There are plenty of reasons as to why you might want to wish someone Good Luck. In English, we have a singular phrase that allows us to express those very words to someone. In Japanese, however, fundamentally there isn’t a phrase that wishes “luck” to the recipient of the encouragement at all. There are, however, a variety of similar phrases you can use to urge someone on or express votes of confidence or encouragement.
When we say Good Luck in English, we often use it to encourage others; to cheer them on. Of course, you might use it to actually wish them “Good Luck,” or something like “I hope it turns out well for you.” But when trying to do this in Japanese, it can become a little tricky.
That’s not to say there aren’t any workarounds, however! Japanese is a complex and vibrant language that has its own unique way that you can utilise to wish someone “Good Luck.”
Luckily though, there are many ways you can express wishes such as “Good Luck to You” in Japanese, or “Best of Luck” in Japanese. Whether you’re seeking ways to send someone encouragement and cheer them on, or if you genuinely just want to wish someone “Good Luck…” You can achieve this in Japanese, and I’ll show you how!
Author’s Note: The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “Good Luck” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!
Table of Contents
Good Luck in Japanese
Let’s jump straight into the most common, and direct way you can wish someone Good Luck in Japanese.
- Good Luck (casual)
This is a powerful phrase that has many uses and variations. As we mentioned earlier, Japanese does not have a frequently used phrase to explicitly wish someone Good Luck. Although that may be the case, you can, however, use 頑張って (ganbatte) to express Good Luck in the form of encouragement to the recipient.
For instance, before taking a test, in English, someone might say to you “Good Luck, you can do it!” That is exactly what this phrase does in Japanese, it tells a person, you’re rooting for them. The phrase 頑張って (ganbatte) is the best phrase you can use to tell someone Best of Luck in Japanese.
kyou no tesuto wo ganbatte!
Good Luck on the test today!
When you use 頑張って (ganbatte), you’re essentially telling someone to “do their best” on a task.
Imagine that you’ve come to cheer your friend on during their sporting tournament. Before the tournament begins, you tell them 頑張って (ganbatte), meaning “Good Luck.” Then, during halftime, you meet up with them again. This time, you tell them once again: 頑張って (ganbatte). This second application would convey an expression more like “do your best, hang in there!”
If you use this phrase while someone is in the midst of something, it tells them “You can do it, almost there.”
Adding Formality when saying Goodluck
- Good Luck (Formal)
As you may already know, the Japanese language has many different levels of formality. The language, words you use, and the way you use them can change quite drastically depending on who you are speaking to. If you’re speaking with someone in a professional environment, such as a colleague, or even a stranger, you’ll want to be using formal Japanese.
Luckily for us, when you want to say Good Luck formally in Japanese, it’s really quite simple. Take the casual phrase for Good Luck in Japanese 頑張って (ganbatte) and attach ください (kudasai). By adding ください (kudasai) to the phrase, you make it formal. That’s all there is to it!
You might be wondering why ください (kudasai). By itself, ください (kudasai) is a formal way of saying “please” in Japanese. So a literal translation would be “Good Luck Please,” or rather, “Please do your best.” Regardless of whichever meaning you intend to convey, to say Good Luck formally in Japanese, you need to attach ください (kudasai) to 頑張って (ganbatte).
Well Done in Japanese
You can use a variant of 頑張って (ganbatte) to tell someone “well done” or to stress to them that you know that they did their best at doing something.
- You did your best/ You really tried hard didn’t you
For example, imagine that your friend has just finished their tournament and you go to see them. You can say 頑張ったね (ganbatta ne), essentially telling your friend “Well done, you did well.”
The reason it becomes 頑張った (ganbatta), and not 頑張って (ganbatte), is because by changing the て (te) to a た (ta) you change the verb into the past tense. This is because when you tell someone “Well done” in English, you are specifically referring to an event that happened in the past. It’s the same in Japanese.
The ね (ne) at the end of the sentence doesn’t have a direct translation into English. However, by adding ね (ne), which is optional by the way, you convey a “didn’t you” kind of nuance.
For instance, if you said 頑張った (ganbatta) by itself, you would be stating “You really tried hard/ You did your best. Adding the ね (ne) at the end, would make it equivalent to “You really tried hard, didn’t you” in English. Ultimately it’s up to you if you wish to include the ね (ne) or not, but it does add a touch of warmth to your words.
Saying Good Luck to Cheer Someone On in Japanese
The phrase below is another variant of 頑張って (ganbatte) (explained above). When you want to cheer someone on in Japanese, in the midst of all the action, this is how you can do it!
- Hang in there!/Go for it!/Keep at it!
Let’s take the same example we used earlier; you’ve come to cheer on your friend at a tournament. We’ve discussed earlier how what you want to convey can depend on if you tell someone 頑張って (ganbatte) before their tournament begins, or during half-time. But what about during their tournament? You can use 頑張れ (ganbare) to encourage your friend to keep going, effectively telling them to “hang in there!” or “go for it!”
You can use this phrase the same way as you would use it in English to cheer someone on.
There’s a good chance that you’ve heard ファイト (faito) used in various Japanese media, TV, movies, or anime. It is a very casual phrase that you can use when you want to cheer on your friend during their important event in Japanese.
You’ll most likely want to avoid using this phrase when speaking to managers, or teachers, though however. The meaning of ファイト (faito) is quite self-explanatory, it is an easy way that you tell someone “keep going, keep pressing on, you can do it” in Japanese.
It is very similar to the above 頑張れ (ganbare) and can be used interchangeably.
Good Luck, You Can Do It in Japanese
Just like English, Japanese has some fantastic phrases that you can use to encourage someone. Let’s dive in!
- You can do it
kimi nara dekiru
君ならできる is a powerful phrase that you can use to bolster someone’s confidence.
Bear in mind though, that this isn’t something you would shout out to cheer on a friend in the midst of their tournament or important event. There are other ways in which you can use for those situations (see Cheering Someone On in Japanese above).
A direct translation of this phrase in English would be “if it’s you, you can do it.”
Let’s break down the phrase a little more.
Firstly: 君 (Kimi), means “you” in Japanese. To add more weight to this phrase’s meaning, you can substitute out the 君 (Kimi) for the persons’ actual name. It completely ups the emotion felt when the person hears you say this so definitely use their name if you can!
Let’s look at the next part of this phrase. なら (nara) means “if” in Japanese.
Finally, the last part, できる (dekiru), translates to “can do.” Essentially meaning:
kimi nara dekiru
You if, can do it
Japanese sentence structure is often the reverse to that of English, making the meaning “You can do it.” This is a fantastic phrase to say to someone to encourage them before an event that’s important to them!
I Believe In You in Japanese
- I believe in you
anata ni shinjiru
Next up, is a phrase that has the exact same nuances, meaning, and uses as it does in English. When you want to tell someone “Good Luck” and that “you believe in them,” あなたに信じる (anata ni shinjiru) is the perfect way to do it.
あなた (anata) is one of the many ways that you can say You in Japanese. In Japanese, the word “you” isn’t used anywhere near as much as we do in English. Instead, when you can, you want to avoid saying あなた (anata) and always try and use the persons’ name.
Japanese is fantastic in pretty much forcing you to remember people’s names. Unless you want to try and have a conversation without using the word “You” at all. (Which is very difficult, trust me!)
You might be wondering, why you should avoid あなた (anata) for this phrase? あなた (anata) is often used to refer to your spouse in Japanese, so you’re best off using the persons’ actual name unless you are speaking to your spouse of course!
The next part, に (ni), is a Japanese particle, which in this case, can be translated to “in”.
信じる (shinjiru), is the verb for “believe” in Japanese. Unlike English, Japanese verbs come at the end of the sentence. As “Believe” is a verb, in Japanese it is said last.
What about how to say “I” in Japanese? Like “you,” there are also many different ways of saying “I.” However, these pronouns are often omitted in speech.
You could attach 私は (watashi ha), to the beginning of the phrase, which would make it a complete direct translation. However, the Japanese language often omits the “I” pronoun, so you shouldn’t worry at all about not using it!
I Wish You Good Luck in Japanese
We don’t often say “I wish you Good Luck” in Japanese. However, there are some ways in which you can say it, let’s take a look!
- I wish you Good Luck
kouun wo inorimasu
This is a very formal expression that you can use to wish someone Good Luck in Japanese.
幸運を祈ります (kouun wo inorimasu) is not really used in conversation. Although it makes sense and a native Japanese speaker will understand you, it sounds somewhat unnatural. Instead, you might find this phrase used in an email or letter of some sort.
It is a direct translation of “I wish you Good Luck.” Let’s break this phrase down a little.
幸運 (kouun) in Japanese literally ” Good Fortune.”
を (wo) is a Japanese grammar particle and marks the object of the verb in the sentence.
いのります (inori masu) is the polite version of the verb いのる (inoru), meaning “to pray” or “to wish” in Japanese.
As 幸運 (kouun) in Japanese means “Good Fortune,” you can attach を祈ります (wo inorimasu), which means”to pray for.” With that said, by putting it together, you have a phrase with a literal translation of “I’m praying for your good fortune” in Japanese!
Good Luck And Take Care in Japanese
- Good Luck and Be Careful
Sometimes you may want to say to someone “I wish you Good Luck” in the sense of “be careful.” In those situations, this is the phrase you’ll want to use. You can use 気を付けて (kiwotsukete) to tell someone to be careful in Japanese.
For instance, in English, we might want to tell our friend Good Luck just before they go on a long solo-cycling trip.
ryokou wo kiwotsukete!
Good luck and be careful on your travels!
In this variation of “Good Luck,” you are also telling them to “be careful” as well right? That’s exactly the meaning that this phrase conveys, and you can use it the exact same way as you do in English!
In situations where you will need to use polite speech, you can say 気を付けてください (kiwotsukete kudasai).
All the Best in Japanese
- All the Best/Best of Luck
You can use お元気で (ogenki de) to tell someone “Best of Luck,” or “All the best” in Japanese. It’s a fantastic phrase to use to express your hope to the receiver in that they will remain healthy. It’s quite a casual expression that is primarily used as a parting phrase.
Say you’ve spent the day with a friend and it’s time to say goodbye. In English, we often say things like “all the best” during these situations. To convey that same thing in Japanese, we can simply say お元気でね (o genki de ne), with the addition of ね (ne) for emphasis.
If you are writing a letter or an email and wish to conclude it with a simple “all the best”, “best of luck” or “kind regards”, use 敬具 (keigu). Reserved for written formal situations such as email writing, 敬具 (keigu) expresses a polite “best of luck” in Japanese. Note that 敬具 (keigu) should only be used in written Japanese.
In conversations where you should show respect, simply saying では (deha) as a parting phrase is the best way to say “best of luck” or “all the best” in Japanese.
I have Good Luck in Japanese
You can say things such as I am Lucky in Japanese, or I/You have good Luck. Let’s take a look!
- I have Good Luck
un ga ii
Those days where you feel like you’ve been particularly lucky… perhaps you caught that pancake mid-flip that you were sure was going to fall to the floor, received some generous tips at work, or somehow managed to flook that exam you were struggling… Whichever the case, sometimes you feel like you’re lucky, or maybe you’re just generally a lucky person.
During these experiences, you’re going to want to say “I’m Lucky” in Japanese. 運がいい (un ga ii), as a literal translation, means “luck is good.” The best thing about this phrase is that you can use it to say that you yourself have good luck or use it to say to someone else that they have good luck in Japanese.
You can use 運がいい (un ga ii) as a general phrase, or you can use it immediately after an event has happened. For instance, just as you would say “Wow, I’m lucky,” in English after winning the lottery, you can use this phrase to communicate the same thing in Japanese.
When you’re wanting to tell someone else “You have Good Luck” in Japanese, you can attach ね (ne), to the end of the sentence. This makes it 運がいいね (un ga ii ne) which changes the phrase to consistently convey the meaning of “You have good luck”.
Formality: If you want to say “I have good luck” politely in Japanese, you can attach です (desu) to the end of the phrase, making it 運がいいです (un ga ii desu).
I Am Unlucky in Japanese
Maybe, you’ve had one of those days, or maybe you’re just an unlucky person… Whichever the case, you’re going to need to know how to say “I am unlucky” in Japanese.
- I am unlucky
un ga warui
So things aren’t going well, and you’ve been a bit unlucky.
During those times, you can say 運が悪い (un ga warui) which means “I am unlucky,” or as a literal translation: “My luck is bad”.
Perhaps you’ve just clocked in 20 seconds late to work, or maybe your phone died just as you were about to send an email. During all of these unfortunate circumstances, in English, we would say that it was unlucky. You can use 運が悪い (un ga warui) to say “I am unlucky” in Japanese during all of those unfortunate situations.
Similarly to how you can say 運がいいね(un ga ii ne) to tell someone that they’re lucky (as explained above), you can attach ね (ne) to the end of this phrase, to tell someone else, somewhat kindly that they’ve been unlucky. Although, I’m sure they already know they have been after what might have happened.
That Was Lucky in Japanese
You can use ラッキー (rakki) which is an expression that has the same meaning and nuances as the word “Lucky” in English.
In Japan, this is a very casual phrase that Japanese people will often use as a standalone to convey the meaning of “I am lucky.” What I mean by this, is that instead of saying the entire “I am Lucky” phrase, Japanese people will just use ラッキー! (rakki!) which conveys the same meaning.
For instance, if manage to get yourself a high score on a Japanese reading test, you could simply say ラッキー (rakki), which would mean the same thing as “I’m lucky” or “that was lucky” in English.
That Was Unlucky in Japanese
- That was unlucky/ that was unfortunate
When you’re referring to a specific thing or event as being unlucky, or unfortunate in Japanese, this is the phrase you can use! 残念 (zannen), literally means the same as the word “unfortunate”.
In Japanese, where the context is understood by both the speaker and listener pronouns, words, and subjects are omitted.
For instance, if you’re playing a game of monopoly with your family (always goes well), and you just don’t quite have enough to pay the bills, in English, you might say “that was unfortunate,” or “that was unlucky.” In Japanese, you can simply say 残念 (zannen), which means the exact same thing!
Formality: You can up the politeness on this phrase if you’re speaking with someone such as a manager, or stranger. Simply add です (desu) to the end of the phrase to make it formal.
Symbols of Good Luck in Japan
There are actually many symbols of Good Luck in Japan, despite there only being a few literal ways to say “Good Luck” in its language.
Lucky Cat – Beckoning Cat (Maneki-Neko)
One of the most popular, and well-known symbols would be the Maneki-Neko, or beckoning cat in English. It is a Japanese figurine that is commonly placed in doorways, on top shelves, etc, to bring its owner good luck. You can find these ornaments all over Japan. The cats are very symbolic to Japanese culture, and some temples in Japan are absolutely covered in them.
Here is a picture I took during my cycle across Japan.
Another amazing thing about these cats is that each colour attribute represents something different. For instance, a pink cat would represent love and romance, whereas a white cat would represent positivity and purity.
You can check out more information on these cats here.
Bringing Good Luck to the weather
Japan has many other unique elements to its culture that represent Good Luck. A teru teru bozu, literally “shine shine monk” is a Japanese doll made from white paper or cloth that you can hang outside your window. It is said that this hand-made doll has magical powers, and by it outside your window, it can halt rainy days and bring good luck to the weather.
You could even make your own!
The Legendary Japanese Four-leaf Clover Taxi
In Kyoto, Japan, there is a Taxi company called Yasaka, which uses clovers as its logo. These clovers are located all over the taxis themselves, including on the top. There are 1400 of these taxies in Kyoto, of which, a mere four of them have a four-leaf clover logo imprinted on their top, as opposed to the standard three-leaf-clover logo the remaining 1396 of them have.
It is said that those who see these mysterious taxis, or better yet, have the privilege of riding in one, will be brought eternal happiness.
Be on the lookout for these when you next visit Kyoto! According to rumours, If you’re lucky enough to ride one, you will be blessed with happiness in your life.
If you’re looking for some Japanese Reading practice, check out our regularly updated page with culture-infused exercises for all Japanese levels. Good luck with your Japanese!
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