One of the best Japanese Kanji dictionaries.

Kanji used for “Happy Birthday!”

Kanji used for “Happy Birthday!”

in Japanese, it has to be a combination of Kanji and Hiragana. It is written 「お誕生日おめでとう!」.

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In Chinese, you can say it with just using Kanji (or Hànzì, Chinese characters) “生日快乐!” (Shēngrì kuàilè!) – 生日 meaning “birthday” and 快乐 meaning “congratulations.”

Birthday is written「誕生日」(tanjōbi) in Kanji. You need to put 「おめでとう」(omedetō) meaning “congratulations” after that.

「誕生」 is a noun for “birth,” and 「日」means “day.”

Unfortunately, there are no words for “Wish you all the best!”

Three ways to say, “Happy Birthday!” in Japanese

There are three major phrases to celebrate somebody’s birthday.

  1. お誕生日おめでとう!(Otanjōbi omedetō!) お誕生日おめでとう!
    This phrase is the simplest one to tell your congratulations. This「お」before「誕生日」is a prefix to make the noun sound more polite.
  2. お誕生日おめでとうございます!(Otanjōbi omedetō gozaimasu!) お誕生日おめでとうございます!
    Add「ございます」 after the phrase above to sound it more polite. You need to add it if you are saying to someone older than you, your boss, or anyone with a higher status than you. Otherwise, it sounds rude.
  3. ハッピーバースデー!(Happī bāsudē!) ハッピーバースデー!
    This is a phrase mimicking the English phrase “Happy Birthday” with Japanese sounds. It sounds pretty casual; therefore, use it to your friends or families, or someone close to you.

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Origins of the Kanji characters

The 延 part originally represented the sound “en,” however, this Kanji is no more pronounced as “en.” Onyomi of this Kanji used in modern Japanese is “tan” or “dan.”

It is usually used for nouns about birth, like「誕生」(tanjō, birth),「降誕」(kōtan, the Nativity),「生誕」(seitan, birth).「誕生」is generally used for ordinary people, or even for things. 「生誕」is used for famous people, especially for their anniversaries. For example,「生誕百年」(Seitan hyakunen) means “a hundredth anniversary of a person’s birth.”

Although there are other meanings of this character on the Kanji dictionary, such as “to lie,” “broad,” or “arbitrary,” they are hardly used in modern Japanese.

  • Pronounce - OnyomiWhat is Onyomi?
    Reading based on old Chinese pronunciation.
  • Pronounce - KunyomiWhat is Kunyomi?
    Reading based on Japanese to express the meaning of kanji.
    There are some Kanji characters that need to be fed, such as “嬉しい”.
  • Strokes What is Strokes?
    The stroke order is the order of writing kanji.
    Created with the aim of unifying the stroke order as much as possible so as not to cause confusion in learning instruction.
  • Radical What is Radical?
    Radical is a part of a kanji used to classify kanji.
    In radical classification, at least one radical is assigned to all Kanji characters.

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生 is a pictogram that trees or grasses have come up and means “to germinate” and “to live.”

日 is the pictogram for the sun. It means “the sun” or “the day.”

  • Pronounce - OnyomiWhat is Onyomi?
    Reading based on old Chinese pronunciation.
  • Pronounce - KunyomiWhat is Kunyomi?
    Reading based on Japanese to express the meaning of kanji.
    There are some Kanji characters that need to be fed, such as “嬉しい”.
  • Strokes What is Strokes?
    The stroke order is the order of writing kanji.
    Created with the aim of unifying the stroke order as much as possible so as not to cause confusion in learning instruction.
  • Radical What is Radical?
    Radical is a part of a kanji used to classify kanji.
    In radical classification, at least one radical is assigned to all Kanji characters.

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Kanji for “Omedetō”?

You can use Kanji for「おめでとう」if you want to, which is「お目出とう」, but nowadays, Japanese people seldom use it. It is just a「当て字」that borrows the sounds of 「目」(me, the eyes) and 「出」(de, to go out), and there is no relationship with the meanings of those Kanji characters.

How Japanese people celebrate their birthdays

Japanese people celebrate birthdays, usually with their families or lovers. Some small children might have birthday parties with their friends.

Usually, people prepare birthday cakes. If the birthday boy or girl is a small child, parents stand the same number of candles as his or her age. However, as they grow, it would be a bother to stand so many candles, so it would be like just standing three candles for a 30-year-old person’s birthday.

A typical birthday cake in Japan

A typical birthday cake in Japan

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With everyone surrounding the cake with the candles lit, they sing the “Happy Birthday to you” song in Japanese pronunciation and the birthday boy or girl will blow out the candles. Then it’s time to give birthday presents.

Here is the video of the Japanese version of the “Happy Birthday to you” song.

The subtitles of this video are in English, but actually, they are singing in Japanese pronunciation, mimicking the English sound.

Here are the lyrics;

ハッピーバースデートゥーユー(Happī bāsudē to* yū)
ハッピーバースデートゥーユー(Happī bāsudē to* yū)
ハッピーバースデーディアXX(name) (Happī bāsudē dia XX)
ハッピーバースデートゥーユー(Happī bāsudē to* yū)

*There is no Romaji to express the sound 「トゥー」トゥー since it initially didn’t exist in Japanese. Just pronounce it like “to” in English.

If you have a Japanese friend, celebrate his or her birthday in Japanese!

They should definitely be happy to hear the words of congratulation from you!