Ko (こ) ー こんにちは (Konnichiwa) in English

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In this article we will cover:

What does こんにちは (Konnichiwa) mean?
When do I use おはよう (Ohayou) then?
What about こんばんは (Konbanwa)?


What does こんにちは (Konnichiwa) mean in Japanese?

Konnichiwa 「こんにちは」 is one of the first words you learn in Japanese.  Often times, on social media posts, you may see it spelled as 「こんにちわ」.  However, as you may have learned in your studies, the correct spelling is actually 「こんにちは」.

「こんにちは」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」.

What Part of Speech is Konnichiwa?

At times, people ask me, “What part of speech is 「こんにちは, konnichiwa- good day」?  Is it a noun? Greetings, including 「おはよう,ohayo- good morning」,「こんにちは, konnichiwa- good day, 」, 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.

Other Greetings Besides Konnichiwa

When do I use おはよう (Ohayou) then?

Well then, everyone, at what time do you change your greeting from 「おはよう, ohayo- good morning」to「こんにちは, konnichiwa- good day」? This is quite a difficult question! There is actually no fixed rule.  The television and radio station NHK, which uses the most correct Japanese in Japan, states that “The greeting「おはよう,ohayo, good morning」is generally acceptable until 9:00 am.

However, you should be cautious when using it after 9:00 am.” In addition, a famous Tokyo hotel states that “For guests, we use 「おはようございます, ohayogozaimasu- good morning (polite)」until around 10:30 am, and after that we use 「いらっしゃいませ, irasshaimase- welcome」.

What about こんばんは (Konbanwa)?

konbanwa good evening in japanese

How about the transition from 「こんにちは, konnichiwa- good day」to「こんばんは, konbanwa- good afternoon」? This is actually even more difficult!
NHK states that “「こんばんは,konbanwa- good afternoon」is generally used after the sun has gone down and it gets pretty dark. It is better not to use it when the sun is still out.” In short, when you transition greeting is dependent on the season. For me, I think in the summer I switch greetings around 7:00 pm, and in the winter around 5:30 pm.

Japanese greetings allow you to communicate with the people you meet, while also keeping the seasons and time in mind. However, do you ever think that the greetings used by some store clerks in Japan are a little too obnoxious? I think those type of greetings might just be the requirements of the store manual and perhaps aren’t the most sincere.

After having learned all of these, why not try putting these to use by greeting people over the phone? Or, if you have a friend that you haven’t met in awhile, why not try using “Hisashiburi” with them!

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