Want to learn a new greeting 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.
Learn New 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 in Japanese means “How do you do?” or “Nice to meet you.” 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
Say this to your family or roommates when you’re going to bed. Don’t use it when you’re leaving a friend’s house for the night, though.
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.”
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).
Now you know a few different Japanese greetings. Greetings are an invaluable and necessary element of the Japanese language that will allow you to make new friends.
Photo by Danny Choo