There are four basic Japanese greetings, otherwise known as aisatsu (挨拶), that can be used at different times of the day. If you’re just starting to learn Japanese, this will be the first thing you’re introduced to. After all, you don’t want to accidentally claim “Good morning” in the middle of the night, or say “Have a good rest!” when you wake your friend to start the day.
Greetings are always the first few words or phrases you learn when learning a new language. In this article, you will learn all basic Japanese greetings.
- Good Morning
- Good Afternoon
- Good Evening
- Good Night
Ohayou Gozaimasu: Good Morning in Japanese
Having a good command of Japanese greetings is the first step toward building smooth relationships in Japan. Whether you are coming for a short trip or for a few years, learning how to greet people with confidence in Japanese is the key to leaving good impressions.
Of course, knowing how to say good morning is of great importance if you are working with Japanese. The impression you give is largely determined by the morning greetings.
In Japanese, we have a phrase that encourages initiative.
Aite yori saki ni!
Be earlier than others (to say it)!
Of course, you might not always be the first to notice a colleague or someone you know in the hallways or the elevators. But if you were to be the first, you should greet the person as soon as you notice her presence. You should care to say ohayou gozaimasu regardless of the person’s rank: whether you encounter your chief or the new intern. Actually, even if you were to meet someone who never cares to answer back, you should care to say hello anyway.
Greeting a colleague:
○○ san, ohayou.
Greeting your chief:
○○ kachou, ohayou gozaimasu.
Other Uses of this Japanese Greeting Besides the Morning
Ohayou gozaimasu is not only a way to say good morning, but also to create a certain intimacy and the art of starting a conversation. The easiest common topic is the weather of the day and the season in general.
Japanese also like to speak about sports, news and cultural events. Those small talks are very useful to create a nice atmosphere between people and more than the topic, the conversation itself is the key to getting along with others.
Daily Conversation Example:
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kyou mo asa kara atsui desu ne.
Good morning. Today too, it is hot from the morning.
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kinou no sakkaa- mimashita? Sugokatta desune.
Good morning. Did you watch the football last night? It was really great.
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kinou ha doumo gochisousamadeshita.
Good morning. Thank you for yesterday’s feast.
A Japanese Greeting for a Working Environment
In Japan, especially in the working environment, the importance of greetings is serious. Outside your workplace, if you miss the chance to say ohayou gozaimasu to clients or people who know your company, here’s the Japanese thinking: “the employee of this company did not greet us decently”. Their opinion of the entire company will take a hit!
Another point you might have noticed or heard is that Japanese people bow even when they are on the phone and their interlocutors cannot see them. Bowing is not only a habit but also a way to be respectful at all times and to give a good impression to people around.
How is this greeting used at work?
A: Ohayou gozaimasu.
A: Good morning.
B: Ohayou gozaimasu.
B: Good morning.
A: Kyou wa ii tenki desune.
A: The weather is fine today.
B: Sou desune. Ii tenki desune.
B: Yes, the weather is nice.
The unique thing about おはようございます is that it can be used at any hour of the day. You will notice this in a lot of work environments, like your part-time job.
The first thing you need to say as a greeting when you clock into your shift is おはようございます, even if you are doing a late-night shift.
The reason? It’s because, instead of the exclusively “good morning”, you use おはようございます to greet someone new for the first time that day.
Konnichiwa: Good Afternoon in Japanese
What doesこんにちは (Konnichiwa) mean?
You may have already heard of this before you started learning Japanese. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) is one of the first Japanese greetings you will learn. Usually, it can be used as the Japanese word for saying “hi” or “hello”. However, what it actually means is “good afternoon”
こんにちは（Konnichiwa) is usually written in hiragana, but if you write it in kanji, it’s 今日は, which can also be read as きょうは (kyo wa).This directly translates to “today is”.
Originally, people often greeted each other with:
Kyou wa tenki ga ii desune.
Today, the weather is nice.
Kyou wa atsui desune.
Today, it is hot.
Over time, people began to shorten their greetings by cutting off the latter portions, eventually resulting in こんにちは (konnichiwa).
At times, people ask, “What part of speech is こんにちは?”
Is it a noun? Greetings, including おはよう (ohayou), こんにちは (konnichiw) and こんばんは (konbanwa)are not nouns, but interjections. Interjections are words that we use when our hearts are stirred.
For example, let’s take a look at what someone said when they were given a bouquet of flowers. You would say:
Waa! Kirei da naa!
Waa, it’s so beautiful!
In another example, someone forgot their homework.
Aa, shukudai o wasureta.
Aa, I forgot my homework!
In both cases, the phrase phrase “わぁー” and “あっ” are interjections. Therefore, greetings are words that encompass the stirring of our hearts when we meet someone and the feeling of wanting to communicate with the people we meet.
Konbanwa: Good Evening in Japanese
Sounding similar to こんにちは (Konnichiwa), こんばんは (Konbanwa) is the Japanese greeting for “good evening”. According to NHK,the national public broadcasting organization in Japan, こんばんは should be used when the sun has already set and it has gotten dark usually at around 7 pm in summer and in winter time it will be around 5.30 pm.
How to use this Japanese greeting
How you can use “Konbanwa ” is actually similar to how you can use “ohayougozaimasu” in the morning. Besides saying it as a simple greeting, It is a good phrase to start friendly small talk with your friends
Good evening! How was the test today?
Ｋonbanwa! Kyouwa ichinichijuu amefutteimashitane
Good evening! It was raining all day today, wasn’t it?
konbanwa! Nomini ikimashou!
Good evening! Let’s go and have a drink!
Oyasumi: Goodnight in Japanese
Generally, the Japanese expression for saying” good night is “おやすみ“(Oyasumi). However, it may be inappropriate to use it sometimesdepending on the situation.
Situation 1: When Someone is Going to Bed
Similar to you saying “goodnight” when your friend (or someone who is close to you) is going to bed, you can use “Oyasumi” to wish goodnight to your friend. You can also say “oyasumi” to your friend when you are about to sleep.
For Example: When you are on the phone with your friend.
Sorosoro nerune, oyasumi
I’m about to sleep, goodnight.
When your friend says ”oyasumi” to you, you should also reply to your friend with “oyasumi”.
When wishing goodnight to someonewho is superior to you, instead of saying “oyasumi”, you should use the more formal form “おやすみなさい“.
For example, when you are on a business trip with yoursupervisor and he is going to sleep.
Kyouwa chotto tsukaretakara, sakini neruyo, oyasumi
I am going to sleep first because I’m a little bit tired today, goodnight.
Situation 2: When Leaving to Go Home Late at Night
Oyasumi can also be used when it is late at night and someone is leaving to go home. For example, when you and your colleagues are on the last train, your friend is alighting before you.
You can say:
Kyowa ichinichi otsukaresamadeshita, oyasuminasai
Thanks for your work today, good night.
However, unless you are very close with him/her, do not use “おやすみ (oyasumi)” to someone superior to you as it may be considered impolite. Use the more formal form: “おやすみなさい” instead.
It is rarely the case that some people may find”おやすみなさい” inappropriate to be said to a superior person. This is because, in the strict sense, “おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai)” does not belong to any type of Japanese Keigo.
To avoid trouble, alternatives you can use one of the two:
Thank you for your hard work.
Thank you for today.
How do you great someone in Japanese?
The four basic Japanese greetings are “Ohayou gozaimasu” (Good morning), “Konnichiwa” (‘Hello’ or ‘Good day’), and “Konbanwa” (‘Good evening’).
How do you greet someone for the first time in Japanese?
What does "otsukare sama" mean?
お疲れ様, or “otsukare sama”, means “thank you for your hard work.
What is the meaning of 'ohayo' ?
Ohayo (おはよう) means “good morning” in Japanese.
What is the difference between konbanwa and oyasumi?
Konbanwa is used to greet someone anytime in the evening, but oyasumi is strictly used for when you want to go to bed and sleep.