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Greetings are a great place to start if you want to learn Japanese. In fact, learning to say hello in any language can come in handy. After all, it’ll be tough to get very far in any conversation if you don’t know how to start!
There are many different ways to say hi in Japanese, and which one you choose can make a big difference. After all, you don’t want to greet your boss with a casual “yo!” or act overly formal with your friends.
Fortunately, we’ve sorted through all the various ways you might need to properly say hello in Japanese. Let’s dive in.
Most Common Ways to Say Hello in Japanese
|Hiragana||Romaji||Pronunciation||Meaning||When to use it|
|おはよう (ございます)||Ohayou (gozaimasu)||Oh-ha-yo goh-zah-ee-mahs||Good morning||Before noon|
|こんばんは||Konbanwa||kohn-bahn-wah||Good evening||After dark|
|もしもし||Moshi moshi||Moh-shee moh-shee||Hello||On the phone, informal|
|いらっしゃいませ||Irasshaimase||ee-rah-shy-mah-seh||Welcome||Greeting a customer|
|ただいま||Tadaima||tah-dah-ee-mah||I’m back||Arriving home|
|すみません||Sumimasen||soo-mee-mah-sehn||Excuse me||Approaching a stranger|
A quick note on Japanese pronunciation
Unlike English, Japanese pronunciation is actually very predictable. We’ve tried to break down the sounds in the chart above in a way that makes sense, but what you really need to know is that each vowel is always pronounced the same way.
A is “ah” as in “m**a**m**a**” or “**ahh**, that’s nice.”
E is “eh” as in “m**ay**be” or “**e**gg”.
I is “ee” as in “cr**ee**k” or “**ee**l”.
O is “oh” as in “**O**hio” or “**o**val”.
U is “oo” as in “c**oo**l” or “**oo**ze”.
Hope that helps! Now let’s get back to saying hello.
Hello in Japanese
Most common Japanese greetings
We’ll start with the most useful, general Japanese greetings. These are called aisatsu – greetings for different times of day. These are great, all-purpose “hellos” recognized and used by every Japanese person. They vary only based on when you should use them – and, in one case, level of formality.
1. Ohayou – おはよう
Meaning: Good morning (informal)
Pronunciation: Oh-ha-yoh(oo) – ends up sounding a little like the state, Ohio
About: We’ll start off with ohayou, good morning in Japanese. This is the more casual way of saying good morning that you can use with friends and family.
2. Ohayou gozaimasu – おはよう ございます
Meaning: Good morning (formal)
Pronunciation: Oh-ha-yo goh-zah-ee-mahs
About: To make ohayou more formal, we add gozaimasu on the end, which makes it more polite. This is the greeting you would use to greet a teacher, boss, elder, or stranger in the morning. Ohayou and ohayou gozaimasu are most commonly used before 10 in the morning, and definitely before noon.
3. Konnichiwa – こんにちは
About: This is probably the most common way to say hello in Japanese. Konnichiwa is used broadly throughout the day and is what you’ll usually see translated as simply “hello” as you learn Japanese. If you want to get technical, it’s for use between mid-morning and late afternoon or early evening, but few people will blink if you slip up and use it at other times.
4. Konbanwa – こんばんは
Meaning: Good evening
About: The third greeting in the aisatsu trio is konbanwa, meaning good evening in Japanese. Like konnichiwa, it’s already sufficiently formal, so you can use it with anyone to greet them in the late afternoon or evening.
Do Japanese people say konnichiwa?
Yes! _Konnichiwa_ is a common greeting for Japanese people. It’s a general “hello” and can be used throughout the day – though early in the morning or late at night you’d be wiser to use _ohayou_ and _konbanwa_. All three of these _aisatsu_ are used every day by Japanese people.
There are many other more specific or more informal ways to greet people, as you’ll see here, but _konnichiwa_ is the golden standard, just like “hello” in English. That said, it may be a little formal for close friends – but don’t worry, we have you covered with tons of other ways to say a casual hi in Japanese.
Japanese greetings for specific situations
These are some more very common greetings you’ll hear in Japan, but they can’t be used just any time or by anyone, so take a close look at when they’re appropriate so you can greet people like a local.
5. Moshi moshi – もしもし
Meaning: I’m going to talk
Pronunciation: Moh-shee moh-shee (though you may hear people drop the last “ee” so it sounds more like “moh-shee mohsh”)
About: While you can read up on the whole story of moshi moshi, what you need to know right now is that it’s used like “hello”, it’s only used when picking up the phone, and it’s informal – so you shouldn’t use it if a boss or teacher is calling. But with your friends? Moshi moshi away.
6. Irasshaimase – いらっしゃいませ
Pronunciation: ee-rah-shy-mah-seh (“shy” here is as in the word ‘shy’ – when you combine “ah” and “ee” quickly, you get a sound like a pirate saying “aye captain”, which is what you see here)
About: This is a phrase new Japanese learners are frequently curious about, because they hear it so much! Irasshaimase is what gets yelled out when you enter a Japanese restaurant or store. The courteous phrase means “welcome” and is used to welcome customers or to beckon people in.
You’ll need this if you work in a Japanese store or restaurant where you see customers, but are otherwise more likely to hear it than use it yourself – it’s typically used in retail environments. There’s no need to say it, for example, to someone entering your house, although you could say the less formal irasshai (いらっしゃい) to an arriving house guest. And when you hear irasshaimase? The correct response is not to respond except with a polite nod of acknowledgement.
7. Ojamashimasu – おじゃまします
Meaning: I am going to disturb you
Pronunciation: oh-jah-ma-shi-mahs – In Japanese, it’s common not to really pronounce the final “u” on words like masu and desu so they become “mas” and “des” in conversation.
About: Ojamashimasu is a polite phrase to call out when entering someone’s home. It essentially means, “I’m sorry to bother you,” and is usually met with the phrase “douzo” – meaning, in this case, “come in” or “go ahead.” It’s good manners to say ojamashimasu any time you’re entering someone else’s house.
8. Tadaima – ただいま
Meaning: I’m home
About: Tadaima is the greeting used in Japanese to announce that you’ve arrived back in your own home. This phrase has a little bit of a warm and fuzzy feeling to it, since it’s used on arrival to say, “I’m home!” If someone else is home when you get there, they’ll typically respond with the phrase okaeri, meaning, “you’ve returned” or “welcome back.” It can also be used when arriving back in your office after an absence or, more cheekily, to announce that you’ve returned to anywhere that feels like home.
9. Osewa ni natteorimasu – お世話になっております
Meaning: Thank you for your continued support
Pronunciation: oh-seh-wah nee nah-teh-oh-ri-mahs
About: This is one of a few variations on a formal phrase used exclusively (but commonly) in business in Japan. You may hear it on the phone, in person, or see it in emails. It’s typically added in after an initial greeting but before beginning business.
If you’re new to Japanese, it’s worth noting that there are different levels of formality in Japanese speech that can get pretty complicated, especially in business or when dealing with dignitaries or people of high status. This is just a small taste of that, but it’s something you’ll need to learn eventually if you want to become fluent in Japanese.
10. Ohisashiburi desu – おひさしぶりです
Meaning: Long time no see
Pronunciation: oh-hee-sah-shi-boo-ree dehs
About: Just like the phrase “long time, no see” in English, you can use ohisashiburi desu as a greeting or in combination with other greetings when speaking to someone you haven’t seen in a while.
Ohisashiburi desu is the most formal version of this phrase, usable with acquaintances and bosses, but you can shorten it to ohisashiburi for co-workers and people who are friends or relatives but not very close, and to hisashiburi with close friends and family members.
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Hi in Japanese
With those common greetings out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the more informal ways to greet people in Japanese. These are the Japanese equivalents of “hi”, “hey”, and “yo” that you’re likely to hear in use among friends and young people in Japan.
11. Yo – よー
About: This is a very casual way to say hello in Japanese, used just like we use “yo!” in English. It tends to be used primarily by younger, male speakers and almost exclusively among friends. It’s the kind of relaxed greeting you’d expect to hear on Japanese reality television shows like Terrace House – not at work.
12. Oi – おーい
Meaning: Oi! Hey!
About: This is another casual greeting but used more like a “hey!” to get someone’s attention. Let’s say you’re waiting at a pub and see the friend you’re supposed to be meeting, but they clearly haven’t seen you yet. Calling out a friendly “oi!” would be just right.
13. Yaa – やあ
Pronunciation: yah (drawn out slightly to fit with the extra “a”)
About: This is an informal “hi” you might hear in Japan or, perhaps more likely, in Japanese anime. As with many of these, it can be used among friends and young people, but would not be appropriate for addressing a superior at work or a professor in school. For those, you’ll want to stick with the more formal greetings above like ohayou gozaimasu and konnichiwa.
14. Sumimasen – すみません
Meaning: Excuse me
About: Technically, this is less “hi” and more “excuse me”, but it can certainly come in handy if you need to politely approach a stranger in Japan. You could use sumimasen to ask the time, for example, or to ask a store employee where to find something. While you’d be unlikely to use it with friends and family, it can come in handy on occasion.
15. Otsukare sama desu – おつかれさまです
Meaning: You must be tired; you’ve worked hard
Pronunciation: oht-soo-kah-reh sah-mah dehs
About: This is a multipurpose phrase, most commonly used at the office. It means something like “good job” or “you’ve been working hard” but is often used as a greeting for colleagues as well as a congratulatory phrase or thank you in Japanese.
16. Ossu – おっす
Meaning: Hey (also “yes” or “roger that”)
Pronunciation: ohss (said emphatically)
About: Ossu is a casual, slangy “hey”, used mostly by boys and martial arts practitioners. It’s not in frequent use among older Japanese, but some younger people will use it with their friends. It’s a little masculine and sometimes appears in anime, which has helped popularize its use.
17. Yaahoo – ヤッホー
About: This is a more feminine way of saying “hi”. It derives from “yoohoo” in English and is used the same way. It’s not incredibly common, but you may hear it around, especially among girls, students, and children. Like “yoohoo,” it’s typically used to get someone’s attention, rather than as a way of saying hello once you’re already face-to-face.
18. Haro – ハロー
Meaning: Hello (informal)
Pronunciation: As an English speaker, you should probably just stick with “hello” or one of the other ways of saying hi here, but it’s not uncommon to hear this Japanization of the English “hello” in casual conversation or texts.
About: This is a loan word from English – it’s simply a Japanese version of the word “hello”! Haro is used as slang or to be silly, the same way we sometimes use small pieces of other languages in casual conversation.
How do Japanese people greet each other for the first time?
While there are many ways to greet someone in Japanese, here’s a fairly typical baseline, polite but not formal way of greeting someone you’ve just met in Japanese.
We might say:
Let’s break that down into pieces.
|はじめまして。||Hajimemashite.||Nice to meet you.|
|エミリーです。||Emily desu.||I am Emily.|
|どうぞよろしく。||Douzo yoroshiku.||Literally means, “Please be good to me,” but is frequently used in greeting a new person, like a second “nice to meet you” with a positive wish for a good relationship.|
Want more? Start your first lessons on Japanese greetings on Busuu today.
And those are the 18 Japanese greetings you need to know
There you have it! You’ve mastered how to start a conversation in Japanese. Now you just need to learn what comes after hello.
Fortunately, with these 18 ways to say hello in Japanese – and award-winning course content from Busuu – you’ll be reaching your Japanese language goals in no time.
Keep the conversation going in Japanese
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