Be Careful to Say Happy New Year in Japan?!

The year 2021 is coming to an end and Japan has recently been filled with the atmosphere of the end of the year. What will you say to your friends and family when the year 2022 arrives? If it were me, I would say Happy New Year! But in Japan, the phrase “Happy New Year” cannot be said casually. Do you know why?

There is a time limit in Japanese

In fact, just like the English words “Good morning”, “Good afternoon” and “Good night”, there are many words in Japanese that cannot be separated from time. For example, if you’re meeting someone before 10:00 a.m., it’s generally accepted that you should say:

(ohayo- gozaimasu)
Good morning.

After 10 o’clock, say to someone:

(kon nichi wa)
Good day/ Hello.

Then wait until the time is past 18:00 pm and switch to.

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(kon ban wa)
Good evening.

If you don’t say hello according to the time, Japanese people may think you don’t have common sense.

How do you say Happy New Year correctly?

So let’s go back to the topic of Happy New Year. There are actually several ways to say Happy New Year in Japanese, and depending on the time of year, there are different ways to say it. Generally speaking, it is distinguished by whether it is before or after New Year’s Day (January 1 on the Western calendar).

Before New Year’s Day

If the New Year has not yet arrived, it is common for people to wish each other a Happy New Year before the New Year, the last time they part at the end of the year. The sentence used by Japanese people at this time is.

よい おとし を おむかえ ください!
(yoi otoshi wo omukae kudasai)

The direct translation is “I wish you a good New Year”. You can get a sense of the Japanese context through the English, as it is a wish for something that has not yet arrived, and therefore needs to be used at the end of the year.

If it’s a greeting between friends, you can leave out the salutation and other parts afterward and just say:

よい おとし を!
(yoi otoshi wo)

This will be OK.

After the New Year

When January 1 comes, the Japanese will replace their greeting to each other with this phrase

あけまして おめでとう ございます!
(akemashite omedeto- gozaimasu)


Akemashite refers to the dawn of day, the renewal of all things, and the beginning of a new year. For example, sometimes it is also said that night is brightening, meaning that it is dawn, or that the plum rains are brightening, meaning that the season is over.

おめでとう ございます is a very common blessing, which can be translated directly to mean congratulations. It is used not only for New Year but also for birthday:

(otanjoubi omedeto- gozaimasu)
Happy birthday to you.


Therefore, the phrase “明けましておめでとうございます” has the meaning of “The New Year has finally come, bless you! Therefore, it should only be used when the New Year has already arrived. Japanese people especially like to send this blessing to their friends and relatives at the New Year’s Eve, when the New Year’s bell rings. This phrase is also often used as a greeting in New Year’s cards.

Another phrase that is often used to say Happy New Year is

しんねん おめでとう ございます。
(shinnen omedeto- gozaimasu)
Congratulations on the New Year.

This phrase can only be used after the arrival of the new year.

If you are greeting friends, as you would say Happy New Year before, you can remove the last salutation and use it as follows

akemashite omedideとう!
(akemashite omedeto-)

しんねん おめでとう。
(shinnen omedeto-)

This will be OK.

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