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Goin’ Japanesque!

12 Everyday Japanese Greetings without English Equivalents

Daily greetings; there’s the “ohayo”(good morning), “konnichiwa” (hello)… such standard types of greetings or similar vocabulary exist in any culture. However, there are some greetings that are so specific to the Japanese culture that it’s difficult to find vocabulary to serve as a direct translation of those expressions. In this article, we introduce you to such greeting words, when to use them and how the Japanese have come to use it!

 

1. Itadakimasu

いただきます

itadakimasu
This is a word that is said before eating a meal.

The meaning of Itadakimasu comes from “itadaku” which originates from the humble way of saying “to eat” or “to receive”.

The word is said before consuming food to express gratitude toward the ingredients in each dish. There is a thought that everything has life, not only meat and fish, but vegetables and fruit as well. Therefore, the word shows thanks for something having to “sacrifice their life in order to make my life possible.”

Secondly, the word shows gratitude toward all those who made consuming the meal possible. Those who made the meal, those who served it, those who produced the vegetables, caught the fish… it is an expression to say thank you to all those who were involved in allowing you to consume the dish in front of you. Related: 13 Need-to-know Basics of Chopstick Etiquette for Japanese Restaurants

 

2. Gochisosama, Gochisosamadeshita

ごちそうさま、ごちそうさまでした

gochisosama
This is a word that is said after a meal.

Gochiso means a sumptuous feast, and it also holds a meaning of “hosting” this meal. Back in the day when there were no refrigerators or supermarkets, in order to serve a sumptuous feast for a guest, many people had to run around to get all the ingredients and get everything prepared.

Gochisosama, an expression to say “what a sumptuous feast that was!” shows thanks toward all those who worked to prepare the meal.

 

3. Osewa ni natteimasu

お世話になっています

yoroshiku
This is an expression that means that you are really thankful for all the person has done for you. It has become a phrase that you automatically say when you see a person that you meet for business.

 

4. Ojyama shimasu, Ojyama shimashita

お邪魔します、お邪魔しました

ojyamashimasu1
These are phrases that mean “sorry for intruding”. Ojyamashimasu is said when you step into someone’s home, and Ojyamashimashita is said when your visit is over and you depart. FYI, in Japan, you take off your shoes to enter someone’s home. Be sure you kneel down and neatly place your shoes side-by-side with the toes facing toward the entrance (outside) before you enter the house, this is considered common etiquette!

 

5. Ittekimasu

行ってきます

ittekimasu
This is a word that is said before you depart. It is an expression to say that you are leaving and will be sure to come back again.

 

6. Itterasshai

行ってらっしゃい

This is said to someone that is leaving, in response to their saying “Ittekimasu”.

“Itte (to go)” and “irasshai (welcome)” together in this one word expresses the feelings of the ones left behind; go and come back safely.

 

7. Tadaima

ただいま

This is said when you return back somewhere.

Tadaima means “just now”. This phrase expresses that “I’m sorry for being absent for so long, I have just now returned.”

 

8. Okaerinasai

おかえりなさい

The phrase “okaerinasai” said to welcome someone back, is said in response to “tadaima”. Okaerinasai expresses a wish or longing for someone to return. Saying this phrase means that the speaker was hoping for the return of someone up until the moment they returned and said “tadaima”.

 

9. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu

よろしくお願いします

yoroshiku
This is one of those phrases that hold a different meaning depending on the situation it is used.

If it is someone that you meet new, it means “it is a pleasure to meet you”. If you say this to someone you are meeting new at work, it can mean “I look forward to working with you.”

If this is said when someone asks you to do something, it can mean “I thank you in advance for doing what I asked you to do”. Or it can also mean “I trust you are going to handle this well.”

 

10. Otsukaresama/ Otsukaresama desu

お疲れ様/お疲れ様です

otsukaresama2
This is a word that is very specific to Japanese culture and can be a casual greeting said between colleagues or friends. It can also act as a verbal reward for one another’s hard work.

otsukaresama
It can also be said in place of “Kanpai (cheers)” when you have a drink with colleagues. Related: Warikan: Going Dutch Japanese Style

 

11. Odaijini

お大事に

odaijini
This is said for anyone that isn’t feeling well or is sick. It means “take care”.

 

12. Jyane

じゃあね

jyane
This is “soredewa (and so…) ” changed into “deha” into “jya”. What it essentially means is “And so we shall meet again another time.”, which became shorter and shorter from “Soredewa matane” to “Sore jyane” to “Jyane”.

 

These 12 are phrases and words that you will use for sure if you start life in Japan. There’s the ittekimasu, itadakimasu that you may use with your host family if you try the home-stay experience and there’s the Osewa ni narimasu, if you decide to work in Japan. If you can learn these so that you can say them naturally, it is sure to make your life in Japan easier!

Jyane! Hope to see you soon!

Related:
5 Distinctly Japanese Expressions that are Difficult to Translate

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Kimi

About the author

Kimi is a Japanese living in Tokyo. She has spent half her life living overseas in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Her hobbies are traveling, eating, drinking and beautifying. She enjoys yoga and has a daily goal of running 6.5 km to offset her love of beer and junk food.

View all articles by Kimi
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