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How to say ‘Friend’ in Japanese Language

Two Japanese friends sat at a table together looking happy, one female and one male

There are many ways to say ‘friend’ in Japanese language. Friendship is something that is important in almost all cultures and locations around the world, particularly in Japan.


We all maintain different relationships with the people around us, from close friends, to colleagues, to acquaintances. There are many ways to describe our relationships with people in Japanese, as there are in English. Many of these are formal, and many of these are informal or slang terms.


It is important to know the correct way to describe your relationships with those around you, and when these are appropriate for personal or professional environments. Here are some ways to address those around you and a few other relevant phrases too!


An image of Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo with hundreds of people using the crossroads


‘Friend’ in Japanese

Yuujin (友人) – Friend (Polite)

‘Yuujin’ is a common word to say friend in Japanese in a respectful manner. The term is formed by combining ‘yuu’ (友) which means ‘friend’ and ‘jin’ (人) which means ‘person’.


It is a more formal way of addressing someone you are close with. It acknowledges a strong bond that has been built up over time.


Examples of how to say ‘Yuujin’ in a sentence:
My friend lives in Tokyo.
Yuujin wa Tōkyō ni sunde imasu.


I’m going to meet my friend tomorrow.
Ashita, yuujin ni ai ni ikimasu.


We have been friends for many years.
Watashitachi wa nagai aida, yuujin desu.


Tomodachi (友達) – Friend

‘Tomodachi’ is another common way to say friend in Japanese. It comes from combining ‘tomo’ (友) which means ‘friend’ and ‘dachi’ (達) which means ‘group’.


It can be used in informal and formal situations, and is typically understood in all regions and dialects of Japan.


Examples of how to say ‘Tomodachi’ in a sentence:
I’m going to meet my friend at the park.
Kōen de tomodachi ni ai ni ikimasu.


I often go shopping with my friend.
Tomodachi to yoku kaimono ni ikimasu.


My friend is coming to visit me this weekend.
Shūmatsu ni tomodachi ga watashi o tazunete kimasu.


Tomo (友) – Friend (Casual)

‘Tomo’ (友) is a shorter version of ‘Tomodachi’ that translates to ‘friend’ in English. It is an informal way of addressing someone you are friends with.

It is usually used more in spoken language than written, and the informal nature of it implies both closeness and camaraderie.


Examples of how to say ‘Tomo’ in a sentence:
My classmate is my friend.
Kurasumēto wa tomo desu.


I enjoy playing sports with my friend.
Tomo to issho ni supōtsu o suru no ga tanoshii desu.


I trust my friend completely.
Tomo o kanzen ni shinrai shite imasu.


Two Japanese friends sat at a table together looking happy, one female and one male


‘Best Friend’ in Japanese

Shinyuu (親友) – Close Friend, Best Friend, True Friend

‘Shinyuu’ roughly translates to ‘close friend’ or ‘best friend’ in English. It combines ‘shin’ (親) which means ‘close’ with ‘yuu’ (友) which means ‘friend’.


This would be used in formal situations to refer to one of your closest friends, with which you have a long friendship that involves trust, respect, and shared experiences.


Examples of how to say ‘Shinyuu’ in a sentence:
My best friend and I have known each other since childhood.
Shinyuu to wa kodomo no koro kara shiriai desu.


I can always rely on my best friend for support.
Shinyuu ni wa itsudemo tayori ni dekimasu.


We share a deep bond of friendship and trust.
Shinyuu to wa fukai kizuna de musubarete imasu.


Daishinyuu (大親友) – Best Friend, Great Friend, BFF

‘Daishinyuu’ is another way to ‘best friend’ or ‘close friend’. Similar to ‘shinyuu’ but with ‘dai’ added to the front, ‘dai’ (大) means ‘large’ or ‘great’, implying a stronger bond than ‘shinyuu’.


It often refers to a relationship that has spanned a long period of time such as a childhood friend, and like ‘shinyuu’ it implies trust, respect, and shared experiences.


Examples of how to say ‘Daishinyuu’ in a sentence:
My best friend and I have shared countless adventures together.
Daishinyuu to wa musuu no bouken o tomo ni shite kimashita.


My lifelong best friend is like a sibling to me.
Daishinyuu wa watashi ni totte kyōdai no youna sonzai desu.


My greatest support in life comes from my best friend.
Jinsei de saidai no sasae wa daishinyuu kara ete imasu.


Osananajimi (幼馴染) – Childhood Friend

‘Osananajimi’ describes a friend you have known since childhood. It combines ‘osana’ (幼) which means ‘friend’ with ‘jimi’ (馴染) which means ‘acquaintance’.


It is a good way to describe someone that has grown up with you, such as attending the same school. ‘Osananajimi’ implies you have experienced milestones together such as graduating together, or similar.


Examples of how to say ‘Osananajimi’ in a sentence:
My childhood friend and I have known each other since we were little.
Osananajimi to wa chiisai koro kara shiriai desu.


I have many fond memories with my childhood friend.
Osananajimi to wa taku no omoide ga arimasu.


My childhood friend knows me better than anyone else.
Osananajimi wa hoka no dare yori mo watashi o yoku shitte imasu.


A busy Japanese train carriage with people talking to each other and other people using their phones or reading books


‘Buddy’ in Japanese

Nakama (仲間) – Mate, Comrade, Pal

‘Nakama’ is quite a versatile word that translates to ‘companion’ or ‘fellow’ in English. This combines ‘naka’ (仲) which means ‘relationship’ with ‘ma’ (間) that means ‘space’.


With the term being quite broad, you can use this to describe a wide range of relationships. This could include close friends to people you work or study with. It often describes a group of people with a common interest or hobby.


Examples of how to say ‘Nakama’ in a sentence:
My teammates are like family to me.
Nakama wa watashi ni totte kazoku no you desu.


I cherish the bond I share with my comrades.
Nakama to no kizuna o taisetsu ni shiteimasu.


Together with my comrades, we strive towards a common goal.
Nakama-tachi to tomo ni, kyoutsuu no mokuhyou ni mukatte doryoku shiteimasu.


Dachi (ダチ) – Buddy, Bro, Pal

‘Dachi’ is a casual way of referring to a friend in Japanese, loosely translating to ‘buddy’ or ‘bro’. It is believed to derive from ‘tachi’ (立ち) which roughly means ‘together in a group’.


This slang is typically associated with the regional dialect of western Japan. It is generally more popular with younger people and can be considered informal.


Examples of how to say ‘Dachi’ in a sentence:
My buddies and I always have a great time together.
Dachi to itsumo tanoshiku sugoshiteimasu.


I can always count on my pals for support.
Dachi ni wa itsudemo tayoru koto ga dekimasu.


My buddies and I always have each other’s backs.
Dachi-tachi to wa itsumo tagai no mikata desu.


Badii (バディ) – Buddy, Partner

‘Badii’ is another Japanese slang word that is derived from ‘buddy’ in English. This is typically used by younger people in Japan as a playful way to call someone your friend.


As this is a slang word, it is quite informal. It generally indicates a positive and trusting relationship and often involves those with similar interests or traits.


Examples of how to say ‘Badii’ in a sentence:
My partner in crime, my buddy, and I tackle adventures together.
Aibou, badii to issho ni bouken ni idomi masu.


Through thick and thin, my buddy and I stand by each other.
Konnan na toki demo, badii to tomo ni tachimukai masu.


Together with my buddy, we make a formidable team.
Badii to issho ni ireba, kyouryoku na chiimu ni narimasu.


A Japanese food bar with a chef stood behind the bar talking to a smiling customer


Other words for friend in Japanese

Shiriai (知り合い) – Acquaintance

Shiriai roughly translates to ‘person you know’ in English. It is composed of ‘shiri’ (知り) which means ‘to know’ and ‘ai’ (合い) which means ‘to meet’.


It refers to someone who you have met and interacted with, but do not share a particularly close bond. It is a relatively formal term that can be used in personal and professional settings.


Examples of how to say ‘Shiriai’ in a sentence:
We are acquaintances who met through a mutual friend.
Kyoutsuu no yuujin o kaishite shiriai desu.


We are casual acquaintances who often run into each other at the local café.
Jimoto no kafe de yoku guuzen au teido no shiriai desu.


Although we are just acquaintances, we often engage in friendly conversations whenever we meet.
Tada no shiriai de wa arimasu ga, au tabi ni yuukouteki na kaiwa o kawashimasu.


Mikata (味方) – Ally, Supporter, Comrade, Partner

Mikata translates to ‘ally’ or ‘supporter’ in English. It is a combination of ‘mi’ (味) which means ‘taste’ with ‘kata’ (方) which means ‘direction’ or ‘side’.


It is often used in sports to refer to supporters of a team or athlete. It can also be used to refer to someone in your group who supports you.


Examples of how to say ‘Mikata’ in a sentence:
Having a loyal friend as your ally can make all the difference in difficult times.
Chuujitsu na yuujin ga mikata toshite iru koto wa, konnan na toki ni ooki na chigai o umidasu koto ga arimasu.


My team members are not just colleagues; they are my allies and friends.
Chiimu menbaa wa tannaru douryou de wa arimasen. Karera wa watashi no mikata de ari, yuujin desu.


It’s comforting to know that you have someone in your corner who will always support you.
Itsumo anata o sasaete kureru mikata ga iru koto wa kokorozuyoi desu.


Douryou (同僚) – Coworker, Colleague

Douryou is used to describe a colleague or co-worker in Japanese. It comes from ‘dou’ (同) which means ‘same’ and ‘ryou’ (僚) which means ‘companion’.


It implies a professional relationship based on respect and cooperation. ‘Douryou’ is often used in working environments in Japan.


Examples of how to say ‘Douryou’ in a sentence:
My colleague and I work closely together on various projects.
Douryou to wa samazama na purojekuto de mitsu ni kyouryoku shiteimasu.


My colleague is reliable and always ready to offer assistance.
Douryou wa shinrai dekiru hito de ari, itsu demo tasuke o teikyou shite kuremasu.


My colleagues and I collaborate closely to achieve our team’s goals.
Watashitachi douryou wa chiimu no mokuhyou o tassei suru tame ni mitsu ni kyouryoku shiteimasu.


Two Japanese male office workers wearing business suits are smiling and laughing, enjoying a conversation over a cup of coffee


Doukyuusei (同級生) – Classmate, Peer

Doukyuusei is Japanese for ‘classmate’ in English. It combines ‘doukyuu’ (同級) which means ‘same year’ and ‘sei’ (生) which means ‘student’.


It is a phrase often used in literature and implies a sense of camaraderie and playfulness. Due to this, it is quite an informal phrase you would use with someone you are comfortable with.


Examples of how to say ‘Doukyuusei’ in a sentence:
My classmate and I always sit together and study for exams.
Doukyuusei to wa itsumo issho ni suwatte shiken benkyou o shimasu.


We have been classmates since kindergarten and have many memories together.
Youchien kara no doukyuusei de, takusan no omoide ga arimasu.


My classmates and I often play sports together during recess.
Doukyuusei-tachi to wa yasumi jikan ni yoku issho ni supootsu o shimasu.


Aibou (相棒) – Partner

Aibou translates to ‘partner’ or ‘companion’ in English. It combines ‘ai’ (相) which means ‘together’ with ‘bou’ (棒), which means ‘stick’ or ‘rod’. In Japanese culture, ‘Aibou’ is someone who has your back, supports you, and shares a strong bond with you.


It could be someone you rely on in a professional or personal setting and implies mutual support between two people. It is often used in films such as police or detective shows, where the main character may refer to their partner as their ‘aibou’.


Examples of how to say ‘Aibou’ in a sentence:
My dog is my loyal companion and partner in daily adventures.
Aibou no inu to issho ni hibi no bouken o tanoshindeimasu.


We have been friends since childhood, and we always support each other.

Osanai koro kara no nakama de, itsumo tasukeatteimasu.


She is not just my colleague; she is my trusted partner in the workplace.
Kanojo wa tannaru douryou de wa naku, shokuba de shinrai dekiru aibou desu.


Tsure (ツレ) – Companion

Tsure is a slang term that is used informally to describe someone you spend time with regularly. It originates from the word ‘tsuréta’ (連れた) which means ‘to accompany’.


It is commonly used among younger people in Japan and should only be used when appropriate. It is a casual and informal term that is often used to describe a friendly companion, or perhaps a romantic companion of the opposite sex.


Examples of how to say ‘Tsure’ in a sentence:

My friend and I always hang out together on weekends.
Tsure to wa shuumatsu ni itsumo issho ni asondeimasu.


We’ve been close friends since high school, and we’ve always stuck together.
Koukou no koro kara nakayoku shiteite, zutto tsure desu.


She’s always there for me when I need someone to talk to or have fun with.
Hanashi aite ya tanoshii jikan o sugosu toki ni wa itsumo kanojo ga tsure desu.


A group of Japanese schoolgirls walking through a park together in their uniform


How to make friends in Japanese

‘You are my friend’ in Japanese

Anata wa watashi no tomodachi desu (あなたは私の友達です。) – You are my friend

‘Anata wa watashi no tomodachi desu’ (あなたは私の友達です。) is a formal sentence that translates to ‘you are my friend’ in English.


It is a common way to express friendship in Japanese and would be used formally, often in situations where you are not particularly close with the person.


‘Let’s be friends’ in Japanese

Tomodachi ni narou (友達になろう) – Let’s be friends

‘Tomodachi ni narou’ translates to ‘Let’s become friends’ in English. It is composed of ‘tomodachi’ (友達) which means ‘friend’, ‘ni’ (に) which means ‘to’, “narou” (なろう) which means ‘let’s become’.


It is a simple phrase that can be used in professional and personal contexts. It can be a good way to break the ice when talking to new people.


The last word on how to say ‘friend’ in Japanese

With our guide we hope you are able to learn a thing or two about Japanese language, culture, and dialect. Japanese is not an easy language to learn, particularly if English is your first language, but we have plenty of other useful guides to make this easy for you!


If you are just starting out with learning Japanese, why not learn how to say some more basic phrases such as ‘Hello‘, ‘I love you‘, and ‘Shut up‘.


If you are a little more advanced perhaps try learning some more unique Japanese words, or try to hone your pronunciation with some Japanese tongue twisters.


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There are plenty of opportunities all over Japan to get involved in, so if this sounds like something that might interest you, take a look at our application process!