Greetings are one of the most important types of interaction between people. Whether it be in person, in writing, or any other format, greetings create and enhance communities all around the world. Read on to learn more about Japanese greetings and how they contribute to the Japanese language and culture.
Greetings are called aisatsu (あいさつ). Depending on the time of day or people involved in an interaction, greetings will differ. However, one aspect that remains constant throughout all interactions is the level of mutual respect and acknowledgment of each other.
☀️ In the morning, the most common greeting is ohayōgozaimasu (おはようございます), which means "Good morning." It is common to greet someone using this formal phrase, even if you don't know them. Even people who do not have close relationships must still acknowledge each other and show their respect. In Japan, it is important to begin the day with proper manners and greet the people you walk by.
👨🎓 👩🎓 Students use this formal phrase when they enter the classroom and greet their teacher. They may have a closer relationship than two complete strangers as described above, but there is a difference in authority, so this formal greeting must be used.
先生、おはようございます！ Teacher, good morning! (Formal greeting)
おはよう、磯野くん！ Good morning, Isono-kun! (Informal greeting)
The informal version of this morning greeting is ohayō (おはよう). This phrase is used among close friends and family. It does not hold as much respect as the formal phrase, but it is still a great way to greet someone in the morning.
One of the most used greetings is konnichiwa (こんにちは), which simply means, "Hello." It can be used at any time of day and by all people. It is used in formal and informal settings, so people do not have to worry about offending someone when using this greeting.
If you are meeting someone for the first time, you might use hajimemashite (はじめまして), which means, "Nice to meet you." This greeting is usually used along with one of the previously mentioned greetings like こんにちは or おはようございます.
はじめまして、はるかと申します。 Nice to meet you, my name is Haruka.
🌝 In the evening or at night, the greeting people use is konbanwa (こんばんは), which means,
"Good Evening." Just like こんにちは it can be used by all people regardless of the level of formality of their relationship.
🌙 Lastly, when people leave for the night, they say sayōnara (さようなら), which, you guessed it, means "Goodbye." This greeting is pretty well known and you might have known this before you started studying this course. This is the last thing people hear before they go home for the day, so it is nice to be upbeat and leave on a good note!
📞 Phone Etiquette
Being polite on the phone is just as important as being polite in person. When speaking on the phone, you cannot see the other person's facial expressions or body language, so using respectful greetings is essential to positive community engagements.
☎️ When first picking up the phone (電話), the greeting used is moshi moshi (もしもし). The greetings used in person, such as こんにちは or こんばんは are not used. If you must place someone on hold or are busy at the moment, you could say shō shō omachikudasai (少々お待ち下さい). This means please wait for a moment, and the other person would know to be patient for a little bit.
📱When ending the phone call, two different greetings are used depending on the formality of the call. If the call was very formal or a request was made, it is respectful to end with shitsurei shimasu (失礼します). This implies that you are grateful for being able to have the conversation and would like to thank the other person for taking time out of their day to participate in the call.
For an informal call, you could end with jāne (じゃあね) or matane (またね), which both mean, "Bye, see you soon."
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🏡 At Home
Greetings at home are used to maintain unity amongst all family members. Unity is one of the main Japanese family values. Using these greetings on a daily basis ensures that everyone in the family feels connected and loved.
Ittekimasu (いってきます): I am leaving
Itterasshai (いってらっしゃい): Bye, travel safe *no literal translation
Tadaima (ただいま): I am home
Okaeri (お帰り): Welcome back
ただいま。 I am home.
お帰り。今日は疲れた？ Welcome home. Are you tired?
🔑 Key Words
Aisatsu (あいさつ): Greeting
Ohayōgozaimasu (おはようございます): Good Morning (formal)
Ohayō (おはよう): Good Morning (informal)
Konnichiwa (こんにちは): Hello
Hajimemashite (はじめまして): Nice to meet you
Konbanwa (こんばんは): Good Evening
Sayōnara (さようなら): Good bye
Denwa (電話): phone
Moshi moshi (もしもし): Hello (used during phone calls)
Shō shō omachikudasai (少々お待ち下さい): Please wait for a moment
Shitsurei shimasu (失礼します): Thank you, good bye (formal)
Jāne (じゃあね), Matane (またね): Bye (informal)
💥 Strive for a Five Vocabulary
Hyōgen (表現): expression
Gozen (午前): a.m.
Gogo (午後): p.m.
Asa (朝): morning
Yoru (夜): night
Au (会う): to meet a person
Ie ni kaeru (家に帰る): to go home
Tōi (遠い): far
Chikai (近い): close
Kojin (個人): individual
Kankei (関係): relationship