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How to Say Hello in Japanese: Practical Japanese Greetings

How to Say Hello in Japanese

Greetings are the most important things to learn when learning a new language. Japanese greetings are not only words of greeting, but also reflect the very Japanese culture, much more so than in other languages. Have you heard of the cultural features of Japanese politeness?

Yes, it’s also embedded in the language. The Japanese language has the formal and informal styles, and the formal style is even divided into three honorific languages with different levels of politeness. So in short, you’ll also learn the Japanese culture by learning how to say hello in Japanese.

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The Japanese language also has particular greetings only used for particular occasions, such as on the phone, at work places, in the service sector at restaurants and shops, etc. We use appropriate words depending on the occasion and who we’re speaking to.

Learning the cultural aspects makes it easier to understand and learn the language faster.

Let’s get started with learning Japanese greetings and the specifics of greeting people in Japanese here and on JapanesePod101.com!

1. Formal Japanese Greetings

Formal Japanese greetings are very convenient to use because these are said in a polite manner and
you can use them for most occasions, and to everyone. Here are some Japanese formal greetings.

1-Kon’nichiwa — こんにちは — (Hello) [formall and semi-formal]

Kon’nichiwa is the most common and classic word for saying hello in Japanese. The term kon’nichi literally means “today” traditionally, and wa stands for “is,” or it indicates the main subject of a sentence. Back in time, when people met someone, they would start a conversation by saying konnichi wa ii hi desu ne (“Today is a nice day”) or kon’nichi wa ikaga desu ka (“How is today?”). Over time, the phrase became shorter and now Kon’nichiwa is the first word to greet nowadays.

Kon’nichiwa is used in both formal and semi-informal occasions. It would sound a little awkward to say konnichiwa to your very close friends. Also keep in mind that it’s usually only used during the day time, between morning and evening.

Example:

  • Kon’nichiwa, o-genki desu ka.
  • こんにちは、お元気ですか。
  • Hello, how are you?

2- Hajimemashite — はじめまして— (Nice to meet you) [formal]

Hajimemashite is used when you meet someone for the first time to say, “Nice to meet you” in Japanese. This greeting term derives from a polite conjugation of the verb 始める (hajimeru), which literally means “to begin” or “to start.” In greeting, Hajimemashite means to start knowing someone new or to start a new relationship with someone. Essentially, it’s a good way to introduce yourself in Japanese.

This term is formal and can be used for any occasion. For a very official occasion, there’s another way to say “Nice to meet you,” more politely and with respect: お会いできて光栄です。(O-ai dekite kōei desu.)

Example:

  • Hajimemashite, watashi wa Naomi desu.
  • はじめまして、私はなおみです。
  • Nice to meet you, I am Naomi.

Japanese Greetings

3- Ohayō gozaimasu — おはようございます — “Good morning” [formal]

Ohayō gozaimasu is the morning greeting to say “good morning” in Japanese. Ohayō comes from the word はやい (hayai) which means “early” and the O in front makes the following word polite. Gozaimasu is the very polite word used to end a sentence, meaning “it is” or “there is/are.”

This is used in both formal and semi-informal occasions in the morning before noon.

Example:

  • Ohayō gozaimasu. O-genki desu ka.
  • おはようございます。お元気ですか。
  • Good morning. How are you?

4- Konbanwa — こんばんは — (Good evening) [formal]

Konbanwa literally means “This evening is.” Like Kon’nichiwa, back in time, when people met someone in the evening, they would begin a conversation by saying Konbanwa ii yoru desu ne (“This evening is a good night”). This shortened to Konbanwa which became the normal greeting word.

This greeting is formal and used in any occasion that takes place in the evening and at night.

Example:

  • Konban-wa. Saumi desu ne.
  • こんばんは。寒いですね。
  • Good evening. It is cold, isn’t it?

5- O-genki desu ka. — お元気ですか。— (How are you?) [formal]

This is how to say “how are you” in Japanese and it’s a very useful phrase to start a conversation with. The O is the polite emphasizing word, genki means “in good shape,” and desu ka is the polite word to put at the end of a question. It means, “Are you in good shape?”

This is a formal and semi-formal greeting and can be used any time after meeting someone new, whether it be colleagues, neighbours, acquaintances, etc.

Example:

  • A: O-genki desu ka.
  • B: Hai, genki desu.
  • A: お元気ですか。
  • B: はい、元気です。
  • A: How are you (are you in good shape)?
  • B: Yes, I’m good.

6- O-hisashiburi desu. — お久しぶりです。— (Long time no see) [formal]

O-hisashiburi desu is a good phrase to say when you meet someone you haven’t seen in quite a while. Hisashiburi means “after a while” and O makes it polite. Desu is the word used to end a polite sentence.

This greeting is used in both formal and semi-informal settings.

Example:

  • O-hisashiburi desu. O-genki desu ka.
  • お久しぶりです。お元気ですか。
  • Long time no see. How are you?

7- Sayōnara — さようなら — (Good bye) [formal]

Sayōnara is probably one of the most famous Japanese greeting words as it’s sometimes used even in Hollywood movies to say “goodbye.” Sayōnara is the short version of Sayō naraba which means, “If that’s the way it is.” Back in time, when people departed from another person, they summed up conversations by saying Sayō naraba and and then finished talking and left. It became the phrase for “goodbye.”

Sayōnara is a formal but relatively more semi-formal phrase. If you’re looking for a more casual way of saying goodbye to close friends, you can say just bai bai (“bye bye”), which is the Japanese spelling for the English word.

Example:

  • Sayōnara. O-ki o tsukete.
  • さようなら。お気をつけて。
  • Good bye. Please take care.

8- Mata aimashō — また会いましょう — (See you again) [formal]

Mata aimashō literally translates as follows: mata = “again” and aimashō = ”let’s meet.”

This phrase is used in formal and semi-formal occasions. It’s the useful Japanese greeting word that’s used after saying goodbye to someone, whether you’ll actually meet this person again in the future or not. It gives off the good impression that you’re willing to meet this person again.

Example:

  • Sayōnara. Mata aimashō.
  • さようなら。また会いましょう。
  • Good bye. See you again.

Boy Saying Hello

2. Informal Japanese Greetings

Wondering how to say “hello” in Japanese casually? When you greet your family, friends, or someone else you’re close to, an informal style of greeting is better suited! Saying hello in informal Japanese makes it sound more friendly, familiar, and amiable. However, please note that it’s considered very rude to use these greetings when addressing elderly people or someone well-respected, especially in formal settings.

1- Ohayō — おはよう— (Good morning) [informal]

This is a casual version of Ohayō gozaimasu and is used to say good morning in Japanese.

Ohayō is an informal phrase used to greet your family, close friends, girlfriend/boyfriend, and so on.

Example:

  • Ohayō. Mada nemui.
  • おはよう。まだ眠い。
  • Good morning. I’m still sleepy.

2- Genki? — 元気?— (How are you?) [informal]

Genki? is just the shortened phrase for O-genki desu ka, which makes it a very casual way to say “how are you?” in Japanese. This is a very handy word to greet someone close to you.

This greeting is used in informal settings and is suitable to use for casual and quick interactions with your close friends.

Example:

  • Genki? Kawari nai?
  • 元気?変わりない?
  • How are you? Are you all good?

3- Saikin dō? — 最近どう?— (What’s up? / How is it going recently?) [informal]

Saikin dō? is a very casual phrase to say “What’s up?” in Japanese. Saikin means “recently” and translates to “how?”

This term is used in informal and very casual occasions to greet someone very close to you. If you want to use it in a more formal setting, you just add desu ka at the end: Saikin dō desu ka.

Example:

  • Saikin dō? Kanojo to junchō?
  • 最近どう?彼女と順調?
  • What’s up. Are you doing well with your girlfriend?

4- Hisashiburi — 久しぶり — (It’s been a while!) [informal]

As you can see, Hisashiburi is just the shorter version of O-hisashiburi desu, lacking the words of O and desu, which make the phrase polite.

Hisashiburi is an informal greeting word and is a very common way to say “hello” when you see someone again after it’s been a while. Especially for old friends and someone close to you.

Example:

  • Hisashiburi! Aitakatta!
  • 久しぶり!会いたかった!
  • It’s been a while! I wanted to see you!

Say Hello On The Phone

3.How to Say Hello on the Phone in Japanese

If you’re wondering how to say hello in Japanese when answering the phone, keep reading. When you say “hello” in Japanese on the phone, you shouldn’t jump straight to Kon’nichiwa. Before saying Kon’nichiwa, you should say the following phrase.

Moshi moshi — もしもし— (Hello)

This phrase is how to say “hello” on the phone in Japanese. This comes from the Japanese verb mōsu which means “to say” in a humble and polite way.

Moshi moshi is usually only used on the phone, whether you’re calling or answering the phone.

Example:

  • Moshi moshi, watashi wa Tanaka desu. Suzuki-san wa imasu ka.
  • もしもし、私は田中です。鈴木さんはいますか。
  • Hello? I am Tanaka. Is Mr. Suzuki there?

Smart Phone Message

4. Japanese Greetings for Various Occasions (Very Japanese Expressions)

Here are the very Japanese greetings to say hello for particular occasions. These greatly reflect the Japanese culture.

1- Otsukare-sama desu — お疲れ様です— (Well done / see you, bye / other) [formal]

Otsukare-sama desu actually has some different meanings, all of which are handy to use. As mentioned above, O and desu make the phrase polite. Tsukare is literally translated as “tiredness” and sama is the most respectful way to refer to someone or something. The Japanese use this expression when they want to show their appreciation for the other person’s efforts and works with respect.

Otsukare-sama desu is a formal term and is a very useful phrase to use when it comes to work-related occasions. It can be used to say “well done” or “good job” to praise or to be thankful for someone who finished something. You can also use it to say “you must be tired” to show that you care for someone and understand how they feel. Or it can simply be used as a greeting at an office when you arrive and leave, meet colleagues, and pass each other in the office. Nowadays, Otsukare-sama desu is one of the most common ways to say “hello” in Japanese in the work setting, especially among colleagues.

Examples:

  • Otsukare-sama desu. Purezen wa totemo yokatta desu.
    • お疲れ様です。プレゼンはとても良かったです。
    • Well done. The presentation was very good.
  • Otsukare-sama desu. Mata ashita.
    • お疲れ様です。また明日。
    • See you tomorrow.

2- Irasshaimase — いらっしゃいませ — (Welcome) [formal]

You may not have the opportunity to use Irasshaimase yourself, but you’ll definitely hear this many times whenever you go to the store or a restaurant in Japan. This phrase comes from the honorific form of the Japanese verb irrassharu which means “to come.” Japanese service sectors are very keen on treating customers and guests with great politeness and respect.

Irasshaimase is formal and is usually only used in stores or restaurants to greet and welcome customers and guests. This is how to say “hello” in Japanese in the service sector.

Example:

  • Irasshaimase. Nanmei-sama desu ka.
  • いらっしゃいませ。何名様ですか。
  • Welcome. How many are you? (at a restaurant)

How to Learn Japanese Greetings Easily and Fast

As we’ve seen, there are so many variations of how to say “hello” in Japanese, and all of these Japanese greetings reflect Japanese culture.

The best thing that you can do to learn the Japanese language easier and faster is to listen carefully when Japanese greetings are used, when and where, and who greets whom. You can also grasp the tips we’ve provided for you here and use them in your actual practice.

Whether you’re traveling to Japan or communicating with Japanese people online, these important and practical Japanese greeting vocabulary will make it easier for you to make new friends!

We hope you find this article educational and that you enjoy learning Japanese greetings! Now go out and practice how to introduce yourself in Japanese!

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