Interestingly, ‘I miss you’ doesn’t have an exact counterpart in Japanese. But of course, Japanese people are not exempt from the feeling of missing someone or something, so what do they say?
Although there is not a direct translation in Japanese, there are some phrases which convey the same sentiment.
The most common way to say ‘I miss you’ in Japanese is aitai (会いたい / あいたい).
The literal translation is ‘I want to meet you’, but it is used in the same way that we say ‘I miss you’ in English.
Let’s take a look at some of the other options we have for expressing ‘I miss you’ in Japanese!
How do Japanese people express ‘I miss you’?
I miss you (I want to meet you)
Aitai (会いたい / あいたい) is probably the most commonly used phrase to express ‘I miss you’ in Japanese. Although, if we were to literally translate it, we would get ‘I want to meet you’.
The phrase is made by putting the verb ‘to meet’, au (会う / あう), in the tai (たい) form, which expresses desire to do something.
It is an informal phrase which you can use with family or friends. It is generally used in more casual circumstances.
When you think about it, ‘I miss you’ isn’t really the sort of thing you would express to a boss or higher up in English, let alone Japanese!
That being said, there are ways to make this utterance more polite-sounding. You may simply add desu (です) on at the end to instantly make it sound less informal.
If you want to take it a step further, you can say o ai shitai desu (お会いしたいです / おあいしたいです). The honorific o (お) is placed at the beginning to show further respect.
As for the verb portion, we use the verb stem ai (会います / あいます) + suru (する) which means ‘to do’. This sentence structure is part of Japanese humble speech called kenjougo.
Sabishii / Samishii
I miss you (I’m lonely without you)
Sabishii (寂しい / さびしい) directly translates to ‘lonely’, although it is often used to express that you miss someone. It makes sense as you are ‘lonely’ without that person and so naturally you ‘miss them’!
In Japanese it goes: ⚪︎⚪︎ ga inakute sabishii (⚪︎⚪︎がいなくて寂しい), ie. ‘without ⚪︎⚪︎, I am lonely’.
You may also hear people pronouncing it as samishii (さみしい), which is simply a more colloquial pronunciation of the adjective.
If you know someone who is moving away you may tell them samishi ku naru (寂しくなる / さみしくなる). This means ‘I will become lonely without you…’ and can be understood to mean ‘I will miss you when you leave’.
You may also notice that sabishii/samishii may be written with the alternative kanji (淋しい). While the pronunciation and general meaning is identical, the specific use of this old-fashioned kanji implies a slightly stronger feeling of solitude.
I miss you (longing)
Koishii (恋しい / こいしい) is a very strong, deep way to say you miss someone/something.
In English it can be compared to ‘yearning for’ or ‘longing for’. As you may have noticed, the kanji is the same for that of koi (恋 / こい) which means ‘love’ in Japanese, further emphasising the endearing and profound nuance of the word.
It is often used in situations where you don’t have direct access to something that you desire. For example, if you are living abroad, you may miss your mother’s cooking or your country’s traditional food.
Haha no ryouri ga koishii desu
I miss my mother’s cooking
A reminder that although it may be used in a similar fashion, you must be careful not to mix up koishii with natsukashii (懐かしい / なつかしい). Natsukashii relates to ‘nostalgia’ or ‘fond memories’.
Ryuugaku no toki ga natsukashii
I have fond memories of studying abroad.
Ryuugaku no toki ga koishii
I miss my study abroad and want to go back (but can’t).
I miss you in Japanese
So there you have it. Even though there isn’t a literal translation of the English phrase ‘I miss you’ in Japanese, there are still several meaningful ways to express your feelings when you miss somebody or something.
Try them out – everybody likes to hear that someone is thinking about them!
- How to Say I Love You in Japanese
- Japanese Terms Of Endearment: Cute Nicknames for Lovers and Friends!
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!