Japanese greetings are called 挨拶 (aisatsu), and they’re one of the first things you should study when learning Japanese, right after learning hiragana and katakana.
The word aisatsu consists of two kanji: 挨 (push open) and 拶 (imminent). So, a greeting (挨拶) is when you begin to push open an imminent relationship. Kanji Sharks might want to learn these kanji, but you’re not going to see them much outside of this word.
Here’s a good intro list for learning Japanese greetings:
|おはようございます||Ohayou gozaimasu||Good morning. (polite)|
|ありがとうございます||Arigatou gozaimasu||Thank you. (polite)|
|すみません||Sumimasen||Excuse me. / I’m sorry.|
|いいえ||Iie||No. / Not at all.|
|いってきます||Ittekimasu||I’ll go and come back.|
|いってらしゃい||Itterashai||Please go and come back.|
|いただきます||Itadakimasu||Thank you for the meal. (before eating)|
|ごちそうさま||Gochisousama||Thank you for the meal. (after eating)|
|はじめまして||Hajimemashite||Nice to meet you.|
|どうぞよろしく||Douzo Yoroshiku||Nice to meet you. / Kindly; acceptably.|
表現ノート (Expression Notes)
Ohayou / Ohayou gozaimasu
おはよう is the informal way to say “Good morning” in Japanese. If you’re speaking with someone you should be formal with (i.e. not your friend), you would use おはようございます. Ohayou is used up until about 11am, after which you use…
Good afternoon. / Good evening.
Konnichiwa / Konbanwa
こんにちは （今日は） means “Good day” in Japanese, but it is often translated to just “Hello.”
Good day. (Good afternoon; Hello)
こんばんは （今晩は）means “Good evening” in Japanese, and you use it–you guessed it–in the evening!
さようなら, as you may already know, means “Goodbye” in Japanese. What you may not know is that さようなら has the connotation of saying goodbye for a long time. So it’s not usually something you would say to a classmate or coworker at the end of the day (unless you plan on not seeing them for a long, long time).
The closest word, in English, is probably ‘farewell.’
If you’re talking to a friend, and you expect to see them again fairly soon, you can just say:
See you later. (literally: “then, later”)
If you’re in a formal situation, maybe saying bye to your boss or teacher, then you can say:
Goodbye. (literally: “I am about to behave rudely.” We’ll talk a lot more about this phrase in future lessons.)
おやすみなさい means “Good night” in Japanese. You might say this when you’re actually going to bed, or if, say, you were leaving to go home after a night out drinking with friends.
Arigatou / Arigatou gozaimasu
ありがとう ｍight be the most widely known Japanese word in existence. You’re fine just saying arigatou with friends. If you’re being really informal, you might even just say どうも. In any formal situation, drop ございます onto the end, same way you do with おはようございます。
Excuse me. / I’m sorry.
すみません is a pretty versatile word, and you’ll be hard-pressed to live in Japan without hearing it at least once a day. It can have a few meanings:
- “Excuse me,” to get someone’s attention.
Sumimasen, toire wa doko desu ka.
Excuse me, where is the bathroom?
- “I’m sorry,” to apologize for the trouble you have caused.
- “Thank you,” to show appreciation for what one has done for you.
Don’t worry too much about when to use sumimasen. You should pick it up quite naturally, because of how often it is used.
No. / Not at all.
いいえ means “No” in Japanese. However, Japanese people are much less willing to say “no” outright to people, especially if a request is being made to you. So if someone asks:
Wanna go to a movie tonight?
Konya eiga ni ikanai?
It would be very rude to respond saying just いいえ. Instead you might say something like, 今夜はちょっと．．．, “Tonight is a little…” which implies tonight is not a good night for a movie. In other words, no, you’re not going to a movie tonight!
いいえ can also be used to say “Don’t mention it,” or “You’re welcome,” when pointing out that someone doesn’t need to feel indebted for what you’ve done for them:
Coming and Going
Ittekimasu / Itterashai / Tadaima / Okaerinasai
Both いってきます / いってらしゃい and ただいま / おかえりなさい are common exchanges for coming and going from one’s home.
So, say you’re leaving your house.
You would say: いってきます！(literally: “I’ll go and come back.”)
Whoever you live with (not leaving the house) would say: いってらしゃい！(meaning: “Please go and come back.”)
ただいま and おかえりなさい (often shortened to just おかえり) are used for when you return home.
So, say you’re returning to your house after work or school.
You walk in the door and say: ただいま！ (I am home right now.)
And whoever is already home says: おかえりなさい！ (Welcome home.)
Itadakimasu / Gochisousama
いただきます and ごちそうさま are two words/phrases that you’re going to hear nonstop if you ever move to Japan.
Itadakimasu can be a tricky word. The simple translation, the one in most intro to Japanese books, says something like “Thank you for the meal (before eating).” And this is correct, but it’s a lot more interesting to delve a little deeper into the nuance of いただきます.
いただく is the humble form of もらう (to receive). So, according to that, いただきます means I am about to humbly receive… though it can have the nuance of “I will humbly take.” It is also possible to have the meaning of “I shall take the lives of others,” and this is how many Japanese understand the phrase’s meaning. After all, that is what we are doing when we eat: we are taking the lives of living things–be they animals or plants. So if you think of it as ‘thanking’ someone for the meal, maybe think of it as thanking mother nature. Sometimes, you come across an interesting article or two about this whole itadakimasu concept.
ごちそうさま means, “Thank you for the meal (after eating).” And it’s something you say when you’ve just finished eating, or as you’re walking out of a restaurant. The most common way of saying it is to add ‘deshita’ to the end of it: ごちそうさまでした！ ”Thank you for the meal!”
The literal meaning of ごちそうさま is something akin to “It’s been a feast.”
So, before eating: itadakimasu.
After eating: gochisousama.
Nice to meet you.
Hajimemashite / Douzo yoroshiku
For now, I’ll go ahead and say that both of these phrases do in fact mean “Nice to meet you.” But in the next lesson I’ll go into some more depth about when to use which one, and the different literal translations for each one.
As always, please comment with questions, comments, corrections. We can’t do this without you!