How to say i love you in japanese

Have a look below for some phrases that will help you when you need to say “I love you” or perhaps something not so strong.

In Japanese, the word for “love” is “愛 (ai).” To say “I love you” in Japanese, you say “愛してる (Ai shiteru).”

Kisu shite mo ii? キスしてもいい?

Kekkon shite kureru? 結婚してくれる?

How to Say “I Really Like You” in Japanese

Kanji: 大好きだよ

Hiragana: だいすきだよ

Romaji: Dai suki dayo 

So, you have been out for a couple of dates with someone you really really like and you want to express your feelings towards that person. What do you say to him or her?

You gaze into your date’s eyes and say “大好きだよ.” Special note: This is more casual and lighthearted than 愛してる, which will be explained further below.

How to Say “May I Kiss You?” in Japanese

Katakana & Hiragana: キスしてもいい?

Romaji: Kisu shite mo ii?

You have been going out with someone you like for some time now.

The two of you have just had a romantic candlelight dinner together and now you are enjoying the night scenery from Tokyo Tower.

You feel that the moment is right for a kiss, so you lean in closer and whisper this phrase “キスしてもいい?”

How to Say “I Want to Meet (See) You” in Japanese

Kanji: 会いたいよ

Hiragana: あいたいよ

Romaji: Aitaiyo

Two weeks ago, you and your boy/girlfriend had a big argument. The two of you have not been in touch since then. You miss him/her like crazy and you decide to extend an olive branch.

So you call and say “会いたいよ.” Special note: You will hear this a lot in Japanese TV drama serials. There is a lot of unspoken meaning, desire and emotion behind this simple phrase.

Plainly put, it is more than just a meeting between friends or colleagues.

How to Say “I Love You” in Japanese

Kanji: 愛してる

Hiragana: あいしてる 

Romaji: Ai shiteru

Not just casual dating anymore, you and your better half have been through some rough patches together. You took care of her when she was down with chickenpox.

She gave you her full support to pursue a master’s degree. On your anniversary, you realize how far you have come in your relationship and you declare “愛してる.”

How to Say “Will You Marry Me?” in Japanese

Kanji: 結婚してくれる?

Hiragana: けっこんしてくれる? 

Romaji: Kekkon shite kureru?

You and your significant other have been a couple for a few years now. You have met each other’s family and friends, and you are sure you want to spend the rest of your life with each other.

The time is ripe to pop the question and propose. With a ring in hand, you get down on one knee and ask “結婚してくれる?”

That’s it for Japanese love phrases. Next, why don’t you check out some Japanese greetings and learn about telling time in Japanese?

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Ai shiteru (愛してる)

The phrase you might know from anime or textbooks is ai shiteru (愛してる / あい ), or ai shiteru yo for emphasis.

This is the most literal way to say I love you in Japanese.

The kanji character ai (愛) means love. If you can already read some kanji – and you have good eyesight – you might recognise the character for heart (心 /kokoro) snuggled up at the centre of the character for love. Ahh, sweet!

Aisuru (あいする) is the verb to love. It combines ai (love) with the verb suru, to do. Ai shiteru is the usual way to say I love you in the present tense. (Shiteru means ‘am doing’, so you can think of ai shiteru as ‘I’m doing love’, if it helps you to remember!)

Yo (よ) is a particle used at the end of sentences for emphasis. You don’t have to say this, but it sounds more natural.

There is also the more formal form, ai shiteimasu (あい しています ).

But in actual fact, none of these are the most usual way to express your love in Japanese.

Ai is a very strong word in Japanese. It refers to a deep, long lasting and romantic love.

Usually you would only say ai shiteru yo to a person you feel a very deep commitment to. It’s the sort of thing you would say to your life partner when you are ready to get married.

Japanese girl with flowers

Even then, married couples don’t say this to each other regularly. It just sounds too heavy and formal. You definitely wouldn’t say ai shiteru to somebody you are dating casually.

So what can you say instead?

Suki desu (好きです)

You may have learned that suki desu (好きです / すきです) means ‘like’.

And you would be right! Suki can be translated as like, but it can also mean love. It depends a lot on the context.

Think of it this way: love is a nuanced thing. There are many different kinds of love, and many different ways to express your love in English too – I love you, I adore you, I’m in love with you, I’m crazy about you….

The love you feel for your boyfriend or girlfriend is different from the love you feel for your parents, your grandma, your pet cat, or for ice cream.

Suki desu is the most usual and natural way to express like, love or adoration for someone or something.

Remember that Japanese people are often not so expressive with words as some other cultures. The real meaning depends on the context. So suki desu! on a first date probably doesn’t mean that somebody wants to marry you and have babies straight away. It means they like you, and they’re having a good time with you.

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But suki desu said in a tender moment in a long term relationship can mean ‘I love you’ in the way that we usually mean it in English.

how to say i love you in japanese - couple laughing in bed

Suki is also the way to say ‘like’ for anything, even inanimate objects.

So you can say nihon ga suki desu (日本が好きです) – I like Japan. piza ga suki desu (ピザが好きです)- I like pizza.

You can also add different endings for emphasis. suki desu is neutral or feminine. suki da yo is a more masculine way to say I love you in Japanese.

Actions speak louder than words

As we already mentioned, Japanese people don’t actually say ‘I love you’ as much as some other cultures. Some English speakers end every phone call to their partner or parents with ‘I love you’. This kind of thing would be very rare in Japan.

It’s not that Japanese couples love each other less than Western couples… they just don’t feel the need to say it out loud so much! In a marriage or family, your commitment to each other should go without saying.

In Japan, actions truly speak louder than words. You can show your love a thousand times each day in the small actions you perform to take care of your lover.

In fact, one traditional phrase used to propose in Japanese is

俺のみそ汁を毎朝作ってくれない / Oreno misoshiru wo tsukuttekurenaiWill you make my miso soup every morning?

It might not sound very romantic at first glance. But think about making a commitment to being there for your darling every morning for the rest of your life, and having someone to look after you too and share everyday life with.

how to say i love you in japanese - japanese wedding in western white dress

Photo credit: Jeremy Wong Weddings

That said, the miso soup line is considered a bit outdated these days, and most modern Japanese girls would laugh at you if you said that! Still, it’s interesting to think about the culture behind the words.

Have you ever said I love you in Japanese? Which phrase do you prefer? Let us know in the comments!

Three main ways to say love in Japanese

Ai – 愛 – It means literally “love”. Adding “shiteru” you are saying your love to a person in an intimate way. Aishiteru (愛してる) is more used when you are in a serious relationship, married or engaged.

Suki – 好き – It means literally “like”. That is the more common way to say you love or like something, be a person, food or another thing. Sometimes it is normal to add the word 大 (dai) to express that you like very much or have a strong love for someone or something.

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Koi – 恋 – It is used in the same way as 愛. It has the same meaning, although in a way more romantic, intense and ardent. It can be translated as “passion”, used between extreme intimate people, a true love.

Love in Nihongo - I love you in Japanese

Suki Desu is the most used. It does not mean using Aishiteru or Koishiteru you love someone less. We do not say “neko wo aishiteru”, we say “Neko ga suki” or “Dai suki”. So, culturally we should assume the value of the word “suki” has the same value as “love” in English.

Some Japanese, mainly the young, also often use ラブ (rabu – love), a word originally from English to say, love.

Summarizing I love you in Japanese

  • Aishiteru – 愛してる – I love you (really intimate, in a relationship).
  • Koishiteru – 恋してる – I love you (I’m starting to fall in love with you).
  • Suki desu – 好きです – I like you.
  • Dai suki desu – 大好きです – I like you very much.

Others words related to love in Japanese

  • 恋愛 – renai – Can mean love, affections, making love, passion and falling in love;
  • 色 – Even the simple kanji of color can be related to love, lust and sensuality;
  • 情 – Kanji present in some words related to love that can indicate feelings, emotion, passion, affection, and affection.

Love in Nihongo - I love you in Japanese

Bellow, we can see some Japanese words that contain the Kanji of love:

Words with “Ai (愛)” Words with “Koi (恋)”
愛読書 aidokusho

Favorite book.

初恋 hatsukoi

First love.

愛人 aijin


悲恋 hiren

Tragic love, sad love.

愛情 aijou

Love, affection.

恋人 koibito


愛犬家 aikenka

Dog lover.

恋文 koibumi

Love letter.

愛国心 aikokushin


恋敵 koigataki

Rival in love.

愛車 aisha

Favorite car.

恋に落ちる koi ni ochiru

Falling in love.

愛用する aiyousuru

Favored, habitual.

恋する koisuru

Be in love with…

母性愛 boseiai

The maternal love.

恋愛 renai

Romantic love.

博愛 hakuai


失恋 shitsuren

Disappointing love.

Look some interesting words involving romance and marriage:

  • Renai-kekkon (恋愛結婚) is a “marriage for love”;
  • Miai-kekkon (見合い結婚), “arranged marriage”;
  • Renai-shousetsu (恋愛小説) is a “story of love” or “a romance”.

Here are some proverbs that include the word “koi”:

恋に師匠なし。 Koi ni shishou nashi.  Love does not need teaching.
恋に上下の隔てなし。 Koi ni jouge no hedate nashi. Love does all the men the same.
恋は思案のほか。 Koi wa shian no hoka. Love does not have a reason.
恋は盲目。 Koi wa moumoku. Love is blind.
恋は熱しやすく冷めやすい。 Koi wa nesshi yasuku same yasui. Love becomes deep easily but cools quickly.
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