If you’re just starting to learn Japanese, either on your own or in a classroom, one of the first things you’ll probably want to know is Japanese greetings, such as how to say hello (and probably goodbye, too).
Greetings in Japanese can take many forms—just like in most other languages. After all, whether you’re making new friends or just saying hi to a passerby in the street, a lot of language starts with “hello.”
In this post, you'll not only discover how to say hello in Japanese but also 17 of the most common Japanese greetings suitable for just about any and every situation you're likely to find yourself in.
From good morning, to answering the phone, get ready to impress your Japanese friends with these 17 Japanese phrases!
By the way, if you want to learn Japanese fast and have fun while doing it, my top recommendation is Japanese Uncovered which teaches you through StoryLearning®.
If you’re ready to get started, click here for a 7-day FREE trial.
How Do You Say Hello In Japanese?
There are lots of ways to say hello in Japanese—which is great because that leaves you pretty flexible if your brain suddenly can’t remember one of them.
What’s even better is that if you’re intimidated by such a wide variety of choices, there’s really only one “hello” you need to remember:
1. Konnichi Wa! こんにちは！
While it’s true that konnichi wa (often written as konnichi ha, because the hiragana “ha” is pronounced “wa” here) specifically means “good afternoon,” you’re not going to get in trouble for using it at any time of the day.
This is your basic Japanese greeting. It’s considered to be a fairly formal phrase, so unless you’re meeting with the prime minister, you won’t offend anyone either. And if you’re meeting with the prime minister, well, hopefully you have someone on hand to help you out!
Your basic hello in Japanese is going to be konnichi wa, but there are lots of many ways for saying hi in Japanese.
Let’s first take a look at some other basic Japanese greetings that live in the same family as konnichi wa: the greetings based on time of day.
Time-Specific Japanese Greetings
As mentioned previously, the literal meaning of konnicha ha is “good afternoon,” but it’s sort of an all-purpose option for greeting someone.
However, there are other time-specific Japanese greetings that do still adhere to their corresponding time of day, and you may get some unusual looks if you use them outside of that context.
2. Ohayou Gozaimasu おはようござい ます
This Japanese greeting, usually shortened to ohayou among friends, is the informal way to say good morning in Japanese.
You’ll usually hear people using ohayou gozaimasu (おはよう ご ざ い) until about noon, when things switch to the generalized “good afternoon,” konnichi wa.
You might hear ohayou in certain niche contexts outside of morning time—such as when a person first clocks into work for the day, regardless of what time it is. But for general purposes, use ohayou gozaimasu to say good morning in Japanese until around lunchtime.
3. Konban Wa こんばんは
So, how do you say good evening in Japanese? Well, konban wa means “good evening”.
Just like with konnichi wa, the hiragana “ha” in konban ha is pronounced “wa.” Konban wa is a slightly more formal way than the others and often fades into use around 6pm or sunset.
Among close friends and acquaintances, it’s fairly rare to hear konban ha; mostly, it’s reserved as a more formal greeting in Japanese. Of course, you won’t offend anyone if you do choose to use it! They may simply say, “Oh, no need to be so polite!”
Situation-Specific Japanese Greetings
While you can certainly greet someone based solely on the time of day, there are a lot of other ways to say hello based specifically on the situation in which you find yourself.
Check out all of these common Japanese options and pick out the one that suits the current situation best!
4. Oyasumi Nasai おやすみなさい
If you’re looking for how to say good night in Japanese, oyasumi nasai is perfect. This phrase, which literally means “please rest,” is used to say good night in two senses: both when you depart from seeing someone at night and when someone is going off to bed. Close friends and family can shorten this phrase to simply oyasumi.
5. Ittekimasu/Itterasshai 行ってきます/行ってらっしゃい
This greeting is a parting phrase that comes as a pair and literally means “I’m leaving/you’re leaving”.
This may be a new concept for people not familiar with the Japanese language, but there’s a specific Japanese greeting for when someone is leaving but will be back later.
It works as a pair; the person leaving says ittekimasu! (literally, “I’ll go and come back”), and the people staying behind respond with itterasshai! (literally, “yes, please go and come back”). Think of it as similar to saying “I’m heading out” and people responding “see you later.”
It's important to note that ittekimasu/itterasshai only work in locations to which you do actually intend to return. Thus, they’re most commonly used in face to face situations at home or at work. You wouldn’t say ittekimasu if you’re leaving a store, for example.
6. Tadaima/Okaeri Nasai ただいま/おかえりなさい
Paired with the above is another set of greetings—this time for when you come back from whatever adventure you were on in the previous example.
It works the same way: when you come back, you say tadaima! (literally, “I’m back”), and everyone who stayed welcomes you back by saying okaeri nasai (literally, “welcome back”). Friends can shorten this to simply okaeri.
7. Youkoso/Irasshaimase ようこそ/いらっしゃいませ
When you are out in public, you may be greeted with a “welcome” by service workers at places like stores or the airport.
In this context, you might hear a generic “welcome” greeting; youkoso which is a more formal way to address someone. The greeting is a common element of signs in travel locations like train stations. Irasshaimase is very common in places like convenience stores and the greeting means “welcome to our shop!”
In both situations, the employees are simply being polite to all of their customers; you're not expected to give a response. Similarly, you will never use this polite way of saying welcome yourself unless you are an employee.
8. Moshimoshi/Hai もしもし/はい
Most people will answer the phone by saying “hello,” but unlike in English, this on the phone “hello” is unique in Japanese.
It's common to answer the phone by saying moshimoshi to ensure that the other person can hear you. However, it is also acceptable to answer with hai (literally, “yes”) and then your name.
Informal Phrases For Friends
Most of the Japanese phrases above are reserved for standard politeness—that is, use with people who you know either only as acquaintances or strangers.
If you're very close to some of your friends, you can use more informal Japanese greetings instead.
Try an informal greeting next time you meet a Japanese person you know well!
9. Yahho ヤッホー
How do you say hi in Japanese if you're only speaking to a close friend? Yahho is acceptable among friends or with children as a simple greeting used for “hi.” However, it is considered extremely informal, so it is best left to those situations where you know the other party extremely well and a casual greeting works.
10. Ossu オッス
Ossu is specifically reserved for use between close male friends. It, too, is very informal and could even be correlated with slang phrases like “sup” as in “what’s up” in Japanese. Men of all ages can use it, but it's a common greeting among younger men.
Saying Goodbye In Japanese
Of course, no greeting would be complete without typical phrases for goodbye as well.
Unless you plan to stay joined at the hip with every person you meet for the rest of your life, you’ll need a way to bid someone farewell at some point.
If you’ve ever heard the Japanese language before, you might already be familiar with well known Japanese greeting for goodbye:
11. Sayounara さようなら
However, sayounara is not nearly as common as you might expect.
It is used for extended goodbyes, where you do not intend to see the person again for some time, if ever. If you’re looking for something a little less, well, permanent, try:
- 12. Mata ashita (また明日): See you tomorrow
- 13. De wa, mata (ではまた): Well then, see you
- 14. Mata ne (またね): See you [again soon]
- 15. Jaa ne (じゃあね): See ya (informal)
- 16. Baibai (バイバイ): Bye bye (informal)
Any of these options can be perfect depending on the situation, who you’re talking to, and how soon you expect to see them again.
There is one exception to these farewells that you may have become familiar with, especially if you have heard Japanese in a work context:
17. Otsukaresama お疲れ様
When people are leaving work, they often acknowledge each other with otsukaresama (good job). Or the more formal version is otsukaresama desu, if speaking to a superior.
This Japanese word has no direct translation into English, but it conveys the idea that you are aware of how hard someone worked and are appreciating them for that effort. Think “nice work today” or “you must be tired after all that work, great job.”
You always say otsukaresama to your co workers—never about yourself. Thus, most people will say it to each other as they leave.
Learning Japanese: Practice Makes Perfect!
Whether you’re just getting started with learning Japanese in general or you’re gearing up to practice your speaking and listening skills, Japanese greetings are a great place to begin. Starting up a conversation and informal interatcions with a Japanese native speaker all start with a simple greeting.
Remember—practice makes perfect, and the best way to get used to typical Japanese phrases in their native contexts is to simply listen and engage with Japanese culture.
If you follow the rules of StoryLearning®, that looks like immersing yourself in the language by reading books in Japanese or short stories in Japanese.
Take it one step at a time and you’ll be wielding an entire vocabulary of Japanese greetings in no time!