All 4 Basic Japanese Greetings : Ohayou / Konnichiwa / Konbanwa / Oyasumi
Greetings are always the first few words or phrases you learn when learning a new language. In Japanese, there are 4 basic greetings which can be used at different times of the day! In this article, you will learn all 4 basic Japanese greetings.
Having a good command of Japanese greetings is the first step towards 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 leave 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.
Be the first to say it!
あいてよりさきに (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:
○○ san, ohayou.
Greeting your chief:
○○kachou, ohayou gozaimasu.
Other Morning Greetings
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.
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kyou mo asa kara atsui desu ne.
Good morning. Today too, it is hot from the morning.
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kinou no sakkaa- mimashita? Sugokatta desune.
Good morning. Did you watch the football last night? It was really great.
Ohayou gozaimasu. Kinou ha doumo gochisousamadeshita.
Good morning. Thank you for yesterday’s feast.
In 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 time and to give a good impression to people around.
A: Ohayou gozaimasu.
B: Ohayou gozaimasu.
A: Kyou wa ii tenki desune.
B: Sou desune. Ii tenki desune.
A: Good morning.
B: Good morning.
A: The weather is fine today.
B: Yes. The weather is nice.
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 words you learn in Japanese. 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.” or”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, Konnichiwa- good afternoon」? Is it a noun? Greetings, including 「おはよう,Ohayo- good morning」,「こんにちは, Konnichiwa- good afternoon, 」, and「こんばんは, Konbanwa- good evening」are not nouns, but interjection s. Interjections are words which we use when our hearts are stirred.
For example, the 「わぁー。」in「わぁー。きれいだなぁ。Waa-, kireidanaa- Waa, it’s so beautiful!」, and the 「あっ。」in「あっ。宿題を忘れた。 Aa, shukudai o wasureta- Aa, I forgot my homework!」are interjections. Therefore, greetings are words which encompass the stirring of our hearts when we meet someone and the feeling of wanting to communicate with the people we meet.
Sounding similar to こんにちは(Konnichiwa), こんばんは(Konbanwa) is the Japanese word 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 it
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
Good evening! How was the test today?
Ｋonbanwa! Kyouwa ichinichijuu amefutteimashitane
Good evening! It was raining all day today, wasn’t it?
konbanwa! Nomini ikimashou!
Good evening! Let’s go and have a drink!
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.
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.
Your Friend: “そろそろ寝(ね)るね、おやすみ。”
Sorosoro nerune, oyasumi
I’m about to sleep, 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.
Your Supervisor: 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.
You: はい, おやすみなさい！
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.
unless you are very close with him, 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 are “お疲れ様でした(otsukaresamadeshita)” or “今日はありがとうございました（kyouwa arigatougozaimashita)” “They both means thank you for your hard work today”
We have introduced all 4 basic Japanese greetings you can use in different time periods in a day, let’s move on to other basic Japanese phrases
Other Basic Japanese Phrases