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Hello in Japanese: All the Japanese Greetings You Need to Know

If you want to study Japanese or travel to Japan, one of the most essential Japanese phrases to know is hello. However, the word hello in Japanese varies depending on the time of day and the person you’re greeting. In this article, we’ll cover how to say hello in Japanese in a variety of social circumstances. Let’s get started!

Japanese Greeting Culture

Japan has a special word for greetings: 挨拶(あいさつ、aisatsu). Japanese people value aisatsu so deeply that aisatsu is often described as having its own culture. Posters line school walls to remind students when and how to greet teachers and classmates. The first five minutes of your morning at a Japanese office will inevitably be spent exchanging aisatsu with other people. Saying hello in Japanese is a vital part of experiencing Japanese culture. Due to the existence of polite and honorific Japanese, some who visit Japan might not know which aisatsu is best for more polite company. For this purpose, we’ll start with how to say hello in polite Japanese.

Saying Hello in Polite Japanese

The basic rules for keeping your Japanese polite are to use the personal pronoun 私(わたし、watashi), utilize the prefixes お(o-)and 御(ご、go-), and to finish your sentences with です(desu). But which hellos in Japanese fit in with polite conversation? Here are some polite ways to say hello in Japanese.

こんにちは(konnichiwa)- Hello. / Good afternoon.

Everyone has heard the word こんにちはkonnichiwa). It’s a standard and polite Japanese greeting, but it isn’t one that can be used around the clock. We’ll talk more about greetings and the time of day later. こんにちは means both hello and good afternoon.

Example:

Good afternoon. How are you? こんにちは。お元気ですか? (Konnichiwa. O genki desu ka?

どうも(doumo)– How do you do?

The word どうもdoumo)actually has a variety of meanings. It’s a versatile greeting that can be used at the beginning, end, or middle of a conversation. When used to express hello, どうも is an acceptable and polite greeting for your boss or your coworker.

Example:

Boss: Good morning, Mr. Tanaka! 田中君!おはよう! (Tanaka-kun! Ohayou!
Tanaka: How do you do, Boss? どうも。 (Doumo.)

お久しぶりです(o hisashiburi desu)– It’s been a long time.

It might seem odd in English to start a conversation with “It’s been a while” as opposed to “Hello.” However, the Japanese phrase お久しぶりですo hiashiburi desu)can be used to do just that. If you want to use this phrase with a friend, you can drop the o- and -desu to simply say, “Hisashiburi.

Example:

Speaking to a superior: お久しぶりです。 (O hisashiburi desu.
Speaking to a friend: 久しぶり! (Hisashiburi!

ご無沙汰です(go busata desu)– We haven’t spoken in a while.

The phrase ご無沙汰です(ごぶさたです、go busata desu)has the same nuance as o hisashiburi desu does, but on a slightly more polite level of Japanese. While o hisashiburi desu implies that you haven’t met in a while, go busata desu implies that you haven’t been in contact, either. Again, it’s normal in Japanese to use this sort of phrase as a form of hello. However, be sure not to use it with your friends; this is a polite style of Japanese.

Example:

We haven’t spoken in a while. Are you still in Tokyo? ごぶさたです。まだ東京にいらっしゃいますか? (Go busata desu. Mada Tokyo ni irasshaimasu ka?

お元気ですか?(o genki desu ka)– Are you well?

It’s good manners in any language to ask someone how they’re doing when you start a conversation. In Japanese, the way to ask How are you? is お元気ですか?o genki desu ka?). It’s fine to say konnichiwa or another greeting before asking this question. It’s also acceptable to simply greet you friend or coworker by asking if they’re well. In a less formal situation, you can simply ask, 元気ですか(genki desu ka)or 元気(genki)?

Examples:

Greeting an acquaintance: Are you well? お元気ですか? (O genki desu ka?
Greeting a friend: Hi! Are you doing well? よ!元気? (Yo! Genki?

いかがお過ごしですか?(ikaga o sugoshi desu ka)- How have you been?

If you want to politely inquire about how someone has been, the phrase いかがお過ごしですか(ikaga o sugoshi desu ka)is a decently acceptable greeting. It literally means, “How have you been spending (the time)?” This is a very formal phrase, more often used in written Japanese than in spoken. If you’re writing an e-mail and aren’t sure how to say hello, いかがお過ごしですか is a great choice.

Example:

How have you been? I am writing to you from Hawaii. いかがお過ごしですか?今、私はハワイにいます。 (Ikaga o sugoshi desu ka? Ima, watashi wa Hawaii ni imasu.

Saying Hello in Casual Japanese

Now that we’ve explored the polite ways to say hello in Japanese, let’s look at some of the informal or slang words for hello in Japanese. Try to remember the unspoken rules of 内外uchi soto), or inner and outer social circles, when using these greetings. It would be considered rude to use casual greetings on someone who is older than you or who doesn’t know you very well.

ハロー(haroo)– Hello

The word ハローharoo)is simply Japan’s take on the English word hello. If you look remotely foreign, Japanese children will often shout this greeting to you. Young children in Japan assume that all foreigners speak English.

Example:

Hello, John-sensei! ジョン先生!ハロー! (Jon-sensei! Haroo!)

どうよ?(dou yo)- How’s it going?

The phrase どうよ(dou yo)is a colloquial abbreviation of どうですかdou desu ka). It means, “How are things?” or “How’s it going?” This phrase is often used among friends on the phone or in passing.

Example:

How’s it going? Are you free tonight? どうよ。今夜、暇ですか? (Dou yo. Konya, hima desu ka?

ヤッホー(yahoo)– Yoohoo / Hiya

Cute and friendly in its nuance, the word ヤッホー(yahoo)is often used by young people. Some might consider it to sound a bit feminine, as many high school girls use it with their friends. ヤッホーhas the same feel as the English slang words Yoohoo! Or Hiya!

Example:

Yoohoo! Are you ready for today’s test? ヤッホー!今日のテスト、準備できた? (Yahoo! Kyou no tesuto, junbi dekita?

おう!(Ou)– Hey!

On the other side of the spectrum from ヤッホー、the greeting おう(ou)is used more by young men. A high school sports club might be filled with the sound of boys saying おう!to each other before the game begins.

Example:

Hey! Doin’ alright? おう!元気か? (Ou! Genki ka?

おっす・うっす・ちーっす(ossu/ussu/chiissu)– Yo

This is another strictly masculine informal greeting. More sound than word, おっす(ossu), うっす(ussu), or ちーっす(chiissu) are often accompanied by a bobbing of the head or a high five.

Example:

Yo. How was the date? おっす。デート、どうだったか? (Ossu. Deeto, dou datta ka?

最近どう?(saikin dou)– How’s it been?

The phrase 最近どう(saikin dou)is an informal version of いかがお過ごしですか(ikaga o sugoshi desu ka). It can, however, be made more polite by expanding the phrase to: 最近どうですか(saikin dou desu ka)?

Examples:

Casual: How’s it been? Nice haircut. 最近どう?髪型かっこいい! (Saikin dou? Kamigata kakkoii!
Polite: How have things been? Your haircut suits you. 最近どうですか?髪型、似合いますね。 (Saikin dou desu ka? Kamigata, niaimasu ne.

Situational Greetings in Japanese

As we mentioned earlier, how you say hello in Japanese depends on situations like time or company. We’ll wrap this article up with a few greetings in Japanese that depend heavily on the time of day or the company that you’re in.

おはようございます(ohayou gozaimasu)– Good morning.

The greeting おはようございますohayou gozaimasu)can only be used between around 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. It is a very important greeting for anyone going to work or to school. People who don’t say “good morning” when entering the school or workplace in Japan are considered rude.

That said, if you’re saying good morning to a teacher or to your boss, you would say the full phrase: おはようございます. If you’re greeting a friend, family member, or someone of the same age, you can shorten the phrase: おはよう(ohayou).

Examples:

Greeting someone politely: Good morning! おはようございます! (Ohayou gozaimasu!
Greeting a friend or family member: ‘Morning! おはよう! (Ohayou!

こんばんは(konbanwa)– Good evening.

In the morning, hello in Japanese is おはようございます(ohayou gozaimasu). In the afternoon, hello in Japanese is こんにちは(konnichiwa). From around 5 p.m. till when the sun rises, the proper way to say hello in Japanese is こんばんはkonbanwa). Like konnichiwa, the word konbanwa is already acceptably polite. It has no casual form.

Example:

Good evening. It’s chilly tonight, isn’t it? こんばんは。寒いですね。 (Konbanwa. Samui desu ne.

はじめまして(hajimemashite)– Nice to meet you.

If you’re meeting someone for the first time in Japanese, はじめましてhajimemashite)is a good way to say hello. It means “good day” or “nice to meet you.” Hajimemashite is polite Japanese and has no casual form.

Example:

Nice to meet you. My name is Tom. はじめまして。トムと申します。 (Hajimemashite. Tomu to moushimasu.)

いらっしゃいませ!(irasshaimase)– Welcome!

The greeting phrase いらっしゃいませirasshaimase)is a staple in Japanese customer service. Clerks, waiters, and other workers in the service industry use irasshaimase to welcome their guests. You would use this phrase if you were working at a store or at a restaurant. If you work in the Japanese service industry, be sure to wear a big smile and speak in a cheerful, welcoming tone.

Example:

Welcome! What would you like to drink? いらっしゃいませ!お飲み物はいかがでしょうか? (Irasshaimase! O nomi mono wa ikaga deshou ka?

もしもし(moshi moshi)– Hello.

もしもしmoshi moshi)is how to say hello in Japanese if you’re answering the phone. Often, you would begin with moshi moshi, then add your name to confirm that the caller has the right number.

Example:

Hello. This is Nakano speaking. もしもし。中野です。 (Moshi moshi. Nakano desu.

Hello in Japanese – Conclusion

There’s an abundance of ways to say hello in Japanese. Be sure to consider the time and social circumstance, but don’t be too nervous! Japanese people are friendly and welcoming. Many will be happy that you’ve greeted them in their own language, even if you did make a small mistake. How do you say hello in your language? Let us know in the comments below!

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