The Basic Japanese Greetings You Need to Know

Greetings are important in many cultures and languages and Japan is also no different. There are plenty of Japanese greetings, each with its own unique set of usage rules. It’s essential to master how to greet in Japanese if you plan on living and studying in Japan.

Whether you live in or are just staying in Japan for the short-term, Japanese greetings will be a part of your daily experience. You will hear and eventually use these Japanese greetings, called Aisatsu (あいさつ), routinely. Because of the importance of greetings in Japanese culture, it should be one of the first things you learn when learning Japanese.

The following terms are the basic Japanese greetings you’ll want to learn to feel just a little bit more immersed in the culture. Let’s check it out!

Japanese Greetings in Cultural Aspect

The word “Aisatsu (あいさつ)” means “Greeting” in Japanese, is more than just “Hello”. In some cases, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. This means body language will also play a role in how you use Japanese greetings throughout the day, based on the situation, and those with whom you are speaking.

“Aisatsu” is very important and is taught from early childhood. For example, it is not uncommon for school kids to greet every passing student of a higher grade as a sign of respect.

Also important in the workplace, Japanese greetings can create a positive working environment and great relationships with each other. Another interesting thing to note is that Handshaking is not as common, and “Bowing” is much more prevalent as a custom.

The Japanese culture reflects that the locals do the “Ojigi (お辞儀)”[Bow] because it shows respect and willingness to lower yourself in a vulnerable position in front of the other person.

It is said that the “Bow” was transmitted from China to Japan around 500 to 800 when Buddhism spread. Initially, it is said that by bowing to the opponent and showing his head, he showed that he had no intention of attacking or hostility.

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:

Source: Pakutaso

Eshaku (会釈)

15 degrees of bow used for informal interactions with strangers or close friends. A general bow in which the body is slightly tilted at an angle of 15 degrees during a bow (a bow performed while standing).

It is used with greetings between relatively close relationships, such as company colleagues and relatives.

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.

Keirei” is more formal than “Esahku“, and it is used to express deep gratitude and welcome to customers and people they meet for the first time.

Saikeirei (最敬礼)

45-degree type of bow used for saying sorry or showing guilt. This can also be used for greeting high-ranking government officials. It is used for executives, important customers, and respected people.In Japan, people greet each other by bowing.

Meaning of Greetings for Japanese

In general, when you hear “A scene of exchanging greetings”, you probably imagine the timing of meeting and parting. People greet each other when they come to work or return home in the morning at work, when they wake up or go out in the morning at home, or when they meet and talk with their neighbors and break up. This is not limited to Japan but is almost the same in the world.

However, compared to other countries, greetings for Japanese people tend to be more “Courtesy”.A Japanese who values politeness and feelings of gratitude. A typical greeting is the “Bowing”.

Source: Pakutaso

Japanese Greetings Used Throughout the Day

[Basic]

Ohayō gozaimasu(おはようございます) Good morning
Konnichi wa(こんにちは)Good afternoon
Konban wa(こんばんは) Good evening
Sayōnara (さようなら)Goodbye/ See you
Arigatō gozaimasu(ありがとうございます)Thank you
Hajimemashite(はじめまして)Nice to meet you
O genki desu ka? (お元気ですか) How are you?

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 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 the basic greetings like “こんにちは(Konnichiwa)” accompanied by a 30-degree angle bow, especially if you are speaking with the older people.

After saying that, you must also say “おじゃまします (Ojamashimasu)”, which is a formal greeting that means “Excuse me for disturbing.” Also, greet the host directly and give him or her the “手みやげ (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.

Source: Pakutaso
English Japanese Meaning When to use
 Ittekimasu(いってきます)I’ll go now and will be back  When leaving the house
Itterasshai(いってらっしゃい)Please go and come back/Take care Response when someone leaves the house
Tadaima(ただいま) I am backWhen you are home from work
Okaerinasai(おかえりなさい)Welcome backResponse when someone is back home
Itadakimasu  (いただきます)I will eat now / Let’s eatTo say that you are thankful for the food
Gochisōsama deshita(ごちそうさまでした)Thank you for meal/
I enjoyed the meal
After finishing a meal
Oyasuminasai (おやすみなさい)Good nightWhen you go to bed

Formal Greetings in Japanese for 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 role in a company or public office, it would be wise to bring “おみやげ (Omiyage)” from your home country. “Omiyage” is basically a souvenir. “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 must work overtime, and if you are planning to go home ahead of them, do note the greetings and polite Japanese phrases you can use.

Proper Japanese Greetings for the Workplace

English Japanese Meaning  When to use
Yoroshiku onegai shimasuよろしくおねがいしますNice to meet you Meeting someone for the first time.
Osaki ni shitsurei shimasuおさきにしつれいしますI’m going homeWhen you are leaving ahead of your coworkers
Otsukaresama desu / deshitaおつかれさまでしたGood job/ See youThis is a compliment that means someone appreciates hard work.
Osewa ni narimasuおせわになりますThank you very much  everytimeThanking colleagues for their help and kindness

おつかれさまです [o tsu ka re sa ma de su]

 is such a useful Japanese greeting in a professional environment, like at the office.

You can use this with anybody you work with, colleagues, bosses, or managers. When you want to say “Good job”, “Hello” and “See you”.

Source: O-Dan

Advanced Greetings

Informal

ヤッホー (Ya-ho-)Yoohoo” –

This is a very casual greeting, usually between young kids or close friends. It’s a more feminine greeting,

ヤッホーis another exclamation type of greeting used to grab a close friend or child’s attention. It’s like yelling “Yoohoo!” and waving for attention. You would follow it with your friend’s name.

[EX]  A: Ya-ho~! Ima nanidhiteru?  Hi what are you doing now?

おす! (Osu!) Hey”

“おす” is a masculine, slang way to greet other guys. Girls don’t typically say this. I use it sometimes with friends — often receiving strange looks). And guys wouldn’t say it to girls. It can also be used as “Yes, sir!” or a “Roger!” Some anime use this, but it’s not common in everyday speech.

よー!(Yo-!) “Yo!” Hi

The same as English. You can greet a close friend informally with a simple “Yo!” You wouldn’t say this to anyone older than you. This one is also more masculine, but sometimes young girls and women say it, too, to get someone’s attention.

[EX]  A: Yo~! Genkini shiteru?   Hi! How are you?

元気~? (Genki~?) What’s up?

Yes, this is the English “Hello” You can indeed use it as a Japanese greeting though it’s super casual. Kids use it more than adults.

おつかれ (Otsukare~‼)/ おっつ~ (Ottsu~‼)

Good work/Hi

This is casual of “Otsukaresama-deshita”. It means Hi / See you / Good work. We can use when we meet during work and say Hi or say goodbye between coworkers or friends.

[EX]  A: Otsukare~!

       B: Otsukare~! Shigoto wa dou?  How is your work?

最近どう? (Saikindou?) Whats new?

This is just another one of many ways of saying “What’s up” or “What’s new”

久しぶり (Hisashiburi) How have you been?

This does NOT literally mean hello in Japanese. But it’s most definitely used as a Japanese greeting in place of hello. And it’s used when you haven’t seen a person in a while.

[EX]  A: Hisashiburi~!

      B: Hisashiburi~! Saikin dou?    What’s up?

どうも DoumoHi!

“Doumo” can mean many things depending on the context. In the case of greetings, it’s a super casual way of saying hello. You should use it only with friends.

[EX]   A: Doumo!

     B: Konomae wa arigatou

Basic Goodbye Phrases

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[Sayonara].

While the media rampantly use this, it 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 for saying this greeting, read our translations below.

English Japanese Meaning
SayounaraさようならSee you
OtsukaresamadesuおつかれさまですGood job / See you
Mata ne/ Jyaaneまたね/じゃあね See you later
Mata ashita     また明日See you tomorrow
Mata raishuまた来週See you next week
Baibai    バイバイBye-bye

           

                     

                       

Source: Pakutaso

Great Tips you need to know

Greetings peculiar to Japan that surprise overseas

Greetings such as “Good morning” and “Thank you” are used in the languages of each country overseas, but the words “Itadakimasu [いただきます]” and “Gochisousama-deshita [ごちそうさまでした]” used before and after meals are unique to Japan. “Itadakimasu” expresses gratitude for “Getting a life”, and “Gochisousama-deshita” expresses gratitude for running around to prepare meals.

Many countries overseas do not have a fixed greeting to use before and after such a meal, and many people find it strange or surprised to hear “Itadakimasu” or “Gochisousama-deshita” in Japan.

[Summary Chart]

English Informal Formal Polite Formal Respectful
Good morningおはよう
[o ha yo u]
おはようございます
[o ha yo u go za i ma su]
おはようございます
[o ha yo u go za i ma su]
Good eveningこんばんわ
[ko n ba n wa]
こんばんわ
[ko n ba n wa]
こんばんわ [ko n ba n wa]
Hello元気?
[ge n ki?]
こんにちは
[ko nn ni chi wa]
こんにちは [ko nn ni chi wa]
Good nightおやすみ
[o ya su mi]
おやすみなさい
[o ya su mi na sa i]
おやすみなさい
[o ya su mi na sa i]
How Are You?元気?
[ge nn ki?]
お元気ですか?
[o ge nn ki de su ka]
いかがお過ごしですか?
[i ka ga o su go shi de su ka]
Long Time No See久しぶり
[hi sa shi bu ri]
お久しぶりです
[o hi sa shi bu ri de su]
ご無沙汰しております
[go bu sa ta shi te o ri ma su]
Bye (version 1)またね
[ma ta ne]
では、また
[de wa, ma ta]
失礼いたします
[shi tsu re i i ta shi ma su]
Bye (version 2)バイバイ
[ba i ba i]
さようなら
[sa yo o na ra]
お疲れ様です
[o tsu ka re sa ma de su]
Bye (version 3)じゃあね
[ja a ne]
Welcomeようこそ
[yo o ko so]
いらっしゃいませ
[i ra ssha i ma se]
Hey!(typically used between male friends)おす [o su]

Source: Pakutaso

[Meet someone for the first time]

“初めまして” [Hajimemashite]

When you met someone for the first time, you can use this.
This means same as “Nice to meet you.” in English.

“私の名前は○○です” [Watashi no namae ha ○○ desu]

You can tell your name by using this sentence.

“○○から来ました” [○○ kara kimashita]

Put in your country before ~kara, you can tell your country.

“どうぞよろしくお願いします”

[Douzo yoroshiku onegai simasu]

End of greeting, say this sentence. It means “Nice to meet you”
You can also use this when you want to request something.

 [Appreciation]

“ありがとうございます” [Arigatou gozaimasu]

This is a polite expression to say, “Thank you”.

“ありがとう” [Arigatou]

This expression is friendly way of speaking better than before.
When we thank a person, we nomaly bow.

“どういたしまして” [dou itashimashite]

“いえ” [ie] /“いえいえ” [ie ie]

After the appreciation by someone, use these expressions. These means same as a “Your welcome.”

[Apology]

“ごめんなさい” [Gomen nasai]

“ごめん” [Gomen]

These expressions use in everyday life. Do not use in business situation.

“すみません” [suimasen]

This is polite expression and has different means.
    ① when apologize to someone. Second, go talk to someone.
② when you appreciate to someone, you can use this.
“Sumimasen” is really useful words.

“申しわけございません” [Moushiwake gozaimasen]

“申しわけありません” [Moushiwake arimasen]

These expressions are more polite than others and often used in business situation.
Japanese people bow deeply when they apologize.

How was it? Some phrases are a little bit longer, but keep trying!

Now that you know how to say “Hello” in Japanese along with some other useful greetings, you’re ready to put them to use! Greetings are an invaluable and necessary element of the Japanese language that will allow you to make new friends and explore new places.

Summarize

  • There are a lot of phrases in Japanese greeting “Aisatsu”, and it is important for Japanses to values politeness and feelings of gratitude. A typical greeting is the “Bowing”
  • Compared to other countries, greetings for Japanese people tend to be more “Courtesy”.
  • There are some unique phrases like “Ittekimasu”, “Itterasshai” and “Itadakimasu” “Gochisousama”, for eaveyday use at home other countries do not have.
  • In workplace, “Otsukaresamadesu” means not only “Good work” but also other meanings such as “Hello” and “See you”
  • If you want to use Imformal greetings, it is better to be careful to use for only friends and if you want to use phrases such as “Osu!” and “Yo!” are normally for man, so keep in mind that.
About Yuri Sensei 25 Articles
I am Yuri. I have worked for several companies, involved in assisting foreigners and teaching Japanese. I have also worked in Vietnam, teaching Japanese. I would like to help students abroad and teach Japanese culture. My hobbies are traveling abroad and sports, like tennis. Following excitement and discovering new things inspires me a lot. My joy in life is to help people overseas so that I can pass on the charm of Japanese culture.