"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" Christmas Carol in Japanese

Japanese Lyrcis for Akahana no Tonakai

Rudolph leading Santa's sleigh toward Japan
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The New Year (shogatsu) is the biggest and most important celebration in Japan. Christmas is not even a national holiday, although December 23 is, because of the Emperor's birthday. However, the Japanese love to celebrate festivals and have adopted many Western customs, including Christmas. The Japanese celebrate Christmas in a uniquely Japanese way, starting with the way they say "Merry Christmas."

There are many Christmas songs translated into Japanese. Here is the Japanese version of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or Akahana no Tonakai.

Makka na ohana no tonakai-san wa

真っ赤なお鼻のトナカイさんは

Itsumo minna no waraimono

いつもみんなの笑いもの

Demo sono toshi no kurisumasu no hi

でもその年のクリスマスの日

Santa no ojisan wa iimashita

サンタのおじさんは言いました

Kurai yomichi wa pika pika no

暗い夜道はぴかぴかの

Omae no hana ga yaku ni tatsu no sa

おまえの鼻が役に立つのさ

Itsumo naiteta tonakai-san wa

いつも泣いてたトナカイさんは

Koyoi koso wa to yorokobimashita

今宵こそはと喜びました

Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer Lyrics

The original version is not translated literally into Japanese and skips certain parts that are known well in the English.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer

Had a very shiny nose.

And if you ever saw it,

You would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer

Used to laugh and call him names.

They never let poor Rudolph

Join in any reindeer games.

Then, one foggy Christmas Eve,

Santa came to say,

"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,

Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then, how the reindeer loved him!

And they shouted out with glee:

"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer,

You'll go down in history!"

Japanese Vocabulary and Lyrics Explained Line-by-Line

Makka na ohana no tonakai-san wa

  • makka (真っ赤): bright red
  • hana (鼻): nose
  • tonakai (トナカイ): reindeer

"Ma (真)" is a prefix to emphasize the noun that follows, as here with "makka (真っ赤)," or like in "makkuro (真っ黒), black as ink, or "manatsu (真夏)," the middle of summer.

The prefix "o" is added to "hana," nose, for politeness. The names of animals are sometimes written in katakana, even if they are native Japanese words. In songs or children's books, "san" is often added to the names of the animals to make them more like humans or for friendliness.

Itsumo minna no waraimono

  • itsumo (いつも): always
  • minna (みんな): everyone
  • waraimono (笑いもの): an object of ridicule

"~mono (~者)" is a suffix to describe the nature of the person. Examples include "waraimono (笑い者)," the person who is made fun of, and "ninkimono (人気者)," the person who is popular.

Demo sono toshi no kurisumasu no hi

  • toshi (年): a year
  • kurisumasu (クリスマス): Christmas

"Kurisumasu (クリスマス)" is written in katakana because it is an English word. "Demo (でも)" means "however" or "but." It is a conjunction used at the beginning of a sentence.

Santa no ojisan wa iimashita

  • santa (サンタ): Santa Claus
  • iu (言う): to say

Although "ojisan (おじさん)" means "uncle," it is also used when addressing a man.

Kurai yomichi wa pika pika no

  • kurai (暗い): dark
  • yomichi (夜道): night journey

"Pika pika (ピカピカ)" is one of the onomatopoeic expressions. It describes giving off a bright light ("hoshi ga pika pika hikatte iru (星がピカピカ光っている。)," the stars are twinkling) or the glittering of a polished object ("kutsu o pika pika ni migaita (靴をピカピカに磨いた。)," I gave my shoes a good shine).

Omae no hana ga yaku ni tatsu no sa

  • yaku ni tatsu (役に立つ): useful

"Omae (お前)" is a personal pronoun, and means "you" in an informal situation. It should not be used to your superior. "Sa (さ)" is a sentence ending particle which emphasizes the sentence.

Itsumo naiteta tonakai-san wa

  • naku (泣く): to cry

"~teta (~てた)" or "~teita (~ていた)" is the past progressive. "~teta" is more colloquial. It is used to describe past habitual action or past states of being. To make this form, attach "~ta" or "~ita" to "te form" of the verb, like so: "itsumo naiteta tonakai-san (いつも泣いてたトナカイさん)," the reindeer that used to cry all the time.

Another example, "terebi o mite ita (テレビを見ていた。)," means, "I was watching TV."

Koyoi koso wa to yorokobimashita

  • koyoi ( 今宵): tonight
  • yorokobu (喜ぶ): to be pleased

"Koyoi (今宵)" means "this evening" or "tonight," is usually used as literary language. "Konban (今晩)" or "konya (今夜)" is commonly used in conversation.