Want to learn how to say “Hello” in Japanese? Greetings are an important part of any language because they allow you to connect and communicate with others, even as a beginner. If you’re planning a trip to Japan soon or are trying to learn how to speak Japanese, keep reading to find out some of the most common Japanese greetings.
Taking on a new phrase in Japanese may seem daunting at first, but you’ll find that this beautiful language is fun and easy to get the basics of. When visiting Japan, locals will appreciate when you say “good morning” or “goodnight” in Japanese, even if the rest of your conversation is in English. Spend a bit of time learning the basics, and you’ll discover just how fun Japanese is to learn!
8 Popular Greetings in Japanese
1. Ohayou gozaimasu
- (kanji: お早うございます, hiragana: おはようございます)
This greeting is how you would say “good morning” in Japanese. The kanji 早 used here means “morning.”
The greeting also reflects a common tendency in Japanese expressions, phrases, and verbs. Basically, the longer the phrase, the more formal it is. There are often several different levels of formality.
“Ohayou gozaimasu” is the full, formal greeting. If you’re speaking to friends, you might wish to shorten it to “ohayou” (kanji: お早う, hiragana: おはよう).
- (kanji: 始めまして, hiragana: はじめまして)
This greeting means “Nice to meet you” or “How are you?” in Japanese. Use it when you’re meeting someone for the first time.
The phrase comes from a respectful conjugation of the verb “hajimeru” (kanji: 始める), which means “to begin” or “to start.” In this case, you’re starting a new relationship with someone, so whether it be a potential friend, colleague, or acquaintance, be sure to start off well!
3. Konnichi wa
- (hiragana: こんにちは, kanji: 今日は)
This is probably the most well-known Japanese greeting. It translates to “good day” or “hello” in English.
Literally, the kanji for “kon” (今) means “this,” and the kanji for “nichi” (日) means “day.” “Wa” (は) is a grammatical particle that marks the main subject of a sentence – in this case, “today.”
4. Konban wa
- (kanji: 今晩は, hiragana: こんばんは)
“Konban wa” means “good evening,” and you can use this greeting in Japanese to say “hello” at night. The structure is the same as that of “konnichi wa,” the only difference is the use of 晩 (ban) for “evening” in place of 日 (nichi) for “day.”
- (kanji: 只今; 唯今, hiragana: ただいま)
Use this greeting when you get home and want to announce your presence! It literally means, “I’ve returned.” It can also be translated as “I’m home.”
6. Oyasumi nasai
- (hiragana: おやすみなさい)
“Oyasumi nasai” means “goodnight” in Japanese, but the phrase is used slightly differently than it is used in English. Say this to your family or roommates when you’re going to bed, but don’t use it when you’re leaving a friend’s house for the night.
It’s an approximate equivalent to “good night” in English. Similarly to “good morning,” this greeting in Japanese can be shortened to create the less formal equivalent, “oyasumi” (おやすみ).
- (kanji: 申し申し, hiragana: もしもし)
Use this to say “hello” when you answer the telephone. It’s the humble form of “imasu” (kanji: 言います, hiragana: いいます), which is one of the Japanese verbs that means “to say.” This phrase will be your favorite way of answering the phone from now on!
- (kanji: いらっしゃいませ)
You may not have the opportunity to use this greeting in Japanese very often, but you might hear it when you visit a restaurant or shop. You could hear a business owner or employee use this phrase to welcome customers to their store. The greeting consists of the honorific imperative form of the verb “irrassharu” (いらっしゃる) meaning “to come.”
You may have noticed that there is often more than one way to write these Japanese greetings. The labels in parentheses differentiate between hiragana (ひらがな) and kanji (漢字).
Hiragana is the first of Japanese’s two phonetic alphabets, which can be used for any and all native Japanese words. (The second, katakana [カタカナ], is used for foreign words and names.) Kanji are Japanese characters borrowed from China, largely during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). You’ll see all three of these writing systems used alongside each other in Japan.
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.
Just like greetings mark the beginning of a conversation, the greetings we covered mark the beginning of your Japanese learning journey. With time, you’ll be able to carry a conversation on the streets of Tokyo and enjoy your favorite Japanese music and films with the subtitles off. After learning how to say “hello” and “how are you?” in Japanese, you’ll want to learn the basic Japanese honorifics.
If you’re serious about learning Japanese, Japanese lessons are the way to go. Online Japanese lessons make it easy to connect with a native speaker from anywhere in the world, so you can consistently practice your vocabulary and conversational skills. With every lesson, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your linguistic goals, whether they be fluency or just a casual command of the language.
Studying Japanese is a rewarding pursuit, right from your first lesson. From learning how to say “good morning” in Japanese to mastering hiragana, there’s never a dull moment when it comes to studying the language. Keep on practicing, and you’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish.