How to Say Happy New Year in Japanese (+ Why Context Is Key)

Wishing Someone a Happy New Year in Japanese

Lex in Japan

Greetings in Japanese are very important and often carry a lot of hidden meanings you need to watch out for.

Happy New Year in Japanese is no exception to this rule! 

Below we go over Japanese New Year traditions, celebrating the New Year in Japan, and the various phrases to use to wish someone a Happy New Year in Japanese.

Context is the big game-player here, so make sure to read the explanation provided to make sure you’re using the correct phrase for wishing someone a Happy New Year in Japanese! 

Happy New Year in Japanese || New Years Greetings in Japanese 

Happy New Year in Japanese || Formal Greetings

Happy New Year in Japanese || Informal Greetings

Happy New Year in Japanese || Vocabulary 

Happy New Year in Japanese || Lunar New Year in Japan

Happy New Year in Japanese || When is New Year in Japan

Happy New Year in Japanese || How New Year’s is celebrated in Japan

Happy New Year in Japanese || FAQs

New Years Greetings in Japanese (Timing)

New Year’s greetings in Japanese can be categorised into two categories that are important to get correct.

Because as well as context, timing is everything when it comes to using the correct New Year’s greeting in Japanese. 

On or Before 31st December

The Japanese New Year greeting used before 1st January is;


yoi otoshi wo omukaekudasai

This can also be shortened to;


yoi otoshi wo

These both translate to ‘Have a good year’ (in the sense of wishing you to have a good following year). 

On or After 1st January 

From or on 1st January, people don’t use ‘良いお年を yoi otoshi wo’ as a New Year’s greeting but instead move to the following; 


Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu

This basically means ‘Happy New Year’!

TOP TIP || Japanese people tend to avoid saying Happy New Year (あけましておめでとうございます, Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu) unless it’s a close friend or relative.

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Happy New Year in Japanese || Formal (Context)

The following phrases are various phrases you can use to wish someone a Happy New Year in Japanese.

They are formal phrases so can be used to elders and in school or at work.

Although, you should make sure it is very formal if you are talking to work colleagues.

They would sound a bit odd or impersonal said to good friends and family members.

So see further below for informal New Year’s greetings phrases you can use if this is what you’re looking for! 

Lex the Lion


Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu

As discussed above, this New Years greeting in Japanese is used AFTER the New Year has begun. 


yoitoshi o omukae kudasa

This Japanese New Year’s greeting is used BEFORE the new year has begun.

Above we give the informal example. Adding kudasai (as with many things in Japanese) makes it formal. 


Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu

This phrase kind of translates to ‘I wish a good relationship for us both in the coming year’ (Lit. Please look after me next year too).

Whilst this may sound odd in English, language like this is commonly found in Japanese and in Japanese culture. You can use it with colleagues. 


Kotoshi mo osewa ni narimashita

Another very typical phrase in Japanese that may sound a bit odd translated into English, this phrase roughly means ‘thanks for looking after me well this year’. You can then add onto this phrase with ‘来年もどうぞよろしく’, meaning ‘I hope for the same next year’. 

It’s basically a formal way to thank someone for their help and support over the years. 


Shinnen omedetougozaimasu 

This phase is another one meaning ‘Happy New Year’ in Japanese. 

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Happy New Year in Japanese || Informal (Context)

The following New Year’s Greetings in Japanese can be used in informal contexts.

This means they can be used with friends and family, and those younger than you. 


Akemashite omedetou

This is an informal way to say ‘Happy New Year’ in Japanese AFTER the New Year in Japan has begun.

To make this formal, see the above example! 

あけおめ / アケオメ


Going even more informal, younger people use this phrase with one another.

It’s much more informal though so should only be used with friends or those definitely younger than you! It’s a shortened version of the above あけましておめでとう.


yoitoshi o 

Informal way of saying Happy New Year in Japanese BEFORE the New Year in Japan has begun.

ことよろ / コトヨロ


This is an informal equivalent of 今年もよろしくお願いします and basically means ‘here’s to a good friendship in the coming year’!


Mata rainen

This is a common New Year’s greeting in Japanese and means ‘see you next year’! It’s used in the same context we might use it in English.

Happy New Year in Japanese || Vocabulary

The following are items of Japanese New Year’s greetings and vocabulary you might find useful around the time of New Year in Japan.

今年KotoshiThis year
本年HonnenThis year
来年RainenNext year
新年New yearNew year
明けるAkeruDawn / To open out
大晦日OumisokaNew Year’s Eve
正月ShougatsuNew Year’s Holiday
元日GanjitsuNew Year’s Day
よろしくお願いしますYoroshiku onegaishimasuPlease (take care of me)
いい‧よい‧良いii / yoiGood

Lunar New Year in Japan

Unlike their neighbours in Korea, China, and Taiwan, the Japanese do not celebrate the Lunar New Year, otherwise known as the Chinese New Year. 

Instead, the Japanese New Year celebrations are quite unique.

Considering they don’t really celebrate Christmas traditionally, Christmas in Japan is reserved for friends and lovers, and is often spent in… KFC of all places! 

New Year’s in Japan, however, is a much more important holiday and one spent with the family. 

When is New Year in Japan

New Year’s in Japan is a three-day holiday in Japan over 1st-3rd January.

This three-day period is known as Sanganichi (三が日, lit. Three days). 

During this time, most shops, bars, and restaurants will be closed.

Traditional food often eaten on these days resembles that found in Korea, for example, zōni (雑煮) which are rice cakes, a various osechi (おせち) dishes.

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How New Year’s is Celebrated in Japan 

As mentioned above, the New Year celebrations in Japan are pretty important celebrations and a time for family, reflecting on the year gone, and looking ahead to the coming year. 

People will often spend this time doing a deep clean of their houses, as well as putting up New Year decorations. 

Usually, people will send Happy New Year cards to those who have been a big part of their year previously and helped them throughout the year. 

Children also receive gifts from elder members of the family. This tradition is called otoshidama お年玉.

That concludes our look at New Year in Japan. What did you think? How does it differ from your home country?

Drop us a comment below and tell us how you celebrate New Year.

Happy New Year in Japanese || FAQs

How to say Happy New Year in Japanese formally? 

Happy new year in Japanese formally is あけましておめでとうございます, Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu, (After 1st Jan) OR よいお年をお迎えください, yoitoshi o omukae kudasai, (Before 1st Jan)

How to say Happy New Year in Japanese informally? 

Happy New Year in Japanese informally is よいお年を yoitoshi o (Before 1st Jan)

Do Japanese celebrate Chinese New Year?

No, Japanese don’t celebrate Lunar New Year/ Chinese New Year. 

How do Japanese celebrate New Year? 

There are three days (to two weeks) of celebrations. The first three days are holidays and most businesses remain closed. Japanese will often do house cleaning. Gifts are given to children.  

What is ‘New Year’ in Japanese?

New Year; 新年; Shinnen.

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