As a gaijin or foreigner in Japan, you should know some of the basic Japanese greetings to use. This will make interacting with the locals in Japan easier and they will also appreciate the fact that you’re putting in some effort to learn their language.
In this article, we’ll go through 10 basic Japanese greetings to use in everyday conversations. It’s important to learn these basic Japanese greetings before your trip to Japan or before you move to Japan because these basic Japanese greetings will help you break the ice between other local Japanese people or even build a rapport with them.
Here’s a quick summary of basic Japanese greetings to use:
|Basic Japanese Greetings To Use||Meaning|
|Ohayō gozaimasu||Good Morning|
|Konnichiwa||Hello or Good afternoon|
|Oyasumi nasai||Good Night|
|Moshi moshi||Say hello on the phone|
|Ittekimasu||I’ll go and come back|
|Itterasshai||Please go and come back|
|Tadaima||I have come back now|
Greeting in Japanese is 挨拶 (aisatsu) and it doesn’t just mean hello. Saying hello, in many western cultures, ranges from a quick smile or a slight nod. However, in Japan, aisatsu or greeting each other is considered extremely important and is in fact taught to kids from early childhood.
It’s not uncommon to see kids in school greet their senior students or colleagues greeting each other in an office. This helps promote a positive environment and attitudes.
Another thing I love about Japanese greeting is that bowing is much more common than handshaking. And especially, during this COVID era, bowing at each other is way better than a handshake – shows more respect plus you can maintain social distance.
If you’re going to Japan, make sure you learn these basic Japanese greetings as it’s deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. This should definitely be one of the first things to learn when learning basic Japanese.
Now let’s move on to learning some of the most common, important and basic Japanese greetings to use!
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use
#1 — Ohayō gozaimasu
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use To Say Good Morning
Ohayō gozaimasu (おはようございます ) in Japanese greeting roughly translates to good morning. It is pronounced as o-ha-yo-go-zai-mas. Use this Japanese greeting in the morning hours before noon. The base word in Ohayō gozaimasu is hayai (早い) which means early. So you’ll notice that the word morning isn’t part of this greeting.
If you’re greeting a close friend or family and would like to be more casual, you can just say Ohayo. If you’re greeting someone who is outside your immediate circle and someone way older than you then use the full phrase Ohayō gozaimasu.
In Japan, whenever you see someone you know, even if it’s an acquaintance you have to greet them as soon as you see them. Be it a junior in your office or the manager.
If you’re a greeting a colleague say:
- san, ohayou (さん、おはよう)
If you’re greeting a chief say:
- kachou, ohayou gozaimasu (課長、おはようございます)
Other ways to use Ohayō gozaimasu
Ohayō gozaimasu is not just used to say good morning. This greeting is the easiest way to start a conversation with a Japanese person. Japanese people do indulge in a lot of small talk – like how’s the weather? Or talk about the season?
Some other common topics of conversation are news, sports, cultural events. These small talks help you break the ice and build rapport with the other person. And in general helps you get along with the others.
Here are some examples using the basic Japanese greeting Ohayō gozaimasu
#1 — Ohayou gozaimasu. Kyou mo asa kara atsui desu ne.
Meaning: Good morning. Today too, it is hot from the morning.
Transliteration: O-ha-yo-go-zai-mas. Kyo-mo-asa-karaatsui-de-su-ne
#2 — Ohayou gozaimasu. Kinou no sakkaa- mimashita? Sugokatta desune
Meaning: Good morning. Did you watch football last night? It was really great.
Transliteration: O-ha-yo-go-zai-mas. Ki-no-no-sakka-mi-mush-ta? Su-go-katta-de-su-ne
#3 — Ohayou gozaimasu. Kinou ha doumo gochisousamadeshita.
Meaning: Good morning. Thank you for yesterday’s feast.
Transliteration: O-ha-yo-go-zai-mas. Ki-no-wa-do-mo-go-chi-so-sa-ma-desh-ta
#2 — Konnichiwa
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use To Say Hello or Good afternoon
Konnichiwa (こんにちは) is one of the most popular and basic Japanese greetings to use. It roughly translates to ‘hello’ and is usually used between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm as it literally means ‘today’ or ‘the sun’ and so it makes sense to use it while the sun is still shining. It is pronounced as Kon-ni-chiwa
It can also be used to greet someone good afternoon in Japanese.
Konnichiwa can be used to greet anybody and at any occasion. With close friends and family you use more casual Japanese greetings. If you’re not sure which is the most appropriate Japanese greeting – Just say Konnichiwa!
#3 — Konbanwa
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use To Say Good Evening
Konbanwa (こんばんは!) is another one of the most basic Japanese greetings to use. It roughly translates to good evening but the literal meaning of the word Konbanwa is ‘tonight’.
So you can use this basic Japanese greeting after the sun goes down. But know that, this is a more formal greeting and is not usually used amongst close friends and family.
In conversation, Konbanwa is used just like how you’d use Ohayou gozaimasu to start a conversation.
Here are some examples using the basic Japanese greeting Konbanwa:
#1 — Konbanwa! Kyounotestodoudatta?
Meaning: Good evening! How was the test today?
Transliteration: Kon-ban-wa! Kyo-no-tes-tu–do–datta
#2 — Konbanwa! Kyouwa ichinichijuu amefutteimashitane
Meaning: Good evening! It was raining all day today, wasn’t it?
Transliteration: Kon-ban-wa! Kyo-wa-nitchhu- ame-futte-imash-ta-ne
#3 — Konbanwa! Nomini ikimashou!
Meaning: Good evening! Let’s go and have a drink!
Transliteration: Kon-ban-wa! no-mi-ni-iki-ba-sho!
#4 — Oyasumi nasai
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use To Say Good Night
Oyasumi nasai is also another of the basic Japanese greetings you should know. It literally means ‘please rest’ or ‘have a good rest’.
Oyasumi is a more casual version of good night and can be used amongst close friends and family. But if you’re saying good night to someone superior then always use the full phrase Oyasumi nasai.
If you’re going to bed, you can wish the other person good night saying Oyasumi nasai or if your friend is going to bed and wishes you Oyasumi nasai, you say the same greeting back.
Or if it’s late in the night and you’re taking the last train with your friends or collegue, you can say Oyasumi nasai as you bid them goodbye.
#5 — Sayōnara & gokigenyō
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use To Bid Goodbye
Sayonara literally means ‘if it is so’. And, historically, speaking it was used along with another word gokigenyō, meaning “farewell,”. The complete greeting would be Sayonara gokigenyō, to mean if it is so, farewell. Eventually people dropped the gokigenyō, and preferred to just Sayonara to mean goodbye.
In contrast to popular belief, Sayonara is not really a widely used term amongst the Japanese locals. More commonly words used to convey the same thing is: bye-bye (バイバイ), jaane (じゃあね), dewa (では) or mata ne (またね).
#6 — Moshi moshi & osewa
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use Over The Phone
This basic Japanese greeting is very particular to phone conversations. Moshimoshi is heard at the beginning of a phone conversation, making sure that people on both sides of the phone can hear each other.
Today, a more polite way to answer the phone is ‘Hai’ or ‘yes’ and then followed by your name.
#7 — Ittekimasu & itterasshai
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use When Someone Leaves The House
This is a specific Japanese greeting to use when someone leaves the office or house. It literally translates to “I’ll go and come back,” and the person that stays back at home or office says itterassha “please go and come back.” This Japanese greeting makes sense when someone will go and come back.
#8 — Tadaima & okaeri
Basic Japanese Greetings To Use When Returning Home or Office
Like Ittekimasu, Tadaima is a basic Japanese greetings to use when you return home or to the office. It literally translates to “I have come back now.” And if someone says this greeting to you then you reply with okaeri which translates to welcome back.
#9 — Otsukaresama desu
This is probably the most basic Japanese greetings to use in the workplace. To translate this is a bit complicated. This word originates from the verb tsukareru (疲れる) which translates to ‘to get tired’.
Otsukaresama desu is said as a sign of mutual support or hard work. It is usually said at the end of a hard working day at the office.
#10 — Yōkoso & irasshaimase
This is the basic Japanese greetings to use at the airport or, stores, and restaurants when you intend to welcome somebody. Which is why you’ll hear it at the airport a lot!
When you enter a restaurant or store in Japan, you’ll also hear this greeting yōkoso. This just means welcome and the other person is not really expecting any response.
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