Love is in the air!
Isn’t love wonderful?
Maybe you’re planning to drop the L-bomb to a beloved who speaks Japanese. Or perhaps you simply want to broaden your vocabulary just in case you do find that special someone in Japan.
Whatever your reason, expressing love in Japanese is an important language and cultural milestone.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of ways to say “I love you” in Japanese!
But first, let’s look at some differences between expressing love in the West and in Japan.
Some Cultural Notes on Saying “I Love You” in Japanese
Love in the West
In the West, especially the United States, it’s very easy to throw around the term “I love you” or “I like you” every which way.
We tell our friends we love them.
We tell our romantic partners and spouses we love them.
We tell our family members we love them.
While there’s still some touchiness about when to say those three little words in a relationship, Westerners express love and affection fairly easily.
Love in Japan
This is a little different in Japan. Many married couples will probably tell you that they’ve never been told “I love you” by their partner.
This isn’t to say Japanese people are cold and unloving. Quite the contrary: Japanese couples merely use the “show, don’t tell” rule. Married or dating couples in Japan opt to show their partners love through acts of service and loyalty rather than just telling them.
You’ll find that younger Japanese people say “I love you” more often than married couples.
In general, it’s rare to use such an expression among friends and family. That’s just the way things are. Language is interesting, isn’t it?
That being said, there are indeed several ways to express love and romantic interest in Japanese. It’s just a matter of using the right words for the right situation.
Lucky for you, we have 11 great ways for you to say “I love you” in Japanese.
Learn more about Japanese culture and language
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How to Say “I Love You” in Japanese: 11 Ways to Spread the Love
It’s worth noting that there are pretty much only two ways to say “I love you” in Japanese:
愛してる (あいしてる ) — “I love you,” pronounced “aishiteru”
大好き (だいすき ) — “I love…,” pronounced “dai suki”
It’s the combination of those words with levels of formality, other words in the sentence and the overall context that change the meaning.
In our list, we’ll highlight the right words to use for different circumstances.
This term is rarely used in Japan. The way it’s worded, it almost sounds like a “final” goodbye.
Still, it’s good to know different ways of saying “I love you,” even if you don’t use them.
This phrase is best used for someone you’re dating, notably during that “honeymoon” phase of being in a relationship. It’d be really strange if you said this to someone you’re not seriously involved with.
You may hear あなたに夢中です being used in Japanese dramas between two people who are desperate to confess their love to each other, but it really isn’t all that common of a phrase in real life.
To non-native speakers, saying “I really like you” might sound like a love confession, but its meaning is closer to “I really enjoy being with you.”
Use this term when you’re interested in someone and would like to date them. It’s the safer way to ask, without scaring them away with words like “love.”
Note: Don’t say this to friends! Even if we may say “I really like you” to platonic friends in the West, this isn’t the case in Japan.
This one is obviously very similar to 大好きだよ and the meaning is indeed about the same: that you really like someone.
The wording, though, is a bit less intense. If you’re a shy person, try using this phrase instead.
Ah, Osakan Japanese. It’s such a fun dialect!
This is the Osakan and slang way to say 大好きだよ but with a bit more of a goofy, fun-loving vibe. If you’re digging an Osakan person, use this term to tell them.
This phrase is used to talk about objects we love, whether it’s food, games, sports, art, music or whatever.
There’ll definitely be a time where you’ll need to express how much you adore sushi while abroad in Japan.
Simply precede this phrase with the subject of your love.
焼き鳥、大好き！(やきとり、だいすき！) — I love chicken skewers!
Note: が (ga) or は (wa) may be used between 焼き鳥 and 大好き as a particle or subject indicator. But in colloquial Japanese, particles are often dropped.
This more formal way of saying “I really like you” leans more towards love. While the previous iterations dropped the pronouns, including 私は and あなたが makes this sound more formal and “proper,” raising the level of intensity.
Because of its level of formality, this isn’t appropriate to use until you’re seriously romantically involved with someone. Use this sentence when you’re in love with someone and want them to know.
This is a playful way of asking someone if they like you. 僕 (ぼく) is mostly used by males and 私 (わたし) by females, so the form depends on the person who’s speaking.
The phrasing here is more childlike and playful, and it can be perceived in a few different ways depending on the situation: It might be a child asking if you love them, someone has a crush on you and wants to know if you like them back or someone you’ve been dating playfully picking on you.
This a big one.
Only use this expression if you’re already seriously involved with someone or married to them. And even then, don’t use it too often.
愛してる (あいしてる) is a colloquial expression for 愛している (あいしている).
Use this phrase if you’ve had some difficulty in your relationship and want to let your partner know you’re still on their team.
This is the ultimate one, guys.
Naturally, only ever use this phrase when you’re actually proposing to someone.
By the way, it may be worth noting that proposing in Japan is no different than proposing in America. Get a ring and some flowers and get on that knee!
We bet these 11 ways to say “I love you” in Japanese will prove useful for you in the future. And now you’ll be able to avoid a serious 失言 (しつげん) — faux pas by using an inappropriate expression for the situation!
Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
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