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How to Say Happy New Year in Japanese & New Year Wishes

Learn all the Japanese New Year wishes online, in your own time, on any device! Join JapanesePod101 for a special Japanese New Year celebration!

How to Say Happy New Year in Japanese

Can you relate to the year passing something like this: “January, February, March - December!”? Many people do! Quantum physics teaches us that time is relative, and few experiences illustrate this principle as perfectly as when we reach the end of a year. To most of us, it feels like the old one has passed in the blink of an eye, while the new year lies ahead like a very long journey! However, New Year is also a time to celebrate beginnings, and to say goodbye to what has passed. This is true in every culture, no matter when New Year is celebrated.

So, how do you say Happy New Year in Japanese? Let a native teach you! At JapanesePod101, you will learn how to correctly greet your friends over New Year, and wish them well with these Japanese New Year wishes!

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Table of Contents

  1. How to Celebrate New Year in Japan
  2. Must-Know Japanese Words & Phrases for the New Year!
  3. Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions in Japanese
  4. Inspirational New Year Quotes
  5. Inspirational Language Learning Quotes
  6. How To Say Happy New Year in 31 Languages
  7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn Japanese

But let’s start with some vocabulary for Japanese New Year celebrations, very handy for conversations.

1. How to Celebrate New Year in Japan

On New Year’s Day, the whole world celebrates the start of the year. While the calendar marks only January 1st as a holiday, in Japan we celebrate the period from the 1st to the 3rd, known as 三が日 (Sanganichi). Some companies and stores close during this time, and a number of unique events and customs take place. When you meet someone for the first time in the new year, be sure to greet them with, “明けましておめでとうございます。(Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu!)” That’s Japanese for “Happy New Year!”

You’ll also hear 良いお年を。(Yoi o-toshi o.) at the end of the year and it’s often translated into “Happy New Year!” in English. The difference between 明けましておめでとうございます。 and 良いお年を。is, 良いお年を。is only used before the New Year and 明けましておめでとうございます。 is used in the New Year. 謹賀新年 (きんがしんねん; kingashinnen) means ‘Happy New Year’ too but it’s a written form so you’ll only see it on your 年賀状 (ねんがじょう; nengajou), which is a Japanese New Year’s card.

Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question: what do you call the morning of New Year’s Day?

If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.

New Year’s Day celebrations generally begin with the first sunrise of the year, with people worshiping at homes, the beach, and mountains. 雑煮(zōni) - “rice cakes boiled with vegetables” - and おせち(osechi) dishes - “festive New Year’s food” — are eaten on New Year’s Day. 雑煮 (zōni) is a soup containing rice cakes, the seasoning of which depends on the family and region. There’s a saying that goes, “Just like a rice cake stretches, so shall one’s lifespan.” So, this soup is eaten with the hope for longevity. おせち(osechi) dishes are also eaten with the wish of having a happy and safe year. In order to seek blessings for the year, families and friends wear their finest clothes and visit a shrine.

In Japan, it’s customary to send New Year’s cards to friends or acquaintances who have helped you in the previous year. In the cards, we write greetings and hopes for the year, as well as information on how the person or family is getting along. A picture of an animal representing the zodiac sign for the new year is also included. In the past, people would either visit the homes of their acquaintances, or receive acquaintances as guests in their homes with the New Year’s custom called お年始 (o-nenshi). This custom has been simplified gradually to the point where only greeting cards are exchanged.

Children receive お年玉 (o-toshidama), meaning “New Year’s gifts” from their parents, grandparents, relatives, and parents’ friends. The traditional gift is money. Since this only happens at New Year, children get very excited about it. お年玉 (o-toshidama) are placed into a paper envelope called an お年玉袋 (o-toshidama bukuro). The average amount given to an elementary school-aged child is around 3,000 to 5,000 yen. As they grow older, middle school-aged children receive around 5,000 yen, and those in high school receive around 10,000 yen.

Here’s our fun fact for the day! Did you know that while people go to a shrine to pray during New Year’s Day, some visit the shrine at midnight as time passes from the previous year to the New Year? This practice of making a midnight visit is called 二年参り(ninen-mairi).

Now it’s time to answer our quiz question: what do you call the morning of New Year’s Day?

The correct answer is 元旦 (gantan). Two characters form this word. The second character, 旦 (tan), is made up of the character for “sun,” with a single horizontal line drawn under it. With these pictographs combined, the character represents the sun rising over the horizon. And taken together, the two characters 元旦 (gantan) represent the morning of January 1st.

Happy New Year!
明けましておめでとうございます。
Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu!

2. Must-Know Japanese Words & Phrases for the New Year!

Japanese Words & Phrases for the New Year

1- Year


toshi

This is pretty self-explanatory. Most countries follow a Gregorian calendar, which has approximately 365 days in a year, while in some cultures, other year designations are also honored. Therefore, New Year’s day in Japan could fall on a different day than in your country. When do you celebrate New Year?

2- Midnight

真夜中
mayonaka

The point in time when a day ends and a new one starts. Many New Year celebrants prefer to stay awake till midnight, and greet the new annum as it breaks with fanfare and fireworks!

3- New Year’s Day

元日
Ganjitsu

In most countries, the new year is celebrated for one whole day. On the Gregorian calendar, this falls on January 1st. On this day, different cultures engage in festive activities, like parties, parades, big meals with families and many more.

4- Party

パーティ
pāti

A party is most people’s favorite way to end the old year, and charge festively into the new one! We celebrate all we accomplished in the old year, and joyfully anticipate what lies ahead.

5- Dancing

踊り
odori

Usually, when the clock strikes midnight and the New Year officially begins, people break out in dance! It is a jolly way to express a celebratory mood with good expectations for the year ahead. Also, perhaps, that the old year with its problems has finally passed! Dance parties are also a popular way to spend New Year’s Eve in many places.

6- Champagne

シャンパン
shanpan

Originating in France, champagne is a bubbly, alcoholic drink that is often used to toast something or someone during celebrations.

7- Fireworks

花火
hanabi

These are explosives that cause spectacular effects when ignited. They are popular for announcing the start of the new year with loud noises and colorful displays! In some countries, fireworks are set off to scare away evil spirits. In others, the use of fireworks is forbidden in urban areas due to their harmful effect on pets. Most animals’ hearing is much more sensitive than humans’, so this noisy display can be very frightful and traumatising to them.

8- Countdown

カウントダウン
kaunto daun

This countdown refers to New Year celebrants counting the seconds, usually backward, till midnight, when New Year starts - a great group activity that doesn’t scare animals, and involves a lot of joyful shouting when the clock strikes midnight!

9- New Year’s Holiday

正月
shōgatsu

In many countries, New Year’s Day is a public holiday - to recuperate from the party the previous night, perhaps! Families also like to meet on this day to enjoy a meal and spend time together.

10- Confetti

紙吹雪
kamifubuki

In most Western countries, confetti is traditionally associated with weddings, but often it is used as a party decoration. Some prefer to throw it in the air at the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

11- New Year’s Eve

大晦日
ōmisoka

This is the evening before New Year breaks at midnight! Often, friends and family meet for a party or meal the evening before, sometimes engaging in year-end rituals. How are you planning to give your New Year greetings in 2018?

12- Toast

乾杯
kanpai

A toast is a type of group-salutation that involves raising your glass to drink with others in honor of something or someone. A toast to the new year is definitely in order!

13- Resolution

決意
ketsui

Those goals or intentions you hope to, but seldom keep in the new year! Many people consider the start of a new year to be the opportune time for making changes or plans. Resolutions are those intentions to change, or the plans. It’s best to keep your resolutions realistic so as not to disappoint yourself!

14- Parade

パレード
parēdo

New Year celebrations are a huge deal in some countries! Parades are held in the streets, often to celebratory music, with colorful costumes and lots of dancing. Parades are like marches, only less formal and way more fun. At JapanesePod101, you can engage in forums with natives who can tell you what Japanese New Year celebrations are like!

3. Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions

So, you learned the Japanese word for ‘resolution’. Fabulous! Resolutions are those goals and intentions that we hope to manifest in the year that lies ahead. The beginning of a new year serves as a good marker in time to formalise these. Some like to do it in writing, others only hold these resolutions in their hearts. Here are our Top 10 New Year’s resolutions at JapanesePod101 - what are yours?

Learn these phrases and impress your Japanese friends with your vocabulary.

New Year's Resolutions

1- Read more

本をたくさん読む。
Hon o takusan yomu.

Reading is a fantastic skill that everyone can benefit from. You’re a business person? Apparently, successful business men and women read up to 60 books a year. This probably excludes fiction, so better scan your library or Amazon for the top business reads if you plan to follow in the footsteps of the successful! Otherwise, why not make it your resolution to read more Japanese in the new year? You will be surprised by how much this will improve your Japanese language skills!

2- Spend more time with family

家族と多くの時間を過ごす。
Kazoku to ōku no jikan o sugosu.

Former US President George Bush’s wife, Barbara Bush, was quoted as having said this: “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, a parent.” This is very true! Relationships are often what gives life meaning, so this is a worthy resolution for any year.

3- Lose weight

やせる。
Yaseru.

Hands up, how many of you made this new year’s resolution last year too…?! This is a notoriously difficult goal to keep, as it takes a lot of self discipline not to eat unhealthily. Good luck with this one, and avoid unhealthy fad diets!

4- Save money

お金を貯める。
O-kane o tameru.

Another common and difficult resolution! However, no one has ever been sorry when they saved towards reaching a goal. Make it your resolution to save money to upgrade your subscription to JapanesePod101’s Premium PLUS option in the new year - it will be money well spent!

5- Quit smoking

禁煙する。
Kin’ensuru.

This is a resolution that you should definitely keep, or your body could punish you severely later! Smoking is a harmful habit with many hazardous effects on your health. Do everything in your power to make this resolution come true in the new year, as your health is your most precious asset.

6- Learn something new

習い事を始める。
Naraigoto o hajimeru.

Science has proven that learning new skills can help keep brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay! It can even slow down the progression of the disease. So, keep your brain healthy by learning to speak a new language, studying towards a qualification, learning how to sew, or how to play chess - no matter how old you are, the possibilities are infinite!

7- Drink less

お酒の量を減らす。
O-sake no ryō o herasu.

This is another health resolution that is good to heed any time of the year. Excessive drinking is associated with many diseases, and its effect can be very detrimental to good relationships too. Alcohol is a poison and harmful for the body in large quantities!

8- Exercise regularly

運動の習慣を身につける。
Undō no shūkan o minitsukeru.

This resolution goes hand-in-hand with ‘Lose weight’! An inactive body is an unhealthy and often overweight one, so give this resolution priority in the new year.

9- Eat healthy

健康的な食生活を心がける。
Kenkō-teki na shokuseikatsu o kokorogakeru.

If you stick with this resolution, you will lose weight and feel better in general. It is a very worthy goal to have!

10- Study Japanese with JapanesePod101

JapanesePod101.comで日本語を勉強するつもりです。
Japanīzu poddo ichi maru ichi dotto komu de Nihongo o benkyō suru tsumori desu.

Of course! You can only benefit from learning Japanese, especially with us! Learning how to speak Japanese can keep your brain healthy, it can widen your circle of friends, and improve your chances to land a dream job anywhere in the world. JapanesePod101 makes it easy and enjoyable for you to stick to this resolution.

4. Inspirational New Year Quotes

Inspirational Quotes

Everyone knows that it is sometimes very hard to stick to resolutions, and not only over New Year. The reasons for this vary from person to person, but all of us need inspiration every now and then! A good way to remain motivated is to keep inspirational quotes near as reminders that it’s up to us to reach our goals.

Click here for quotes that will also work well in a card for a special Japanese new year greeting!

Make decorative notes of these in Japanese, and keep them close! Perhaps you could stick them above your bathroom mirror, or on your study’s wall. This way you not only get to read Japanese incidentally, but also remain inspired to reach your goals! Imagine feeling like giving up on a goal, but reading this quote when you go to the bathroom: “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” What a positive affirmation!

5. Inspirational Language Learning Quotes

Language Learning Quotes

Still undecided whether you should enroll with JapanesePod101 to learn a new language? There’s no time like the present to decide! Let the following Language Learning Quotes inspire you with their wisdom.

Click here to read the most inspirational Language Learning Quotes!

As legendary President Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” So, learning how to say Happy New Year in Japanese could well be a way into someone special’s heart for you! Let this year be the one where you to learn how to say Happy New Year, and much more, in Japanese - it could open many and unexpected doors for you.

6. How To Say Happy New Year in 31 Languages

Here’s a lovely bonus for you! Why stop with Japanese - learn how to say Happy New Year in 31 other languages too! Watch this video and learn how to pronounce these New Year’s wishes like a native in under two minutes.

7. Why Enrolling with JapanesePod101 Would Be the Perfect New Year’s Gift to Yourself!

If you are unsure how to celebrate the New Year, why not give yourself a huge gift, and enroll to learn Japanese! With more than 12 years of experience behind us, we know that JapanesePod101 would be the perfect fit for you. There are so many reasons for this!

Learning Paths

  • Custom-tailored Learning Paths: Start learning Japanese at the level that you are. We have numerous Learning Pathways, and we tailor them just for you based on your goals and interests! What a boon!
  • Marked Progress and Fresh Learning Material Every Week: We make new lessons available every week, with an option to track your progress. Topics are culturally appropriate and useful, such as “Learning how to deliver negative answers politely to a business partner.” Our aim is to equip you with Japanese that makes sense!
  • Multiple Learning Tools: Learn in fun, easy ways with resources such 1,000+ video and audio lessons, flashcards, detailed PDF downloads, and mobile apps suitable for multiple devices!
  • Fast Track Learning Option: If you’re serious about fast-tracking your learning, Premium Plus would be the perfect way to go! Enjoy perks such as personalised lessons with ongoing guidance from your own, native-speaking teacher, and one-on-one learning on your mobile app! You will not be alone in your learning. Weekly assignments with non-stop feedback, answers and corrections will ensure speedy progress.
  • Fun and Easy: Keeping the lessons fun and easy-to-learn is our aim, so you will stay motivated by your progress!

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There’s no reason not to go big in 2018 by learning Japanese with JapanesePod101. Just imagine how the world can open up for you!

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