Today, we will be learning how to say “cheers” in Japanese. Whether you drink sake, beer, wine, soft drinks, or none of those, it’s helpful to know about this term as well as some information on Japanese drinking etiquette and culture.
Let’s get to it!
- 1 Japanese Drinking Culture
- 2 How to say “cheers” in Japanese
- 3 Other Japanese phrases that can be used like “kanpai”
- 4 Other useful drinking phrases for a night out in Japan
- 5 Wrap Up
Japanese Drinking Culture
Japanese drinking culture is a major part of the country’s business life and social interactions. Whether you’re in the country on a business trip, for a wedding, or as a tourist, you may be invited to an event where alcohol is served.
Some foreigners are surprised by the amount of drinking that goes on in Japan, so understanding the drinking etiquette is crucial to being able to navigate some of these social situations. One of the situations you’re likely to encounter is the etiquette to make a toast.
How to say “cheers” in Japanese
If you’re at a business dinner or work event, it’s likely that the most senior person will offer a toast before you begin drinking. It’s good manners to wait until they do, and it is considered rude if you drink ahead of others. You’ll know the toast is over when this word is said:
How to use “kanpai”
During the first drink (or first round of drinking), people usually have the same drink. Generally, the person making the toast will raise their glass and say kanpai, and the rest of those in attendance will repeat it. Like in western culture, clinking glasses is also common. After this, you may drink.
The word かんぱい (kanpai) literally means “finish your drink,” but you’re not required to down your entire glass after saying it. “Kanpai” is a fairly casual word, so you can feel free to try it out on Japanese people without much risk of offending anyone. It also doesn’t need to be said every time you drink, so after the toast, you can relax and go at your own pace.
If you’re looking for some other phrases to use, there’s a variety of different ways to start off Japanese drinking sessions.
Other Japanese phrases that can be used like “kanpai”
The following phrases aren’t equivalent to かんぱい (kanpai), but you might hear them from people making toasts at various events.
How to say “Good job” in Japanese
|Good job||お疲れ様です||おつかれさまです||Otsukare sama desu|
おつかれさまです (otsukare sama desu) is one of many phrases in the Japanese language whose literal meaning doesn’t explain how they are used. When you’re saying this, you’re literally telling the person that they are tired.
It’s a phrase for when a task is completed or at the end of the work day, essentially saying, “You have completed your task and exhausted yourself, so good job.”
You’ll hear おつかれさまです (otsukare sama desu) in work situations whenever something is completed or when the work day is done, but you might also hear it from colleagues when you tell them about the long flight you just took.
At work drinking parties or events, it can be said to commence drinking after a long and tiring week, letting the attendants know that work is over and now is the time for fun.
How to cheer in Japanese
“Hooray” may not be the best way to explain ばんざい (banzai), because the word’s meaning depends on the situation. It can mean “pray for us” or “grant 10,000 years of long life” and is used ceremonially. In the context of drinking, it is employed more like its use as a battle cry to show enthusiasm.
This is the type of phrase you might hear toward the end of a rowdy night, though only in certain circumstances. Its use is tricky. While おつかれさまです (otsukare sama desu) and かんぱい (kanpai) can be tried in front of coworkers easily, it’s best to leave banzai to native speakers and see if and how they employ it first.
How to say “congratulations” in Japanese
おめでとう (omedetou) literally means “congratulations” and is the Japanese equivalent of that English word. You can say おたんじょうび おめでとう (otanjoubi omedetou) to mean “Happy birthday,” for example.
At a Japanese wedding or birthday party, it’s not uncommon to hear a round of おめでとう (omedetou) said for the bride and groom, for example, at the end of a toast or on its own. This is a good phrase for situations where not everyone is drinking but at which you’d like to say something.
How to say “Let’s drink” in Japanese
While most of these phrases can be said right before drinking, のみましょう (nomimashou) can be used in two different ways: one is to suggest that the group go out drinking that night, and the other is when drinks have been served, right before you imbibe. It literally means “Let’s drink,” so any time those words are what you want to communicate, it will suffice.
Other useful drinking phrases for a night out in Japan
Of course, there are many things you may want to say other than to let your compatriots know that you’re ready to drink.
If you’re out with your Japanese friends, a group of coworkers, or clients, here are a few useful phrases to let them know what you want to do next or any questions you may have.
How to ask “does this contain alcohol” in Japanese
|Is there alcohol in this?||アルコールは入っていますか||あるこーるははいっていますか||Arukohouru wa haitteimasuka?|
If you don’t drink, the Japanese culture can be tricky, as drinking alcohol is a large part of business and social events.
You’d most likely get your own drink and order soft drinks or other non-alcoholic drinks. So, if you want to order something on the menu but aren’t sure if it’s an alcoholic drink or not (or if you’re in a konbini and aren’t sure what’s in the can you’ve picked up), you can ask a server, friend, or store clerk for help in this way.
How to say “I am drunk” in Japanese
|I am drunk||酔っ払いました||よっぱらいました||Yopparai mashita|
If you’ve had too much and don’t want to drink anymore, you can use this phrase to let others know you are intoxicated. And the next morning, you can employ the following phrase.
The Japanese word for “hangover”
This literally means “two days drunk” and is a simple way to explain that you have a hangover. It’s expected that if you drink alcohol, you’re likely to get a hangover the next day.
If you’re running a little late the following morning, need to cancel plans, or just want to let others know how you feel, you can say this, and they’ll understand.
How to say “The bar is closing” in Japanese
|The bar is closing||居酒屋が閉まります||いざかやがしまります||Izakaya ga shimarimasu|
|The bar is closing||居酒屋が閉店します||いざかやがへいてんします||Izakaya ga heiten shimasu|
いざかや (izakaya) is the word for a traditional Japanese bar, and both へいてんです (heiten desu) and しまります (shimarimasu) mean that it is closed and it’s time to go home. This is a useful phrase for the end of the night, as is the next one.
How to say “can you call me a taxi” in Japanese
|Please call me a taxi||タクシーを呼んで下さい||たくしーをよんでください||Takushii wo yonde kudasai|
If it’s late in the night (1 in the morning or later), it’s probable that the trains will have stopped running, and you’ll need to get a taxi back to your lodging. You can say this phrase to the proprietor of a bar or to a friend to ask for help in securing a taxi.
If no one is around to help you find one, go to the nearest station, as there are often taxis near train stations. Japanese taxis generally only take cash, and tipping is not required. If you only have large notes, don’t worry, as the cab driver will likely have plenty of coins and bills with which to make change.
Japanese drinking culture is complicated and will take a while to learn. Don’t worry too much about all the points of drinking etiquette since, as a foreigner, you aren’t expected to know everything, and your companions will enjoy teaching you.
Employing these simple phrases is a way to show them that you’re putting in the effort to learn their culture and respect how they do things. And best of all, a night out with friends is a great time to practice your budding Japanese skills!
がんばってください (Ganbatte kudasai)! ^^
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