Last updated on February 7th, 2024 at 04:02 am
Learning the basic greetings in Japanese language can help you become friends with the locals in the country. While 日本語 or Nihongo is only spoken in Japan, you might be surprised to know that millions from across the world are interested in mastering this Asian language. In fact, recent studies show that the number of institutions for this language is rising, making it part of the 25 most spoken languages in the world! So start learning the casual and formal greetings today in this post.
There is no denying that Japanese is a language that is pretty difficult to learn, especially for Westerners. One of the main reasons behind that is that it has three writing systems that are sometimes used simultaneously in written documents.
This includes Hiragana (平仮名) for phonetic spelling, Katakana (カタカナ) for foreign words, and Kanji (漢字), which represents whole words adapted from Chinese characters. If this is your first time getting lessons to learn Japanese, we recommend that you start by familiarizing the basic Japanese greetings to help you grasp the pronunciation and the letters used.
10 Ways To Say Hello In Japanese
If the French people like giving cheek kisses to greet someone, the Japanese do this by bowing at a certain angle and duration. And when we say bowing, we do not mean a simple nod! The Japanese culture reflects that the locals do the ojigi (お辞儀) because it shows respect and willingness to lower yourself in a vulnerable position in front of the other person. Please note that you are also expected to do this even if you are a foreigner just traveling to the country.
There are three types of bows that you can do while saying your Japanese greetings, and this includes:
- Eshaku (会釈) – 15 degrees of bow used for informal interactions with strangers or close friends.
- Keirei (敬礼) – 30 degrees of bow mainly used for business situations and when meeting people for the first time. This is also perfect to use when saying hello to your bosses or when you want to welcome customers.
- Saikeirei (最敬礼) – a 45-degree type of bow used for saying sorry or showing guilt. This can also be used for greeting high-ranking government officials.
1. こんにちは – Konnichiwa
Whenever we think about the best Japanese word to say hello, most of us always think of the konnichiwa. However, this is actually not used when you are greeting a friend or someone close to you. This is considered a formal greeting used in the office and is more appropriate during the afternoon.
2. おす – Osu!
In English, people can call you “bro…” but in Japanese, Osu is the word that is somewhat the same as that. If you are a guy who is looking for a trendier way of greeting your close brothers, then osu is the right word to use. This does not have a direct translation related to any greeting, but the locals know this to be informal and used only by the teens or in anime.
3. お元気ですか – Ogenki desu ka?
Sometimes, saying hello does not really mean that you translate the word directly in Japanese. For example, if you want to strike a conversation, you can simply ask o genki desu ka, which means “how are you?” in English. The common response for this is げんきです or genki desu which means “I am fine.”
4. やあ/ よ – Ya / Yo
There are simple greetings that are usually used informally between friends and some close coworkers. This somehow is the same with the basic Oi in Portuguese or the Alo in Vietnamese. These can also be used when speaking with strangers who are younger than you.
5. おはようございます- Ohayōgozaimasu
If you want to say good morning to another person, you can simply say the ohayōgozaimasu or ohayō to sound more native. This is a simple way to greet someone and can be used in both formal and informal situations, making it a safe word to learn. Please note that some locals may sometimes have variations in how they pronounce this word, but you do not have to worry since the meaning stays the same.
6. こんばんは – Konbanwa
Japan has plenty of things to do at night time. And so, you’ll meet dozens of locals in the night market or in the commercial district. If you want to say hello or greet someone good evening, you can use this polite word to almost anyone as this is considered the most common form. If you are going to break down its literal meaning, the characters can be directly translated to “this evening.”
7. おやすみなさい – Oyasuminasai
If you want to greet someone with a parting phrase, then the most common Japanese expression to use is Oyasuminasai which means “go take a rest.”
8. ヤッホー – Yahho!
This greeting is usually used between kids, and you probably have heard of this in animes where the characters try to get attention. This is like the basic Yahoo! in English and is seen by the locals as a bit feminine.
9. 調子はどうですか – Choushi wa dōdesu ka
This is also a question that can be used as a greeting and a conversation starter. This can be directly translated to “how is it going?” and is safe to be used for both formal and informal situations.
10. もしもし – Moshi moshi
Among all the common Japanese greetings in this list, the best one you can use for greeting when answer the phone is moshi moshi. However, please note that this expression is better to use when you know that the one calling you is a family member, relative, or close friend.
7 Japanese Greetings At Home
If you plan to join a homestay program where you will share a home with a Japanese family, it would be wise to learn all the typical phrases and greetings in Japanese that you might hear from the locals. Whether they are at work or home, the Japanese culture puts a premium on respect and etiquette, and this is the reason why you need to at least familiarize yourself with the ones listed below.
If ever you get invited to a Japanese home, please do remember that you should start greeting the family with basic greetings like こんにちは(Konnichiwa) accompanied by a 30-degree angle bow, especially if you are speaking with older people.
After saying that, you must also say お邪魔します (Ojamashimasu), which is a formal greeting that means “excuse me for disturbing.” Also, greet the host directly and give him or her the 手土産 (Temiyage) or a small gift which is important in their culture as it shows your thankfulness for being invited. Any gift will do, but the most common form is food, tea, or anything that can be consumed.
|When to use
|When leaving the house
|I’ll go now and will be back
|Response when someone leaves the house
|Please go and come back
|When you are back home
|I am home
|When you are back home
|I am home (formal)
|Response when someone is back home
|To say that you are thankful for the food
|I will eat now
|After finishing a meal
|I enjoyed the meal
4 Formal Greetings In Japanese For The Workplace
As you probably noticed from the section above, Japanese people are keen on exchanging gifts. Therefore, if you are moving to Japan to start a new job in a company or public office, it would be wise to bring お土産 (Omiyage) from your home country. An Omiyage is basically a souvenir. Even if you are traveling to another part of Japan using local transportation, the locals have a burning desire to bring gifts to their family, friends, classmates (if you are a student), and colleagues at work. The Omiyage are usually edible gifts too that are wrapped individually and are given face to face.
As for the working culture, the Japanese are known in the world to be some of the most hardworking people in the office. Therefore, there are times wherein they sometimes have to work overtime, and if you are planning to go home ahead of them, do note the greetings and polite Japanese phrases you can use.
|When to use
|Meeting someone for the first time.
|Yoroshiku onegai shimasu
|Nice to meet you
|When you are leaving ahead of your coworkers
|Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu
|I’m going home
|This is a compliment that means someone appreciates hard work.
|You are tired
|Thanking colleagues for their help and kindness
|Osewa ni narimasu
|Thank you very much
Basic Japanese Goodbye Greetings
If you have watched a good number of animes and Japanese films, then you know that the most common poetic form of goodbye is さようなら or Sayounara. While the media rampantly use this, it actually is not the best way to say goodbye like a native speaker. In fact, an incorrect tone can even lead to awkwardness since most Japanese believe that this is like saying goodbye forever. If you want to learn the more acceptable versions of saying this greeting, read our translations below.
|See you later
|See you tomorrow
|See you next week
As we reach this part of the post, we hope you were able to learn Japanese greetings that are more natural sounding than those you can come across in the movies. If you enjoyed this post and would love to master other ways to greet someone, then be sure to check out our previous posts, like how to greet in Latvian, Tagalog, and Spanish languages.
Interested In Learning Japanese The Right Way?
After learning these greetings in Japanese, you must be feeling ready to know more!
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