How to say mother in Japanese: Haha vs. Okaasan

say mother in japanese

Want to know how to say mother in Japanese?

Wondering about haha vs okaasan?

Well. if you are, keep reading — this quick guide will teach you the 10+ ways to say mother in Japanese.

Want to learn how to write in Japanese? Download your free Japanese Alphabet worksheet here.

1. 母 (Haha)

  • Used when talking about your own mom.

This is the most standard way to say mother in Japanese.

This form of the word “mother” doesn’t use any honorifics, which is customary when talking about your own family.

However, you only use it when you’re speaking about your own mother to someone else.

2. お母さん (Okaasan)

  • Used when talking to your mom politely.

If you want to use a polite tone towards your own mother, you could use this word.

As you can see, there is an honorific さん (san) which shows politeness.

It shows that you respect your mother. You can also use this word when casually asking or talking about someone else’s mother.

Because of the honorific, it can work in both situations for your own mother and other people’s mothers.

So now you know the difference between haha vs okaasan.

3. ママ (Mama)

  • Used when talking to your own mom (childish).

This is a borrowed and modern word in Japanese for “mother” or “mom.”

Make sure to only use it when talking directly to your mother and not when talking about your mother to other people.

It is a casual and slightly childish word because it is often the first word a baby might say.

It is significantly easier to say than okaasan.

4. 母親 (Hahaoya)

This is a more formal way to say “mother” when you’re talking about a maternal parent to other people.

It also has more of a conceptual tone than haha and represents the nurturing and caregiving aspect of a maternal parent.

This word is made of two kanji characters 母 (haha), which means “mother,” and 親 (oya), which means “parent.”

5. おふくろ (Ofukuro)

An endearing way to call your “mother”, ofukuro, is an old school word that men tend to use to call their own mothers.

It is not as common to use this in polite conversation when talking to others about your own mother.

6. おっかさん (Okkasan)

Okkasan is similar to okaasan and this word was widely used until the end of the Meiji period in Japan.

Nowadays, it is more common to hear the word okaasan, but this can also be an excellent way to call your “mother.” 

7. お母様 (Okaasama)

This is one of the most polite ways to call your own mother or if you need to talk about someone else’s mother.

For example, if you need to ask if someone’s mother is home, you could use this word.

In a casual context, most people would not use this for their own mother.

The honorific used in this word is sama, which is one of the highest levels of politeness you can add.

8. 母ちゃん (Kaachan)

Kaachan is a casual way to say mother in Japanese… which uses the friendly honorific chan.

It gives the connotation of a close and friendly relationship with your own mother.

It might be similar to the word “mommy”.

This word is different from okaasan as it is less respectful but more endearing.

9. 親 (Oya)

This is how you say parents in Japanese…

And it should be used when talking about your own parents.

It shouldn’t be used when talking about someone else’s parents because there are no honorifics.

This can mean both your “mother” and your “father,” so you can use it if you’re talking about both of them. 

10. おかん (Okan)

In the Kansai dialect, you may hear the word okan being used casually for mother.

This is usually only used by men talking about their own mothers.

In general, you shouldn’t use this when talking about other people’s “mothers” unless you are close to them.

This is a word that many people outside of the Kansai region might also hear because of the comedians who are famous from the Kansai region.

Nice Phrases to Say to Your Mother in Japanese

If you want to show appreciation,..

Or, say happy mother’s day in Japanese

…use these phrases.

And hey, you might be wondering how to say “I love you mom” in Japanese.

BUT this is YOU trying to fit your language and customs into Japanese…

…which doesn’t work because that’s not how the Japanese language and culture work.

Japanese people don’t really say this to parents. Just not a thing.


1. お母さん、いつもありがとう。

  • Okaasan, itsumo arigatou.
  • Mom, thank you always.

Yes, instead of saying “I love you,” Japanese people show their appreciation to their mother by saying “Thank you.”

This is one of the most powerful phrases you can use towards your own mother because it shows your never-ending appreciation for them.

japanese phrases to tell your mom

2. お母さん、私を産んでくれてありがとう。

  • Okaasan, watashi o unde kurete arigatou.
  • Mom, thank you for giving birth to me.

Another powerful phrase of appreciation towards your mother would be this one.

It shows how much you are glad for your mother to have given birth to you and the life that you have.

japanese phrases to tell your mom

3. 世界一素敵なお母さん、これからもよろしくお願いします。

  • Sekai ichi suteki na okaasan, korekaramo yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
  • To the world’s best mother, please take care of me in the future.

This is a difficult phrase to translate because it uses the word “yoroshiku” which means “please take care of me.”

In an English context, this can also mean “Thank you.”

By telling your mother that they are the best in the world and showing appreciation for the future to come, this can be a powerful message.

japanese phrases to tell your mom

4. いつも私を見守ってくれてありがとう。

  • Itsumo watasho o mimamotte kurete arigatou.
  • Thank you for always looking over me.

If you have a mother that you’d like to show appreciation for all the times that they took care of you, this would be the perfect phrase.

It shows how much you appreciate all of the care that they have given you thus far and into the future.

This phrase could also be useful if you tended to cause trouble when you were younger.

japanese phrases to tell your mom

You can show your mother that you now have a deep appreciation for all of the times your mother was there for you.

Back to You

Now you know how to say mother in Japanese…

You also know the difference between haha and okaasan.

And good phrases to know to tell your mom.

– The Main Lingua Junkie

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