A Happy New Year! “Akemashite Omedetoo Gozaimasu!”: The Beginning-Of-The-Year Greeting


Table of Contents
  1. The expression “おめでとうございます Omedetoo gozaimasu”
  2. What’s ”あけまして akemashite”?
  3. How is ”まして mashite” used?
  4. A little more on the verb “あけます akemasu”
  5. Bonus: The verb “くれます kuremasu”


1.  The expression “おめでとうございます Omedetoo gozaimasu”

We say “おめでとうございます。Omedetoo gozaimasu!” (Congratulations!) to congratulate practically anything. You can mention the matter for the congratulation at the beginning of the sentence, typically with a noun. See the following:

Example 1: おたんじょうおめでとうございます。(Congratulations on your birthday!)

Ex. 2: ごそつぎょうおめでとうございます。(Congratulations on your graduation!)

Ex. 3: ごしょうしんおめでとうございます。(Congratulations on your promotion!)

Ex. 4:  ご結婚けっこんおめでとうございます。(Congratulations on your wedding!)

Also, we can use a verb in “て te” form to show the reason of congratulations. See the following:

Ex. 5: ごとつかって、おめでとう。 Shigoto ga mitsukatte, omedetoo! (Congratulations on your having found a new job!)

Ex. 6: ぼう学校がっこうはいれて、おめでとう。Kiboo no gakkoo ni hairete, omedetoo! (Congratulations on your acceptance at the school you wanted to attend.)

Ex. 7: びょうなおって、おめでとう。Byooki ga naotte, omedetoo! (Congratulations on your recovery!)

The cases with “て te” form sound more casual, so we used the friendly “おめでとう omedetoo” to complete the examples 5-7.

By the way, in these sentences, “おめでとう!Omedetoo!”  is identical in meaning with “よかったね!Yokatta ne!” (Good for you! I am glad that it happened to you!)

2.  What’s ”あけまして akemashite”?

As we discussed in the previous section, “あけまして akemashite” in the greeting “あけましておめでとうございます Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu” shows the reason for congratulation, but the appearance is a little different.

The verb is clearly “あけます akemasu (we will discuss its meaning later)”. Usually we expect its “て te” form to be “あけて akete”, but it is “あけまして akemashite”. This “て te” form is purportedly formed in the polite “ます masu” form of the verb.  We could call this “まして mashite” a polite and formal variation of “て te” form.

Therefore, “あけまして akemashite” balances with the formality of the ending “おめでとうございます omedetoo gozaimasu.”

The beginning-of-the-year greeting is such an important occasion in the Japanese social life that “あけましておめでとうございます Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu” has become a set phase. That’s why we never say “あけておめでとうございます。Akete omedetoo gozaimasu.”

Of course there is always a reaction to an established form of culture, and about twenty years ago, young people began to use “あけおめ Ake ome!” in their text and e-mail messages, as the shortened version of this beginning-of-the-year greeting. It is very casual and so it is fun to exchange them between friends. However, we don’t use it toward or between adults engaged in business.

3. How is ”まして mashite” used?

Then, do some people always speak politely by using “まして mashite” instead of “て te” form? The answer is “Never”. 

In modern Japanese, we hardly use “まして mashite” except in the beginning-of-the-year greeting or when we need to sound particularly respectful, polite and formal.

For example, it is frequently used by the customer service of businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, and public transportation and so on. You may have heard this announcement on the train when you were in Japan:

Ex. 8. このたび列車れっしゃおくれまして皆様みなさま大変たいへん迷惑めいわくをおかけしております。Kono tabi wa ressha ga okuremashite mina-sama ni taihen go-meiwaku o o-kake-shite orimasu. (We sincerely apologize for the serious inconvenience we have caused you because of the delays of this train.)

4.  A little more on the verb “あけます akemasu”

The verb “あけます akemasu (明けます meaning to end)” has a very limited usage. The subject of the verb is usually “the night” and it is used as follows:

Ex. 9. けました。Yo ga akemashita. (The night ended and it became light. =The new day began.)

Based on this principal meaning, there is another meaning that we are learning now:

This “あけます akemasu” is different from “けます (akemasu, a transitive verb)” meaning to open something. Instead, it is spelled “けます (akemasu, an intransitive verb)” and it means the night ends and there is light of the new day. 

Based on this principal meaning, there is another meaning that we are learning now:

 Ex. 10.  としけました。Toshi ga akemashita. (The year ended and there is light of the new day. =The New Year began.)

When the last night of the year ends, the next day is in the New Year. So “けます akemasu” can mean “a new year begins”.

Now can you guess the unmentioned subject in the beginning-of-the-year greeting “けましておめでとうございます。Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu”? It is the old year which just left. When we were younger, we thought the subject was the New Year. However, the verb “けます akemasu” should come after something dark such as the night which waits to end and become bright.

5. Bonus: The verb “くれます kuremasu”

The opposite of the verb “けます akemasu” is “れます kuremasu”. It means the sun sets and it becomes dark.

They say its etymology is “くらい kurai (dark)” just like “けます akemasu” seems to have something to do with “あかるい akarui (light)”.

Figuratively, it is also used to say a period finishes. Some examples are to follow:

Ex. 11. れました。 Hi ga kuremashita. (The sun set. =Night fell. =The day ended.)

Ex. 12. あととおとしれます。Ato tooka de kotoshi mo kuremasu. (In ten days this year will end.)

Ex. 13. としの春もれていきます。Kotoshi no haru mo kurete ikimasu. (Another spring is leaving.)

Ex. 14. 今日きょうもワードプレスと格闘かくとうしているうちにれてしまった。Kyoo mo waado puresu to kakutoo shite iru uchi ni kurete shimatta. (Today again ended as I struggled with WordPress.)

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