Japanese greetings is a complex topic as there are many cultural formalities mixed into the language. In this chapter we will explain some of the basic greetings.  We have arranged the greetings into the following categories; simple time-based; farewell and informal greetings; formal introductions; and seasonal greetings.

Simple Time Based Greetings

konnichiwa.png

There are a couple of greetings that are very much alike English greetings such as "good day" and "good evening" These are ohayo gozaimasu, konnichiwa and konbanwa.

おはようございます – Ohayo gozaimasu 

Ohayo gozaimasu, or the casual short form "ohayo" is used as "good morning" from the morning until lunchtime. It is both used in families and in more formal situations such as at work.

こんにちは – Konnichiwa

Konnichiwa, good day, is used from around lunchtime until nightfall. It can be used in any situation. The word konnichiwa can be written in kanji as 今日は, but it is mostly written in hiragana as こんにちは.

Japanese: 

田中: 加藤さん、こんにちは!
加藤: こんにちは。

Romaji: 

  • Tanaka: Katou-san, konnichiwa.
  • Katou: konnichiwa!

English:

  • Tanaka: Katou-san, good afternoon!
  • Katou : Good afternoon! 
     

こんばんは – Konbanwa

Konbanwa, good evening, is used after nightfall until morning. It can be used in any situation. 

Farewell and Informal Greetings

A standard polite way to say goodbye/farewell is to say "sayonara".

  • さようなら – sayounara
    This is a bit formal way to depart. It would be similar to say "farewell" in English instead of good bye.

Other more casual ways are:

  • バイバイ – bai bai
    This expression, taken from the English bye bye is a very common way to say goodbye to your friends.
  • またね – mata ne
    This is similar to "see you later". Literally it means "again (right)".
  • じゃーね – jaa ne
    This is similar to English "well, that’s it". It is hard to make an literal translation.

Coming to and Leaving Home 

When leaving and coming back home you can use the following expressions. They go in sets, and are also used in some other cases when it is the feeling of coming and returning home. It could for instance be used when leaving your office to go on a business trip. In such situations it may be said as a bit of a joke.

  • 行って来ます- Ittekimasu
    Ittekimasu is said by the person departing from home. A more formal version would be ittemairimasu.
  • いってらっしゃい – Itterasshai
    Itterasshai
    is said to a person leaving home. A more formal version would be Itterasshaimase.
  • ただいま – Tadaima
    When you return home you would say Tadaima! or the more polite version Tadaima kaerimashita.
  • おかえりなさい – okaerinasai
    When someone is coming back home you greet them with okaerinasai or the more casual version okaeri!  The most polite version would be okaerinasaimase, but would be used very rarely.

Take Care 

Other expressions used when departing are

  • 気をつけてね – kiotsukete ne
    Kiotsukete is often used as "take care", for instance when someone is going away for a trip. Literally it means "please be
    attentive/mindful".
  • 元気でね – ogenkide ne
    Ogenkidene is also similar to "take care" but with may imply that
    the speakers are not likely to see each other for a (subjectively)
    long time.

  • お大事に – odaiji ni
    Odaiji ni is also used for "take care" but implies that the listener is sick, so it would not be used in other situations. 

Formal Greetings

When meeting a person for the first time, there is a special set of expressions that are often used. The following conversation shows a standard introduction of two people in a business situation. 

Japanese (hiragana): 

中村:
はじめまして、なかむら です。 
田中: はじめまして、たなか です。
中村: よろしく おねがいします。
田中: こちら こそ、 よろしく おねがいします。

Romaji:

 
Nakamura: Hajimemashite, Nakamura desu
Tanaka: Hajimemashite, Tanaka desu.
Nakamura: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Tanaka: Kochira koso, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

English:

 
Nakamura: For the first time, (I) am Nakamura.
Tanaka: For the first time,  (I) am Tanaka.
Nakamura: Please take care of me.
Tanaka: Please take care of me, too.

いらっしゃいませ – Welcome to Our Store

In Japanese stores and restaurants it is very common to greet people with irasshaimase. If walking through a department store you may even get it from every small store you pass by.

Other Greetings

There are probably a lot more seasonal greetings than the ones we introduce here, but maybe it will give you a glimpse of the most important ones.

New Year

For new year there are two greetings.

  • Yoi otoshi o
    Yoi otoshi o is used before new year, to wish the person a coming happy new year. It is a set expression, but actually it is an incomplete sentence that means "a good year"
  • Akemashite omedetou
    Akemashite omedetou is said after the new year has begun.