Birthday parties, Christmas parties, and recently even Halloween parties, are becoming more common in Japan. On the flip side, there are the less joyous occasions, such as funerals, where it is nonetheless important to show your support with some words of comfort.
The birthday greeting of choice for the birthday boy or girl is:
Congratulations on your birthday.
Though not much fuss was made about birthdays in the past, many Japanese households now celebrate “American-style,” with cakes and candles. It remains a rather intimate family gathering, however, rather than a party with ten six-year-olds running around.
There are two ways to ask “How old are you?” in Japanese:
Literally: “How many are you?”
How old are you?
The first example is more polite, although it is still considered rude to ask women of any age how old they are. The second example may be easier to remember because the response contains some of the same words:
I'm twenty six.
This sample answer can be used regardless of how the question is put. When referring to your age, the regular number words followed by
Japanese can legally drink, smoke, and vote at the age of twenty. It is a time for coming-of-age ceremonies and recognition as an adult by members of the community. This may be why there is a special phrase for “I am twenty”:
There is an old-fashioned way of determining age in which the time of birth is counted as one's “first birthday.” This style of counting is called
There are a variety of situations, aside from birthdays, in which you may want to say
Congratulations on your marriage. (formal)
Congratulations on your graduation. (casual)
Congratulations on the birth of your child. (formal)
Another phrase that sounds like
When is the happy event?
Hopefully, you will not need to use the following phrases, but in the event that you do, it is best to be prepared. If someone you know loses a loved one, the proper word of sympathy is
Japanese funerals are predominately Buddhist, although several sects exist, so the ceremonies vary greatly. Gifts of money are common, presented in envelopes that are decorated with black and silver bows.
If you see flowers laid by the side of the road, it may indicate that someone from a house in that area has recently passed away or that someone died from a traffic accident there. Flowers may also be placed anonymously at the end of a driveway as an offering of sympathy for the family members of the deceased.