5 Sweet Words to Express Love in Japanese

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If you want to learn Japanese, then one word that’s likely on your shortlist is “love”. Japanese are not known to be very expressive when it comes to romantic feelings. And yet, there are actually many ways to say love in Japanese. Each word has a slightly different meaning and shows a unique level of sentiment. 

In this article, we’ll explore each definition, giving you an inside look at some of the nuances within the amazing world of Japanese linguistics. Let’s go!

Love in Japanese at a Glance



Koi ( )


Ai ( )


Aijoo ( 愛情 )


Renai ( 恋愛 )


Labu  ( ラブ )


All the Ways to Say Love in Japanese

5 Sweet Words to Express Love in Japanese 1

Koi (恋) – Love

Koi ( ) is the most common word to express feelings of passionate love for someone in Japanese and is exclusively used for people who are in a romantic relationship. Some words derived from koi include koibito (恋人) meaning “lover”, and koishii (恋しい) meaning “to long for”.

The word koi is associated with feelings such as excitement, longing, and attraction, and often implies a recent relationship like when someone just fell in love or started dating.

ゆきに恋をしています。 Yuki ni koi wo shiteimasu.I’m in love with Yuki.
彼女と恋に落ちました。 Kanojo to koi ni ochimashita.I fell in love with her.

Ai ( ) – Love

Although it translates to “love”, this simple translation doesn’t quite capture the full depth and complexity of ai in Japanese culture. If koi is about intense feelings of love, the word ai refers to a more profound and serious love. That’s why most romantic relationships start with koi and end up turning into ai with time. 

Ai represents not just romantic love, but also love for family, friends, pets, and even one’s country or nature. It is a deep feeling of affection and trust that goes beyond words. It is often expressed through actions and deeds; selfless, compassionate, and kind love.

君を愛しています。 Kimi wo aishiteimasu.I love you.
彼に愛の告白をしました。 Kare ni ai no kokuhaku wo shimashita.She confessed her love to him.

Aijoo ( 愛情 ) – Love/Affection

The word aijoo in Japanese is composed of 2 kanjis: 愛 (ai), which translates to love, and 情 (joo) which translates to feeling or emotion. It is used to describe the deep emotional connection between individuals, whether that be between romantic partners, family members, or friends. In English, it could mean love, but also affection and tenderness.

私はいつも愛情を込めて彼女を扱っています。 Watashi wa itsumo aijoo wo komete kanojo wo atsukatteimasu.I always treat her with love.
息子に強い愛情を抱いています。 Musuko ni tsuyoi aijoo wo idaiteimasu.I feel great affection for my son.

Renai ( 恋愛 ) – Love/Romance

The word renai is made up of the 2 kanjis for love we saw earlier: one is the kanji koi (pronounced ren here) and the other is ai.

So renai refers to the feelings of love and romance between two individuals, and it encapsulates a wide range of emotions: from the initial attraction and infatuation to the deep connection that develops over time.

なつきに恋愛感情を持っています。 Natsuki ni renai kanjoo wo motteimasu.I have romantic feelings for Natsuki.
恋愛小説を書きました。 Renai shoosetsu wo kakimashita.I wrote a love story.

Labu (ラブ) – Love

If you’re a fan of Japanese songs and entertainment, you’ve likely come across the word labu ( ラブ ) before. This word is derived from the English word “love,” and is commonly used in Japanese popular culture as a way to express romantic feelings.

たくみがラブレターをもらいました。 Takumi ga labu letaa wo moraimashita.Takumi received a love letter.
あの2人はラブラブですね。 Ano futari wa labulabu desune.Those 2 are crazy in love with each other.

Japanese Terms of Endearment for Your Lover

There are tons of affectionate pet names to call your lover in English like sweetheart, sunshine, or sugar. Although some people in Japan do use them, most Japanese are too shy for that. Instead, they add a cute suffix like ¨kun¨ for a man or ¨chan¨ for a woman to their partner’s first name, and sometimes shorten it too. For example, the name “Yuriko” can become “Yuri-chan”. 

For people who want to use pet names in Japanese, here are some options you can use for someone you love in Japanese: 

あなた AnataDear
ダーリン DaarinDarling
ハニー HaniiHoney
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