No58 [LANGUAGE] Let’s nihonGo! / Happy New Year!

Let's nihonGo!

Hello there! This column will include useful Japanese phrases that cover a
variety of topics.

Mina-san, akemashite omedetoo! (Everyone, Happy New Year!). Have you ever heard the phrase “akemashite omedetoo”? Actually, many Asian countries which have historically been strongly influenced by Chinese culture celebrate the Lunar New Year in January or February (the date changes each year according to the cycle of the moon. This year the date of the Lunar New Year is 18th February). Japan used to celebrate the Lunar New Year just like many other Asian countries, but since about 150 years ago, Japanese people have been celebrating the New Year on 1st January, as people in many European countries do. So let me tell you a little about New Year celebrations in Japan. Japanese New Year is like Christmas in the UK, because you it’s the one big chance every year families and relatives have to spend time together. (Christmas in Japan is different – people go to parties with their friends or go out for romantic dinners, so Japanese Christmas is a bit more like UK New Year). Some people like to gather in large groups with their families and have a lively and loud New Year celebration, and other people like to stay at home, relax and not go out at all. Celebrating the New Year like that is called “Neshoogatsu”. “Ne” means “sleep” and “shoogatsu” means “new year”, so you could call it “a sleepy New Year” in English. By the way, this year, I celebrated “a sleepy New Year” in London!
Just like how people wish one another a “Happy New Year” in English, Japanese also has a New Year’s greeting.


Akemashite omedetoo(gozaimasu)
(Happy New Year!)

Kotoshimo doozo yoroshiku(onegaishimasu)
(I wish you all the best for the upcoming year)


Let me explain two things about this New Year’s greeting. Firstly, “akemashite omedetoo (gozaimasu)” means “Happy New Year”. “Akemashite” means the year is “opening” and “omedetoo (gozaimasu)” means “happy”. I’m sure some of you already know this, but if you add “gozaimasu” to the end of some phrases, they become more polite and formal. For example, “arigatoo” is “thanks” but “arigatoo (gozaimasu)” is the more polite expression and means “thank you very much”. Can you believe that just adding “gozaimasu” to phrases can make them so much more polite? Japanese can be really convenient!

The second aspect of the greeting I would like to talk about is “kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu”. If you translate the phrase literally, it means “I hope you’ll stick with me this year as well!” but I think that the English equivalent would be something like “I wish you all the best for the upcoming year”. “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is a tricky phrase because it always shows up in Japanese conversation and has lots and lots of different meanings based on context and it’s often a pain to try to translate into English! For example, if you meet someone for the first time and you tell each other your name, you can say “yoroshiku” and in that context it means “glad to meet you”. If you put “yoroshiku (onegaishimasu)” at the end of a work e-mail, it means “I look forward to seeing you next time”. So as you can see, “yoroshiku” has a whole load of different meanings. Generally, all of these different “yoroshiku”s are used at the end of a conversation. And if you hear someone use this phrase, it’s a sign that the person you’re talking to is maybe trying to end the conversation. Today I introduced greetings for the New Year. In Japan, you can use these greetings from 12:00AM on the 1st of January, the second the New Year begins, until 15th January. How long into the New Year do people keep saying “Happy New Year” in English? Our next article will cover something completely different – how to talk about British beer in Japanese!


So: Kotoshimo doozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Sayoonara, Jaa mata!
(Goodbye, see you!)




▶ check out this information on New year’s food in japan.

▶ ‘minato’ – learn japanese and interact with fellow students around the world online.


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