on the transliteration links to hear how to correctly pronounce the phrases.
- Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. (formal): あけましておめでとうございます。
- Akemashite omedetou. (casual): あけましておめでとう。
New Year's Celebration
At the end of the year, on Dec. 31 or even up to a few days before, use the following phrases to wish someone a Happy New Year in Japanese. The phrases literally translate as, "I wish you will have a good new year."
- Yoi otoshi o omukae kudasai. (formal):よいお年をお迎えください。
- Yoi otoshi o! (casual): よいお年を！
Seeing Someone After a Long Absence
As noted, the new year is a time when family and friends reunite, sometimes even after years or decades of separation. If you are seeing someone after a long period of separation, you should use a different Japanese New Year's greeting when you see your friend, acquaintance, or family member. The first phrase literally all translates as, "I haven't seen you in a long time."
- Gobusata shite imasu. (very formal): ご無沙汰しています。
The following phrases, even in formal usage, translate as, "Long time, no see."
- Ohisashiburi desu. (formal): お久しぶりです。
- Hisashiburi! (casual): 久しぶり！
To reply to Gobusata shite imasu use the phrase kochira koso (こちら こそ), which means "same here." In casual conversations-such as if a friend is telling you Hisashiburi!-simply repeat Hisashiburi! or Hisashiburi ne. The word ne (ね) is a particle, which translates roughly into English as "right?" or "don't you agree?"