Saying Hello in Japanese: A Comprehensive Guide to Greetings

Hello to you! Saying “hello” is usually one of the first things you learn in another language. When learning Japanese, most people use こんにちは or “konnichiwa” as the standard phrase to mean “hello,” but its actually much more nuanced than that. In fact, Japanese has a bunch of phrases that can be used to mean “hello!” Let’s go over them so you can see the differences and how they are used. 

Morning, Afternoon, and Evening Greetings

In Japanese culture, greetings are an essential part of daily communication, reflecting politeness and respect for others. The appropriate greeting can vary depending on the time of day.

Formal Greetings:

  • Good morning – おはようございます (Ohayou gozaimasu)
  • Good afternoon – こんにちは (Konnichiwa)
  • Good evening – こんばんは (Konbanwa)

The above phrases don’t have set times, but usually ohayou gozaimasu is used before noon, and then konnichiwa is used until dusk. 

If you are in a less formal situation in the morning you can cut the phrase down to simply “ohayou.” So if you are greeting a close friend or family member, you don’t have to add “gozaimasu.” 

Ohayou gozaimasu is a little unique because it can also be used when seeing someone for the first time during the day. For instance, even if you work the night shift and come into work at 11:00 PM at night, you will still greet your coworkers with “ohayou gozaimasu!”

Meeting Someone for the First Time – A Script

Another time you might say hello to someone is when you meet them for the first time. In Japanese there is a special phrase for “hello” when you meet someone: はじめまして “hajimemashite” which literally translates to “the first time.” This can be used as “hello” or “nice to meet you.” Check out this short script of how meeting someone usually goes in Japanese: 

You: はじめまして (Hajimemashite) – Nice to meet you.

Stranger: はじめまして (Hajimemashite) – Nice to meet you too.

You would then say your name with either です (desu) or と申します (to moushimasu).

You: ジョンです (Jon desu) – I am John

You: ジョンと申します (Jon to moushiamsu) – I am called John

After this the other person would typically say their name and end with よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) which you would then repeat. This set phrase is difficult to translate but it loosely means ‘please take care of me,’ and is the set phrase to use for meeting someone for the first time. It has other uses, but for now, just focus on this one. 

Saying a Casual Hello to Close Friends using やあ or よう

Enough with all the politeness, how do you say “hello” to your close friends and family? When greeting close friends, a more casual tone is used. Two common ways to say hello to friends are:

  • やあ (Yaa)
  • よう (You)

Example Sentences:

  • やあ、元気? (Yaa, genki?) – Hey, how are you?
  • よう、今日はどうだった? (You, kyou wa dou datta?) – Yo, how was your day?

Remember, these are only used for very close relationships! Make sure not to use these in formal situations like work, or if you don’t know someone very well. 

Hello on the Phone

Japanese has a few special phone greetings that are used when making calls. 

  • Starting a phone call: もしもし (Moshi moshi)


You: もしもし、山田さんいますか? (Moshi moshi, Yamada-san imasu ka?) – Hello, is Mr./Ms. Yamada there?

When answering the phone, it is customary to say “moshi moshi” to indicate that you are ready and listening. This is a special phrase that is only used on the phone in Japanese.

  • Ending a phone call: 失礼します (しつれいします, Shitsurei shimasu) – Excuse me (used before hanging up)

This phrase literally translates to “I am about to be rude.” It is used in various contexts and situations, but most commonly, it is a way to excuse yourself. On the phone, you usually say it before you hang up as a way to prepare the caller you will end the call. 

Hello When You Arrive Home

When coming home from work, school, or an activity, you usually announce your presence in the house. In Japanese, there is a set phrase that is used to greet someone and let them know you have returned. 

  • ただいま (Tadaima) – I’m home.

As a response, the other person will then tell you “welcome back” with this phrase:

  • おかえり (Okaeri) – Welcome back.

How Are You?

Sometimes we don’t say “hello” in English, but ask about their day or how they are feeling. It isi the same in Japanese! Showing concern for someone’s well-being is a common part of conversations. In Japanese, you can ask “How are you?” in several ways:

  • お元気ですか? (Ogenki desu ka?) – Are you well?
  • 元気? (Genki?) – Are you good?

Saying hello in Japanese can be quite different depending on the situation you are in, but its great to have this arsenal of greetings to use when you need them! Whether it’s a formal or informal setting, knowing the appropriate greetings will help you create a good impression. So, the next time you meet someone in Japan or converse with friends over the phone, use these greetings to start off on the right foot. 

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