Declaring love by saying I love you in Japanese is not common among the locals even if they have been together for quite a time. In fact, they do not take the word lightly, and most people in a serious relationship mainly demonstrate their love through actions instead of verbalizing it. In this post, we will walk you through some of the most common ways to say I love you in the Japanese language, as well as the usual romantic phrases you can use with your special someone. If you are up for that, then let's start learning!
Did you know that many Japanese people do not use universal Western lines like "please marry me?" or "will you spend the rest of your life with me?" Instead of using cheesy words, you might be surprised at some of the traditional expressions like the following:
|Japanese Proposal||Pronunciation Guide||Meaning|
|毎日味噌汁を作ってください||Mainichi misoshiru o tsukutte kudasai||Will you make me miso soup every day?|
|僕の名字に変えてもらえませんか？||Boku no myōji ni kaete moraemasen ka?||Will you change your surname to mine?|
|いつ両親に挨拶する？||Itsu ryōshin ni aisatsu suru?||When do you wish to greet our parents?|
|結婚してみる？||Kekkon shite miru?||Would you like to get married to me?|
|僕と同じ墓に入ってください||Boku to onaji haka ni haitte kudasai||Let's lie in the same grave|
As you probably can notice from the table above, the Japanese people are not really direct when it comes to expressing their feelings. This is very much different from the romantic culture in the Western world since many casually throw around expressions like "I love you" or "love you." In fact, the locals also do not have a direct translation for saying "I love you so much" because they believe that giving "too much" of something will render the feelings meaningless. So if you are in a relationship with a Japanese person and they suddenly blurt out "愛してる or aishiteru" then you can be sure that they truly are head over heels for you!
This practice of not being excessively expressive in romance is done because their culture puts a premium on emotional suppression to promote better relationships with the people around them. For this reason, it is common not to see the Japanese smile ear to ear or frown may they be at school, at work, or at home.
However, just because they are not used to expressing feelings does not mean that they are not good at expressing romantic love. In fact, they have some super sweet lines that will make it feel difficult for you to control the butterflies and this is what we will cover today. But before we learn all the sweet and exciting forms of I love you in Japanese, let's first get to know the culture of Japan with regard to love and romance.
No matter where you are in the world, we cannot deny that every country has its own beliefs and traditions when it comes to dating. Some are more conservative than others while there are also countries where the people can freely act (respectfully speaking) on their desires to someone they really like. Even if you are not Japanese, there shouldn't be a hindrance if you truly want to court someone from Japan! All that you should be aware of is the dos and don’ts so that you won't get yourself in trouble.
Similar to the existing traditions in Asian countries like the Philippines and Thailand, the concept of dating is rendered as conservative. In fact, they are indirect and subtle. More often than not, the locals do not rush into it to test whether their emotion is real and valid or just a passing one. After some interviews with the locals, we even found out that those interested to couple up do not really go on dates on their own, especially for the first time! Instead, they do gōkon (合コン) or group dates!
Let's learn more about the ways to find love and get a date in Japan below!
Love in Japanese is a tricky thing. Unlike in other Asian countries, popular dating sites among foreigners like OkCupid, Grindr, Hinge, or Tinder have not really taken off among the locals. For adults, many can attest to the fact that it is better to meet your better half from your school, work, location, or through mutual friends. For this reason, it is quite rare to hear stories wherein the adults can say that they met online. The only exception to this, of course, is the younger generation.
Many of the young ones out there often use dating apps and social media to meet new people. However, the number of those interested in getting in a relationship at a young age is declining as many are more interested in their career and school work. But if you are already at an age wherein you are financially stable and willing to settle down, the best way to meet and find love in Japan is through omiai (お見合い) or arranged dates.
Omiai, also referred to as miai, is a traditional Japanese custom of matchmaking with the intention of marriage. It is somewhat similar to that of the Chinese matchmaking culture in which the parents will choose and introduce their sons or daughters to another family. Do note though that this is not the same with arranged marriage as the men and women here are free to decide if they want to continue the meeting into a courtship. It is also important to keep in mind that all communications after the date during this type of custom is only between the parents of both parties.
Historically speaking, omiai has been around since the 16th century as many of the locals are usually marrying only within or above their social classes. The union is often done to fortify alliances and strengthen bloodlines between families which is why dating used to be viewed as a family event before. To this day, modern families may still sign up the young adults to join matchmaking agencies.
The Japanese word gōkon 合コン (sometimes written as goukon) is actually a combination of the words “godo" and "konpa” which refers to a group blind date. There are usually two forms of group dates in Japan and that could either be a blind date (with the same number of male and female participants) or a friends date (organized by people who already know each other). You can easily join one by asking around online or spotting flyers as you walk the streets of Japan. During my stay in the country, I actually saw a lot of posters even on train stations!
The concept of gōkon is interpreted as a traditional way of helping adults gauge the mutual interest and suitability of individuals. While some of those who go on this type of data does not come out with a partner, it is a great way to blend in with the locals and meet new friends. Even if you are a foreigner, you might be surprised by how open some of the locals are to inviting you to such events.
For them, going on a gōkon instead of a 1-on-1 date lessens the pressure for both males and females. This way, they do not have to worry about the expenses and what to do during the intimate day. This makes it perfect if you are someone on a budget or you have a shy personality. Also, if you have ever been to the country, you will understand how expensive it may be to treat someone out on a date since everything is not really budget-friendly per se.
Unlike in other countries, gōkon is not done in informal bars or izakaya ((居酒屋). Instead, the location is usually in restaurants with private rooms to avoid awkwardness. If you do join one, do remember that some of these arranged dates are good while others may seem like a total disappointment. As with everything else, it is a mixed bag! If you ever feel uncomfortable with your assigned date or the location where it will be held, don't hesitate to leave the place.
Did you know that in 2020, about 16.5% of marriages in Japan were actually born out of konkatsu? Often known as a "marriage hunting" party, katsudou or konkatsu is viewed as one of the best ways to find dates and get married in Japan. Unlike in the concept of omiai, the men and women can communicate with each other before and after the date and actually express whether they want to continue the courtship or not. It gives more freedom and time than arranged marriages too.
Instead of just having the date in a 5-star restaurant, the couple could go around and enjoy the beach, play some sports, and do whatever activity they would like without any judgments from the society. However, if they do decide to sign up in matchmaking agencies, the location and activities allowed might differ. On top of that, the qualifications to get a match in these agencies can be pretty high so be sure to also set your expectations. At the end of the day, the participants here are expected to be mature and should have 100% intentions of marrying.
Due to cultural differences, you might be surprised to know that not all Japanese actually blurt out these three special words most of the time. In fact, some of the married locals stated that they said it very rarely to their partners! For this reason, saying I love you in Japan is not viewed as weird, but it is definitely a big deal in the country. For most men, they hesitate to say this because of the following reasons:
Whether you have a special someone in Japan or are merely trying to expand your vocabulary, learning how to express love and sincere affection in the most natural ways in Japanese culture can significantly help you out. But before we give you the translations, allow us to walk you through some of the cultural norms first.
Now that we know the basics let's discuss the 10 expressions you must master to say I love you like a native. For the expressions below, please note that most of these are casual, but if you want it to sound formal/polite, you can simply add the word desu or です. For instance, we can say suki desu or daisuki desu.
|Japanese||Pronunciation Guide||English Translation|
|好き だ よ||Suki da yo||I love you|
|あなたを愛し てい ます||Anata o aishiteimasu||I love you|
|愛 し て いる||Ai shiteru||I love you|
|好き や ねん||Suki yanen||I like you very much|
|好き / 好き です||Suki / suki desu||I like you|
|大好き だ よ||Dai suki da yo||I love you so much|
|大好き||Daisuki||I really like you|
|恋しいです||Koishii desu||I yearn for you|
|好きだよ||Sukidayo||I love you (for boys)|
|私はあなたに夢中です||Watashi wa anatanimuchūdesu||I am crazy for you|
As we learned above, there are different ways to express "I love you" in Japanese. However, when we asked the locals, they said that these three ways are more popular with them and are guaranteed to make someone fall deeper for you!
The Japanese ai shiteru (pronounced as aye-shee-teh-ru) expression is translated as I love you in Japanese. It makes use of the kanji 愛 (ai) which refers to a romantic type of love. When I asked someone to translate it into English, they say that this means "I love you so deeply" and they cautioned me to only use this when I am 100% sure of my feelings. Perhaps, you can use learn how to say this before your kokuhaku (告白) or confession of love and/or interest.
Tip: If you want to make it sound like a casual expression, you can express it by saying ai shiteru yo (愛してるよ). Adding "yo" makes it casual.
This is the most literal way to say that you really like someone. This phrase is a whole lot stronger than merely saying suki da. Fortunately, this is easy to use as it can be general. For instance, you can use it to express affection or how much you like a person, thing, place, activities, etc.
Tip: If you cannot remember the difference between suki da and daisuki da, just memorize the first character which is 大 (dai). This character means "big" so if you have a really big love for someone, add the character dai before the suki da.
Suki da (also known as suki desu 好きです in formal situations) is one of the widely known translations for saying "I like you." While it does not mean "love" per se, this can be used to show your interest to date someone. According to the locals, this is usually heard during confessions after a series of dates. With this said, do not say this phrase right away after just meeting someone or you might scare them away!
Now that we know what each of those lovely phrases literally means in English, allow us to walk you through some of the common terms of endearment used by the locals to call their special person.
|Japanese||Pronunciation Guide||English Translation|
|Name + ちゃん||Name + chan (ex: Annie Chan)||A nickname to sound cute|
|あなた||Anata||This literally means "you" but can be used to mean "dear"|
As we reach this part of the post, we hope that you were able to learn and that you'll have the courage to say I love you in the Japanese language like a real pro. If you enjoyed this article, we highly recommend that you review our other language tips related to Japanese, like the basic greetings, the popular local foods to try out in Japanese, and three facts you do not know about the Japanese language.
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