How to say “I love you” in Japanese: Aishiteru or Suki da yo?

How to say “I love you” in Japanese: Aishiteru or Suki da yo?

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Learning to say “I love you” in Japanese is not an easy thing. Japanese culture does not facilitate declarations of love. In addition, there are many ways to express feelings in the Japanese language. So should you use “Ai shiteru”, “Suki da yo”, “Daisuki da” or “Koi wo suru” to reveal your true feelings? The answer is on this page!

In this article, we will see different ways of saying “I love you” in Japanese. I will try to show you the nuances that exist between all these expressions. Because they express different forms of love. But first, I’ll explain why it’s hard to reveal your love for someone in Japan.

Declarations of love in the Japanese culture

Here, we touch a sensitive point of Japanese culture. Indeed, it is really difficult to express your feelings in the Japanese language.

Most Japanese do not say “I love you” as you would do in the rest of the world. The Nippon find it really embarrassing to reveal their love, even in private. They can sometimes perceive declarations of love as something strange.

“Do you want to become my boyfriend/girlfriend?”

While living in Japan, you might hear these questions after a date: “Do you want to be my boyfriend?” or “Do you want to become my girlfriend?”

If the Japanese have difficulty in evoking their feelings, they do not hesitate to clearly define the nature of their relations. It may seem strange to Westerners, but it’s totally normal in many East Asian cultures. So take this question very seriously.

Suki and Daisuki, a familiar love

The terms Suki and Daisuki literally mean “like”. Daisuki adds more emphasis to this feeling. You can use these two expressions to say that you appreciate someone or something.

By extension, you can also use Suki and Daisuki in a more passionate meaning. A cultural component even makes these terms more common than the true words that define love. I will discuss them later in this article.

Suki da yo, “I like you” in Japanese

だよ。
Suki da yo.
I like you.

This phrase is commonly used in everyday life. It reveals to the interlocutor that you have feelings for him. It is up to him to interpret the strength of your love.

To avoid misunderstandings, do not tell people with whom you have friendly relations. I already imagine your Japanese friends feeling uncomfortable because they think you are trying to get out of the friend-zone. In fact, you’re fine because here, you can save money. You don’t need to pay for chocolate in Valentine’s Day, and KFC at Christmas.

Please note that the words Da and Yo are optional in this sentence.

Da is the informal version of Desu. This last expression, which is not a verb, has more or less the same function as “To be”.

As for Yo, it is a particle that emphasizes the stated purpose. By adding this at the end of your sentence you insist on the fact that you know what you are talking about. In this case, it is your feelings that it is.

Daisuki da, “I really like you” in Japanese

だいだ。
Daisuki da.
I really like you.

This phrase is less open to doubt because Daisuki is a strong word.

The Kanji 大 affixed in front of the word Suki means “Big” in Japanese. Its addition allows saying that you really appreciate something or someone.

Daisuki implies that you are a big fan of something when you talk about an object, food or a sports team. This is also the case when you talk about an artist, an athlete or some other famous personality.

But when you say that to someone, it implies that you have strong feelings for that person. These feelings must be beyond normal friendship.

Suki yanen, “I like you” in the Kansai dialect

きやねん。
Suki yanen.
I like ya.

There are many ways to say “I like you” in local dialects of Japan. Suki Yanen is a way of expressing love in Kansai-ben, the Osaka dialect.

This expression is very popular throughout Japan. It is even used as a name for a famous brand of instant noodle soup.

Take the plunge, say “I love you” in Japanese

The kanji of love

愛, Kanji pronounced “Ai” in Japanese, is the character that best represents the concept of love, as we see it in Western cultures. This character of Chinese origin can be used to talk about relationships or affection between members of the same family. Expressions that use “愛” are the most intimate ways to say “I love you” to someone in Japanese.

Ai shiteru

あいしてる。
Aishiteru.
I love you.

With Ai shiteru, which is sometimes transcribed into Aishiteru, you can seriously reveal your feelings. This expression is the strongest way to express your love for someone in Japanese.

However, do not expect to hear Ai shiteru every minute if you are in a passionate relationship with a Japanese. Japanese lovers use this term sparingly because it is certainly the strongest thing they can express with words.

Do not feel hurt if your Japanese partner does not say “I love you” every day.

Ai shitemasu

あいしています。
Aishitemasu.
I love you.

Ai shitemasu, sometimes transcribed in Aishitemasu, is the formal form of Ai shiteru. I do not really know in which context you could use it since you are supposed to pronounce these words to your lover. I do not see why you would use a polite form to address a person with whom you have, or wish to share, an intimate relationship.

Maybe if your partner is from an aristocratic family? Or, if your love is your teacher or supervisor?

Expressing your love by silence

In fact, sentences such as “Ai shiteru” are rarely uttered in everyday Japanese. Japan is very different from what we can see in romantic dramas or movies. Indeed, Japanese men almost never express their love to their partner.

There are many reasons behind this silence. But the term “Ai” is often too heavy to bear. In the Japanese language, each word has its importance, each sound adds weight to what we want to express. Thus, the Japanese are often trying to balance their words with their true feelings.

Unfortunately, this mostly ends in failure. The individual is unable to assess its language over his emotions. In that case, silence is always the easiest solution to put in place.

This problem is not just about declarations of love. The Japanese have a lot more trouble expressing their thoughts than the Westerners for example. In general, they prefer to use convoluted sentences to convey very simple messages.

However, do not think that the Japanese never express their feelings. They are often more comfortable with actions than with vocabulary. In Japan, you will often receive gifts or help from people who appreciate you.

Speaking about love in Japanese

The kanji of romance

恋, Kanji pronounced “Koi”, is one of the characters that is least understood by students learning Japanese. Many think that this Chinese character has the same meaning as 愛, while there is a subtlety. The term 恋 is used to describe love, but not to declare affection directly to someone.

One of the main reasons for the misunderstanding around the 恋 character is that it is often in the title of romantic fictions, such as dramas or love songs. Because it is used to express the romance that is in these works.

To put it simply, use expressions with this kanji only with people who are not directly involved in the romantic relationship.

Koi wo suru

こいをする。
Koi wo suru.
To be in love.

This sentence only allows expressing a state of love. Ideally with someone who has nothing to do with this loving relationship.

You can not use it to declare your love to someone in Japanese. If you do, your soulmate may think you are a psychopath, because it does not sound natural at all.

How to say “Fall in love” in Japanese?

こいちる
Koi ni ochiru.
To fall in love.

This sentence literally means “falling in love”. Indeed, Ochiru is the Japanese verb to use to say “To fall”. The Japanese use the same expression as English speakers. Funny, right?

Say “I love you” with a “Thank you”?

Some Japanese couples never express their feelings in a direct way. This can sometimes last for decades without either say “Ai shiteru” or even “Suki da yo”. This does not mean, however, that they never show affection to each other.

These people often prefer to emphasize their gratitude to the person who shares their life rather than using words of affection. For this reason, a thank you can be seen as a way of saying that we love someone in Japanese.

21 ways to say Thank you in Japanese

A detailed article that explains how to thank someone in Japanese.

Feel free to leave a comment in this article if you have not understood the nuances of these expressions, or if you know other ways to say “I love you” in Japanese. I will answer when I’ll have spare time.

Michaël da Silva Paternoster

French living in Japan since 2016. I work as a manager and marketing consultant for several Japanese and foreign companies.

All stories by : Michaël da Silva Paternoster

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