4 Basic Japanese Greetings: Ohayou, Konnichiwa, Konbanwa and Oyasumi

Last Updated on 28.06.2022 by Coto Japanese Language School

There are four basic Japanese greetings, otherwise known as aisatsu (挨拶), that can be used at different times of the day. If you’re just starting to learn Japanese, this will be the first thing you’re introduced to. After all, you don’t want to accidentally claim “Good morning” in the middle of the night, or say “Have a good rest!” when you wake your friend to start the day.

Greetings are always the first few words or phrases you learn when learning a new language. In this article, you will learn all basic Japanese greetings.

Content:

Ohayou Gozaimasu: Good Morning in Japanese

Morning, Ohayou Gozaimasu
Morning, Ohayou Gozaimasu

Having a good command of Japanese greetings is the first step toward building smooth relationships in Japan. Whether you are coming for a short trip or for a few years, learning how to greet people with confidence in Japanese is the key to leaving good impressions.

Of course, knowing how to say good morning is of great importance if you are working with Japanese. The impression you give is largely determined by the morning greetings.

In Japanese, we have a phrase that encourages initiative.

相手より先に!
Aite yori saki ni!
Be earlier than others (to say it)!

Of course, you might not always be the first to notice a colleague or someone you know in the hallways or the elevators. But if you were to be the first, you should greet the person as soon as you notice her presence. You should care to say ohayou gozaimasu regardless of the person’s rank: whether you encounter your chief or the new intern. Actually, even if you were to meet someone who never cares to answer back, you should care to say hello anyway.

Greeting a colleague:
○○さん、おはよう。
○○ san, ohayou.

Greeting your chief:
○○課長、おはようございます。
○○ kachou, ohayou gozaimasu.

Other Uses of this Japanese Greeting Besides the Morning

Ohayou gozaimasu is not only a way to say good morning, but also to create a certain intimacy and the art of starting a conversation. The easiest common topic is the weather of the day and the season in general.

Japanese also like to speak about sports, news and cultural events. Those small talks are very useful to create a nice atmosphere between people and more than the topic, the conversation itself is the key to getting along with others.

Daily Conversation Example:

おはようございます。今日も朝から暑いですね。
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kyou mo asa kara atsui desu ne.
Good morning. Today too, it is hot from the morning.

おはようございます。昨日のサッカー見ました?すごかったですね。
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kinou no sakkaa- mimashita? Sugokatta desune.
Good morning. Did you watch the football last night? It was really great.

おはようございます。昨日はどうもご馳走様でした。
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kinou ha doumo gochisousamadeshita. 
Good morning. Thank you for yesterday’s feast.

A Japanese Greeting for a Working Environment

In Japan, especially in the working environment, the importance of greetings is serious. Outside your workplace, if you miss the chance to say ohayou gozaimasu to clients or people who know your company, here’s the Japanese thinking: “the employee of this company did not greet us decently”. Their opinion of the entire company will take a hit!

Another point you might have noticed or heard is that Japanese people bow even when they are on the phone and their interlocutors cannot see them. Bowing is not only a habit but also a way to be respectful at all times and to give a good impression to people around.

How is this greeting used at work?

A: おはようございます。
A: Ohayou gozaimasu.
A: Good morning.

B: おはようございます。
B: Ohayou gozaimasu.
B: Good morning.

A: 今日はいい天気ですね.
A: Kyou wa ii tenki desune.
A: The weather is fine today.

B: そうですね。いい天気ですね。
B: Sou desune. Ii tenki desune.
B: Yes, the weather is nice.

The unique thing about おはようございます is that it can be used at any hour of the day. You will notice this in a lot of work environments, like your part-time job.

The first thing you need to say as a greeting when you clock into your shift is おはようございます, even if you are doing a late-night shift.

The reason? It’s because, instead of the exclusively “good morning”, you use おはようございます to greet someone new for the first time of that day.

Konnichiwa: Good Afternoon in Japanese

Good afternoon, Konnichiwa
Good afternoon, Konnichiwa

What does こんにちは (Konnichiwa) mean?

You may have already heard of this before you started learning Japanese. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) is one of the first Japanese greetings you will learn. Usually, it can be used as the Japanese word for saying “hi” or “hello” However, what it actually means is “good afternoon”

こんにちは(Konnichiwa) is usually written in hiragana, but if you write it in kanji, it’s 今日は, which can also be read as きょうは (kyo wa). This directly translates to “today is”. 

Originally, people often greeted each other with:

今日は天気が良いですね
Kyou wa tenki ga ii desune.
Today, the weather is nice.

今日は暑いですね.
Kyou wa atsui desune.
Today, it is hot.

Over time, people began to shorten their greetings by cutting off the latter portions, eventually resulting in こんにちは (konnichiwa).

At times, people ask, “What part of speech is こんにちは?”

Is it a noun? Greetings, including おはよう (ohayou), こんにちは (konnichiw) and こんばんは (konbanwa)are not nouns, but interjections. Interjections are words which we use when our hearts are stirred.

For example, let’s take a look at what someone said when they were given a bouquet of flowers. You would say:

わぁー。きれいだなぁ。
Waa! Kirei da naa!
Waa, it’s so beautiful!

In another example, someone forgot their homework.

あっ。宿題を忘れた。
Aa, shukudai o wasureta.
Aa, I forgot my homework!

In both cases, the phrase phrase “わぁー” and “あっ” are interjections. Therefore, greetings are words that encompass the stirring of our hearts when we meet someone and the feeling of wanting to communicate with the people we meet.

Konbanwa: Good Evening in Japanese

Good evening, konbanwa
Good evening, konbanwa

Sounding similar to こんにちは (Konnichiwa), こんばんは (Konbanwa) is the Japanese greeting for “good evening”. According to NHK, the national public broadcasting organization in Japan, こんばんは should be used when the sun has already set and it has gotten dark usually at around 7 pm in Summer and in winter time it will be around 5.30pm.

How to use this Japanese greeting

How you can use “Konbanwa ” is actually similar to how you can use “ohayougozaimasu” in the morning. Besides saying it as a simple greeting, It is a good phrase to start a friendly small talk with your friends

For example:

こんばんは!今日のテストどうだった?
Konbanwa! Kyounotestodoudatta?
Good evening! How was the test today?

こんばんは!今日は一日中雨降っていましたね。
Konbanwa! Kyouwa ichinichijuu amefutteimashitane
Good evening! It was raining all day today, wasn’t it?

こんばんは!飲みにいきましょう!
konbanwa! Nomini ikimashou!
Good evening! Let’s go and have a drink!

Oyasumi: Goodnight in Japanese

Generally, the Japanese expression for saying” good night is “おやすみ“(Oyasumi). However, it may be inappropriate to use it sometimes depending on the situation.

Good Night, Oyasumi, going to bed
Good Night, Oyasumi

 

Situation 1: When Someone is Going to Bed

Similar to you saying “goodnight” when your friend(or someone who are close to you) is going to bed, you can use “Oyasumi” to wish goodnight to your friend. You can also say “oyasumi” to your friend when you are about to sleep.
For Example: When you are on the phone with your friend.

そろそろ寝(ね)るね、おやすみ
Sorosoro nerune, oyasumi
I’m about to sleep, goodnight.

おやすみ。
Oyasumi
Goodnight.

When your friend says ”oyasumi” to you, you should also reply to your friend with “oyasumi”.

When wishing goodnight to someone who is superior to you, instead of saying “oyasumi”, you should use the more formal form “おやすみなさい“.

For example, when you are on a business trip with your supervisor and he is going to sleep.

今日はちょっと疲れたから、先に寝るよ, おやすみ
Kyouwa chotto tsukaretakara, sakini neruyo, oyasumi
I am going to sleep first because I’m a little bit tired today, goodnight.

はい, おやすみなさい
Hai, oyasuminasai.
Sure, goodnight!

 

Good Night, Oyasumi, train
Good Night, Oyasumi

Situation 2: When Leaving to Go Home Late at Night

Oyasumi can also be used when it is late at night and someone is leaving to go home. For example, when you and your colleagues are on the last train, your friend is alighting before you.

You can say:

今日は一日お疲れ様でした、おやすみなさい。”
Kyowa ichinichi otsukaresamadeshita, oyasuminasai
Thanks for your work today, good night.

However, unless you are very close with him/her, do not use “おやすみ(oyasumi)” to someone superior to you as it may be considered as impolite. Use the more formal form: “おやすみなさい” instead.

It is rarely the case that some people may find”おやすみなさい” inappropriate to be said to a superior person. This is because, in the strict sense, “おやすみなさい(oyasuminasai)” does not belong to any type of the Japanese Keigo.

To avoid trouble, alternatives you can use one of the two:

お疲れ様でした
Otsukaresamadeshita.
Thank you for your hard work.

今日はありがとうございました
Kyouwa arigatougozaimashita.
Thank you for today.

How do you great someone in Japanese?

The four basic Japanese greetings are “Ohayou gozaimasu” (Good morning), “Konnichiwa” (‘Hello’ or ‘Good day’), and “Konbanwa” (‘Good evening’).

How do you greet someone for the first time in Japanese?

The greeting that the Japanese people use in their own language when meeting somebody for the first time is hajimemashite (始めました).

What does "otsukare sama" mean?

お疲れ様, or “otsukare sama”, means “thank you for your hard work.

What is the meaning of 'ohayo' ?

Ohayo (おはよう) means “good morning” in Japanese.

Learn Greetings and Conversational Japanese with Coto Japanese Academy