Whether you’re doing business with another country, or just visiting for a week, a great way to acquaint yourself with the culture is to learn the basic greetings. Natives will recognize your effort, and in turn, will respect you for your attempt at assimilation, especially in Japan. So if you’re looking to make a good impression on your next Japanese business call, keep reading on for every Japanese greeting, farewell, and pleasantry you could need!
There are many different ways, formal and informal, to say hello in Japanese. The most common greeting is the informal konnichiwa (こんにちは). Konnichiwa is a greeting that can be used fairly liberally, however it is important to note that the phrase more accurately translates to “good day,” or “good afternoon” than a simple “hello.”
Moshi moshi (もしもし) is another way to say hello in Japanese, but should only be reserved for over the phone conversations. If you feel comfortable using informal greetings, you can say yaa (やあ), which is simply “hi” in Japanese. Lastly, if you want to greet your Japanese neighbors a classic “hey,” there are a number of different greetings to choose from: ossu (おっす), yō (よう), or ōi (おーい).
Sayounara (さようなら) is probably one of three Japanese words you already know, but it might surprise you to learn that people in Japan don’t usually default to using sayounara as a farewell. Just like hello, goodbye in Japanese can be expressed in a variety of ways, both formally and informally. Informally, you can say goodbye in Japanese with the sayings bai bai (バイバイ), which translates to “bye bye,” or jaa ne (じゃあね), which can mean “bye” or “see you.”
Of course, casual farewells aren’t exactly acceptable when it comes to business. The best way to say goodbye to a Japanese business associate is with the formal expressions otsukaresama desu (お疲れ様です) or otsukaresama deshita (お疲れ様でした).
To say thank you in Japanese, the word you need to remember is arigato (ありがとう), even though it is a rather informal pleasantry and should only be used around friends. If you’re searching for a more polite “thank you,” try arigato gozaimasu (ありがとうございます). Just like English, there are several variations you can use to express your level of gratitude. Domo arigatou (どうもありがとう) means “thanks a lot,” while domo arigato gozaimasu (どうもありがとう ございます) means “thank you very much.”
Japanese language tools might tell you that you’re welcome in Japanese is do itashimashite, but in actuality, do itashimashite (どういたしまして) is not a commonly used phrase these days.
This is a rather informal way of saying “you’re welcome,” and over the years it has been replaced with the simpler, equally informal reply: ie ie (いえ いえ). Ie ie translates to “no no,” to imply that thanks are not needed.
If you wish to accept thanks in a formal setting, the most polite way to say you’re welcome in Japanese is kyoushuku de gozaimasu (恐縮でございます). There is no exact translation of this expression in English, but it is a very humble phrase that implies the other party has displayed great kindness towards you.
The most common way to say good morning in Japanese is ohayō gozaimasu (おはよう ござい ます). You can use this greeting until 11 AM or 12 PM, depending on how you feel. You can also shorten this greeting to ohayō when speaking casually to friends and classmates.
Lastly, to say good evening in Japanese, you can say konbanwa (こんばんは). This is a great greeting to use because it can be used in formal and informal settings alike.
Familiarizing yourself with greetings in any language can be difficult, but you should always make the effort when either visiting or doing business with Japan, as they are a sign of manners and respect.
Learn some other useful Japanese phrases below!