How to Say I Love You in Japanese 

By Shiho Motomiya | November 20th, 2023

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    Understanding how to express 'I love you' in Japanese is crucial, especially for those living or dating in Japan. While openly expressing love and affection might not be as common in Japanese culture, knowing this phrase is up there on the list of things we'd like to be able to say, right? We'll explore a few ways to convey 'I love you' in Japanese, suitable for different contexts and relationships. Whether it's a romantic gesture or a heartfelt expression, these phrases will help you communicate your feelings effectively in Japan. Let's dive in!

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    The Subtlety of “I Love You” in Japanese

    In Japanese, expressing one's affection can be as nuanced as the culture itself. 好き (suki) is commonly used to say both "I like you" and "I love you," and is the safer choice for all stages of a relationship. It’s light-hearted and can be used to express enjoyment or preference for anything, not just people. On the other hand, 愛してる (aishiteru) is a much more profound declaration of love, often reserved for serious, committed relationships. It's not thrown around lightly and carries a significant emotional weight. For instance, a teenager might tell their crush "好きだよ (suki dayo)," while "愛してる" might be part of a marriage proposal or a deep confession of enduring love.


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    Common Ways to Say "I Love You" in Japanese

    As you will see below, the way people say ‘I love you’ in Japanese is almost the same, but focus on the end of the word and you will see the difference. In the casual expression, you can see the word よ (yo) which makes it just a little more casual than the neutral way. The ます (masu) makes it more formal when you say the word. 愛してる is not a common way to say ‘I love you’ in Japanese, as many consider it to have a very deep meaning. This is why they don’t normally throw the word out everyday to their significant other compared to in English-speaking Western cultures. They usually say it in a subtle and indirect way. The next section will cover a few ways to say ‘I love you’ in Japanese.


    aishiteru yo





    Using I Love You in Japanese Casual Conversations








    I love you!



    Arigatou. Watashi mo onaji koto omottetanda.

    Thank you. I think the same.



    Honto ni? Aisheterutte ittekuretara, ureshiina.

    Really? I would be happy if you said ‘I love you’ as well.


    うん, 愛してるよ。

    Un, aishiteru.

    Yeah, I love you.

    Quick notes:

    When discussing the use of "I love you" in Japanese, it's important to consider some less obvious cultural nuances:

    Context Sensitivity:
    Japanese culture highly values context in communication. The setting, relationship status, and emotional depth all influence how and when "愛してる" is used.

    Non-Verbal Communication:
    Japanese people often express their feelings through actions rather than words. Even when "愛してる" is not said out loud, affection may be shown in different, more subtle ways.

    Emphasis on Harmony:
    In Japanese society, maintaining harmony and avoiding direct confrontation is a factor. This influences how love is expressed, often resulting in favoring indirect expressions over direct declarations like "愛してる."

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    Using "I Love You" in Japanese Neutral Conversations







    Saikin zenzen ae tenaikara, hayaku aitai yo.

    I miss you a lot, I can’t wait to see you again.



    Watashi mo aitai. Denwa dake de koe shika kikenai no wa sabishī na.

    I miss you too, I hate only talking on the phone.



    Atta toki ni chanto, aishiteru tte tsutaeru ne.

    When I see you again, I’ll say ‘I love you’.



    Iya, denwa demo ii kara ima mo iitai. Aishiteru yo!

    I’ll say it now even if it’s over the phone. I love you!

    Quick notes:

    In this section, it's important to note that expressing "I love you" in Japanese isn't just about the words but also about the timing and the emotional readiness of both parties. Japanese culture values subtlety and indirect expression, so saying 愛してる (aishiteru) can be a significant step in a relationship. It's often not said casually or early in a relationship. Understanding the emotional context and ensuring that both people feel the same level of commitment and affection is crucial before using such a profound expression. This reflects the deep respect for emotional sincerity and the importance of mutual understanding in Japanese relationships.


    Using "I Love You" in Japanese Formal Conversations







    Kyō, koko ni atsumatte kureta ogyakusan-tachi ni happyō shinakereba naranai koto ga aru. Yōko-san, aishiteimasu!

    I have something to announce to everyone gathered here today. I love you, Yoko!



    Watashi, ashita kekkon suru ndesukeredo!

    I’m getting married tomorrow!



    Ichido itte mitakatta nda. Tonikaku aishiteruyo!

    I wanted to say it once. I love you anyways!



    IJā, watashi mo iwanakucha. Kentō-san, watashi mo aishiteimasu!

    Then, I have to say it, too. Kento, I love you, too!

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    Suki + Daisuki:
    The Main Ways to Say "I Love You" in Japanese

    When can you use them?
    Rather than “I love you,” suki is actually “like” when you use any online translator (such as DeepL). However, Japanese people also often use this word to express love. It is one of the common ways to express their love or admiration for someone or something in everyday contexts. The beauty of  好き lies in its broad applicability; it can be used to describe a wide range of affections - from romantic interest in a person to a deep fondness for a hobby or activity. This flexibility makes 好き a key phrase in understanding the subtle ways love and liking are expressed in Japanese culture.

    大好き (daisuki) is deeper than 好き (suki) and could be implied to mean something closer to the English phrase "I love you" depending on both the context and person. This phrase can also mean your absolute favorite of something or someone.

    Who can you say it to?
    You can use the phrase 好き (suki) to a person, your hobby, or something you enjoy to do. It's used to convey enjoyment or a strong liking for a variety of things, such as hobbies, foods, places, or activities. For instance, you can say 好き (suki) to express your passion for painting, your love for a particular cuisine, or your fondness for a certain city. This word encapsulates a spectrum of positive feelings, making it a staple in everyday Japanese language to express a range of positive emotions and preferences.

    Just like suki, You can use the phrase daisuki about a person, your hobby, or something you absolutely love to do.

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    Using Suki/Daisuki in Japanese Casual Conversations







    ongaku wo kiku no suki dayo ne?

    You like listening to music, right?



    Suki yo, toku ni yougaku no kyoku wo kiku.

    I do! I especially enjoy listening to international music.





    Friend 1


    Konya, tabetai mono aru?

    Tonight, is there anything you want to eat?

    Friend 2


    Uun, osushi daisuki dakara, osushi no omise wo sagasou!

    Umm, I love sushi so let’s find a sushi place!



    Fast track your Japanese with our list of the most Useful Japanese Phrases!

    Using Suki/Daisuki in Japanese Neutral Conversations







    Kare no doko ga suki?

    What do you like about him?



    Kare no yasashii tokoro ga suki.

    I like that he is a kind person.





    Friend 1


    Nene, ichiban daisuki na haiyuu ha dare?

    Hey, who is your all-time favorite actor?

    Friend 2


    Ichiban daisuki wa Raiyan Gosuringu yo!

    I love Ryan Gosling the most!

    Using Suki/Daisuki in Japanese Formal Conversations

    Speaker Kanji Romaji  English
    New friend どの映画が好きですか? dono eiga ga suki desu ka? What genre of movies do you like?
    You 映画を見るのが好きです。 Hora- eiga wo miru no ga suki. I like watching horror movies.





    Colleague 1


    Renkyuu ha nanishiteru?

    What do you usually do when it's a consecutive holiday?

    Colleague 2


    Kazoku to ryokou ni iku no ga daisuki desu no de, dekaketari shitemasu

    My family and I like traveling, so we usually go out.



    (koi) or (ren), this appears in the expression 恋をする (koi wo suru) “to fall in love”, 恋人 “koibito” “lover” and 初恋 (hatsukoi) “first love”. However, we cannot use this word to say I love you.

    How NOT to Use "I Love You"

    Given the courteous nature of these expressions, it's unlikely you'll cause offense if you mistakenly use them out of context. However, you should be aware of certain nuances. For instance, appending "please" to a request for a burdensome task can inadvertently come across as disrespectful or patronizing. Furthermore, kudasai should typically be used when requesting something that is rightfully yours, not when making a request on behalf of someone else. Understanding these subtle distinctions can make all the difference in your Japanese language interactions.



    Moshi moshi.

    Hello. (used when picking up the phone)



    Sumimasen, watashi no tame ni nimotsu o hakonde kudasai.

    Excuse me, could you carry my luggage for me, please?



    Moushiwake arimasen ga, sore wa sukoshi omosugi.

    I'm sorry, but that's a bit too heavy.

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    Advice from a Native Speaker

    Pay attention.

    Observe. Adapt. Pay attention to how native speakers use these phrases in various contexts, as this can provide valuable insights into appropriate usage. Keep in mind that how the phrase is used in media may not be entirely consistent with its use in real world situations. 

    Recognize the weight of the words.

    Understand the depth of phrases like "愛してる (aishiteru)" and use them judiciously, as they carry significant emotional weight in Japanese culture. Remember that suki is a more common way to express affection!

    Understand non-verbal cues.

    Japanese communication often relies on non-verbal cues. Being attentive to these can provide a better understanding of when and how to express feelings.

    If in doubt, ask your Japanese teacher or a friend!


    Check out our Ultimate Guide to Dating in Japan to learn the unique cultural differences and values of dating here!

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    Related Phrases & Guides

    Saying I love you in Japanese can be confusing, as the word “愛してる” is not commonly used by people because of the culture. However, the examples in this article have a very special and deep meaning. Make sure to learn more about how Japanese culture expresses love, check our Ultimate Guide to Valentine's Day in Japan.

    If you're looking for more helpful guides to aid you in your journey through Japan and its culture, we recommend starting with:

    Ultimate Guide to White Day in Japan
    Top 15 Tips to Make Japanese Friends
    Ultimate Guide to Japanese Language Exchange
    Ultimate Guide to Moving to Japan
    How Long Does It Take to Learn Japanese?
    Ultimate Guide to Getting Married in Japan

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