How to Say ‘Congratulations’ in Japanese

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‘Congratulations’ is one of those basic phrases that is really useful to know in Japanese! It’s quick and easy to learn, and can be used in a variety of different situations.

The basic way to say ‘congratulations’ in Japanese is omedetou (おめでとう).

Now, depending on the situation, omedetou can be modified to sound more (or less) formal. This is done by adding different honorific prefixes and suffixes, as you will see as you read on!

Omedetou

おめでとう

Congratulations

Of course, we can use omedetou as a stand alone expression in order to give congratulations to someone.

However, it is often used in conjunction with other words/holidays in order to create celebratory phrases.

It can be similar to how we use the word ‘happy’ in English for various holidays and occasions: think ‘happy Easter’ or ‘happy birthday’.

By simply saying the name of the occasion plus omedetou, you can extend your best wishes to the other party!

For example:

Otanjoubi omedetou!
お誕生日おめでとう
おたんじょうびおめでとう
Happy birthday!

Kekkon omedetou
結婚おめでとう
けっこんおめでとう
Congratulations on your marriage

Sotsugyou omedetou
卒業おめでとう
そつぎょうおめでとう
Congratulations on graduating

Japanese wedding couple smiling in formal kimono under red parasol. Congratulations!
A Japanese couple in traditional formal wedding kimono. Kekkon omedetou! (Congrats on your wedding)

Omedetou gozaimasu

おめでとうございます

Congratulations (polite)

The short and sweetness of omedetou is unfortunately just a little bit too casual to be using when speaking to someone who you are not very close with.

But don’t worry, you just need to add on the polite expression gozaimasu and you’re good to go!

So, when congratulating someone in a more formal setting, you would say the more elongated omedetou gozaimasu (おめでとうございます). 

If you are congratulating someone on an event, be sure to prefix the noun with an honorific o (お) or go (ご) in order to show further respect! i.e kekkon in polite language would be gokekkon (ご結婚お / ごけっこん).

Oiwai moushiagemasu

お祝い申し上げます

Congratulations (formal)

A smiling Japanese woman in a businesslike white shirt giving a thumbs-up against a pink background.

When congratulating someone of a higher status or age, you should employ a higher level of Japanese polite speech known as keigo (敬語 / けいご). Keigo can be used to humble yourself and raise up the other person in order to show the utmost respect. 

Oiwai moushiagemasu (お祝い申し上げます / おいわいもうしあげます) is how you say ‘congratulations’ in more modest Japanese.

Iwai (prefixed here with the honorific o) is a noun which literally means ‘congratulation’ while the verb moushiageru is a humble action word meaning ‘to say’ or ‘to express’.

Yatta 

やった

Yay

Although yatta (やった) does not explicitly translate as ‘congratulations’, it is often used to mean so in more casual scenarios such as with friends and family.

For example, if your friend passes an exam that they were nervous about you can congratulate them by saying yatta! 

It is an exclamation that means ‘yay’ or ‘yipee’ and gives across the message of ‘you did it! Well done!’.

Ome

おめ

Congrats

Ome! You’ve made it to the end of the list! 

Similarly to how we shorten ‘congratulations’ to ‘congrats’ in English, young Japanese people often shorten omedetou to simply, ome.

It is becoming an increasingly popular addition to young Japanese people’s slang terms

For example:

Happy birthday:

Full expression – Otanjoubi omedetou
Shortened expression – otan ome! (おたんおめ)

Happy new year:

Full expression – akemashite omedetou (あけましておめでとう)
Shortened expression – ake ome! (あけおめ)

How to say congratulations in Japanese

As you have seen, it’s pretty simple to say congratulations in Japanese!

Usually, it’s enough to simply say omedetou! (informal) or omedetou gozaimasu! (more formal), and if you want to get more specific, you can preceed that with the event you’re celebrating.

If you want to learn more essential Japanese phrases, our top recommended online course is JapanesePod101. Check them out – it’s free!

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Hannah Stafford

Hannah is a half Irish/half Japanese girl living in Ireland. Her love for Japan and the Japanese language led her to studying languages and translation in university where she specialised in Japanese. She spent a year studying abroad at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. In her free time, Hannah enjoys using her sewing machine to upcycle clothes and create new pieces!

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