In Japan, there are many ways to say hello or goodbye. Some are very formal and used in business settings with gestures such as bowing, while other Japanese greetings are more casual and can be used with friends. In Japanese, it is called “aisatsu” (挨拶) or greetings in English.
If you plan on learning the Japanese language, traveling to Japan, or even living there one day, it is crucial to be able to greet the people and introduce yourself properly.
In this article, we will explore all the different greetings in Japanese, their meanings, and usage tips so you can give an excellent impression to the people you meet. Let’s get started!
Ohayō Gozaimasu: Good morning (おはようございます)
This is the most common standard greeting used to say “good morning” in Japanese. You can use it with friends, family, co-workers, and strangers. Ohayō gozaimasu is typically used from sunrise until around noon time.
To sound more polite, you can add the person’s title after ohayo gozaimasu. For example, if you are talking to your teacher, you would say, “Ohayo gozaimasu, sensei.” If you are talking to a friend or a family member, you can drop the “gozaimasu” and say “ohayo” to say good morning.
Konnichiwa: Good afternoon (こんにちは)
Konnichiwa is a very well-known Japanese greeting, and this is the second most common Japanese way to say “hello” in the Japanese language and literally means “this afternoon.” You have probably heard of it, even if you don’t study Japanese. Although it can be used with anyone and in any situation, it does sound more polite than casual.
Konnichiwa is typically used from noon until around sunset. Just like with ohayo gozaimasu, you can add the person’s title after or even before konnichiwa to sound more polite. For example, you could greet your colleague, Mr.Honda, by saying, “Honda-san, Konnichiwa!”.
Konbanwa: Good evening (こんばんは)
Konbanwa is used in the same way as konnichiwa, but it is used to say hello in the evening. It’s a polite and formal way to say “good evening.” It literally means “this evening” or “tonight” and can be used from sunset (around 6 pm) until bedtime. It is more commonly used when talking to people you don’t know very well or people you want to show respect to, like a superior.
For example, you could be on your way home after work and meet your neighbor in the street. In this case, you would say, “Tanaka-san, konbanwa.”
Oyasuminasai: Good night (おやすみなさい)
Oyasuminasai is the Japanese way of saying “good night” and is used when you go to bed or leave someone’s house at night. It can be translated to “Rest well” or “Sleep tight.”
When saying goodnight to a close friend or family member, you can simply say “oyasumi.”
Sayônara: Goodbye (さようなら)
Sayônara is the most common way of saying “goodbye” in Japanese. It can be used in various situations, whether leaving someone’s house, ending a phone conversation, or saying farewell to a friend.
When leaving your workplace, you should use “otsukare sama desu” to say goodbye to your colleagues instead of sayônara. It means saying, “Thank you for your hard work.” When you leave work a bit earlier than your colleagues, you could also say “saki ni shitsurei shimasu,” which approximately means “Sorry for leaving first.”
You might also hear “jaa ne” as a more casual way of saying goodbye. Similarly, “jaa mata” can also be used, meaning “see you later.”
Ogenki desuka: How are you? (お元気ですか)
Ogenki desuka is used to ask “how are you doing” in Japanese. It is a very versatile question that anyone can use. The answer to this question can be “genki desu,” which means “I’m fine.”
It is often used when you meet someone you haven’t seen for a while. When talking to friends, you can drop the “desuka” and ask “genki?” directly.
Otsukare sama desu: Thank you for your hard work (お疲れ様です)
Otsukare sama desu is a phrase used to show appreciation towards someone who has worked hard. It is commonly used amongst co-workers at the end of the day but can also be used with friends and family members.
When used with people you are close to, you can just say “otsukare.” For example, a father could say to his child who just finished passing an extensive exam, “otsukare.” It is a way of recognizing his child’s effort.
Hajimemashite: Nice to meet you (はじめまして)
Hajimemashite is the phrase you use when meeting someone for the first time. It can be used in both formal and informal situations.
If you want to sound more polite, you can add “dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu” at the end of the sentence, which means “Please treat me well.”
For example, if you want to introduce yourself to someone new, you can say: “Hajimemashite, …desu. Dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”. It means something like “Hello, I am …, it is nice to meet you”.
Hisashiburi desu: Long time no see (久しぶりです)
If you are meeting someone you haven’t seen in a while, you can say “Hisashiburi desu!” as a greeting.
“Hisashiburi desu” might be followed by “o-genki desu ka,” which means “How are you?” to ask the person how they have been since you last saw them. Another variation of this phrase is “Hisashiburi desu ne,” meaning “It’s been a while, hasn’t it ?”
Tadaima: I’m home (ただいま)
Tadaima is the phrase you use to greet people when you arrive home. If someone else is already at home, they will usually reply with “okaeri” or “okaerinasai,” meaning “welcome back.”
For example, if your children are already at home when you arrive, you would say “tadaima,” and they would reply with “okaeri.”
This phrase can also be used when returning to your office or workplace after being away for a while. In this case, people might reply with “okaerinasai” or “otsukaresama.”
Ittekimasu: I’m going now (行ってきます)
When leaving your house, you can say “itte kimasu,” meaning “Bye, I’m going now.” The person staying home usually replies with “itterasshai,” meaning “Have a safe trip.”
“Tadaima” and “itte kimasu” are part of phrases commonly used between family members when someone arrives or leaves the house. This might be a bit confusing to foreigners who are not used to those special greetings, but they are a daily part of Japanese people’s life.
Irasshaimase: Welcome (いらっしゃいませ)
Irasshaimase is the phrase you use to greet customers when they enter your store or business. It is an essential part of Japanese culture and shows that you welcome the customer.
If you are working in a restaurant, you would say “irasshaimase” to welcome the guests as they are seated. Another way of saying “welcome” is “yôkoso” (ようこそ), but this is more commonly used when people are arriving in Japan for the first time or when they are starting a new job.
Yahhô: Hi, what’s up! (ヤッホー)
Yahhô is a casual way of saying “hi” in Japanese. It is the equivalent of saying “hi, what’s up!” and is even more casual than “ohayo.” You can use this phrase with your friends or people you know well.
Men, when among friends, might also greet each other’s by saying “ossu,” which is a short version of “otsukare.” This kind of greeting is very informal and would be considered rude if used to greet someone superior to you in the hierarchy (boss, professors, customers…).
Moshi moshi – Hello? (もしもし)
Moshi moshi is the expression you say when answering the phone in Japan. It is used both for personal and business calls. You would also use this phrase when calling someone to say, “Hello, is anyone there?”.
If you are unsure how to answer the phone in Japanese, just say “moshi moshi.” The person on the other end will usually reply with their name, and then you can proceed with the conversation.
Gomen kudasai: Hello, anybody home? (ごめんください)
Gomen kudasai is a phrase that you will use when you want to enter a place to talk to someone, but you are not sure if anyone is home. It’s as if you were saying, “hello, sorry for intruding, is anyone here?”.
For example, if you want to enter a store but the door is closed and are unsure if anyone is there, you would say “gomen kudasai” before entering. If someone is indeed there, they will usually reply with “hai, dôzo” or “irasshaimase,” meaning “yes, come in.”
To Sum Up About Japanese Greetings
I hope this article helped you understand the various Japanese greetings and their meaning in English so you can correctly say hello in Japanese in any situation. While some might seem similar to each other, there are slight nuances that change the meaning of the phrases.
If you are learning the Japanese language, it’s vital to master greetings as well as Japanese honorifics to communicate in a formal situation.
The best way to learn is by practicing with Japanese friends. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; everyone makes them! Practice makes perfect.
Frequently Asked Questions about Japanese Greetings:
Japanese people usually use “konnichiwa” (こんにちわ) to greet people. Konnichiwa (koh-nee-chee-wah) is the Japanese’s most common way of greeting people.
Japanese people say “ohayō Gozaimasu” (おはようございます) to say hello in the morning.
Oyasuminasai (おやすみなさい) means good night in Japanese. A more casual greeting to say good night to your close friends or family would simply be “oyasumi.”