Moshi Moshi (もしもし): Japanese Phone Etiquette

Last Updated on 07.06.2022 by Coto Academy

Should you use moshi moshi (もしもし) every time you pick up a phone call in Japanese? While our students love having an opportunity to practice their Japanese skills, one of the biggest challenges is always answering the phone. In-person conversation is a great way to practice because you can rely on body language and other visible cues from your speaking partner. However, on the phone, you rely only on the voice, so it can be incredibly intimidating for new students.

It’s all about word choice and intonation. We’ll cover some of the basics of phone etiquette to get you on your way.

 

Jump to:

Moshi Mosh” as “Hello”
When Not to Use “Moshi Moshi”
Thank You for Your Ongoing Support

“Moshi Moshi” as “Hello” in Japanese

You’ve likely heard moshi moshi before — in anime shows, TV series and documentaries. It’s a basic expression used by Japanese people when they pick up the phone. The word moshi is derived from the verb “to say” in humble Japanese: (もうす).

The important thing to remember is that moshi moshi is primarily a casual expression, and you should use it with your friends and family. The common follow-up is, “Yes, this is (your name)”

もしもし、はいマイクです。
Moshi moshi, hai maiku desu.
Hello, yes this is Mike.

Casual phone calls are a great way to practice your phone conversation skills since your Japanese friends will likely try to help you out and communicate more effectively. If you run into problems on the phone, here are some key phrases to remember:

 

If the speaker speaks too fast for you:
すみません、もっとゆっくりしてください。
Sumimasen, motto yukkuri hanashite kudasai.
Please, could you speak more slowly?

If you did not understand the explanation:
すみません、もう一度いちどねがいします。
Sumimasen, mou ichido onegaishimasu.
Please, could you repeat that?)

If you don’t understand anything:
すみません、(全然ぜんぜん)わかりません。
Sumimasen, zenzen wakarimasen.
I am sorry, I do not understand any of that.

When Not to Use “Moshi Moshi” When Talking in Japanese

If you are receiving a professional phone call, you should not use moshi moshi. In this situation, はい (“yes”) is used as “Hello”. You typically state your name and/or company name when answering the phone in this way. As with everything else, you can upgrade your politeness level depending on your situation.

はい、ジョンです。
Hello, this is John.

はい、コト・ランゲージアカデミーです。
Hello, this is Coto Japanese Academy.

はい、コト・ランゲージアカデミーのアニタです。
Hello, this is Anita from Coto Japanese Academy

Alternatively, when it comes to business phone etiquette — meaning when you’re receiving a call from your (not-so-close) colleague or client — there are other ways to give a good, clean introduction.

お電話ありがとうございます。コト・ランゲージアカデミーのアニタです。
Odenwa arigatou gozaimasu. Koto Rangeeji Akademii no Anita desu.
Thank you for calling. This is Anita from Coto Language Academy.

お疲れ様です。
Otsukare sama desu.
Thank you for your hard work. (Check out the full explanation of お疲れ様です here).

Cultural note: speed is important when it comes to answering the phone in Japanese offices. You should always try to answer the phone as soon as it rings. If it rings 3 or more times before you pick up, you should apologize for being late to answer:

 

たせしました。コト・ランゲージアカデミーでございます。
Omataseshimashita. Koto Rangeeji Akademii de gozaimasu.
Thank you for waiting. This is Coto Academy.

Beyond Moshi Moshi: Thank You for Your Ongoing Support

Another key business phrase you can use is お世話になっております, read as osewa ni natte orimasu. お世話 means to “care”, while 世話になる means “to be taken care of”.

Although the literal translation may sound awkward for English speakers, the term osewa ni natte orimasu can be closely interpreted as “Thank you for your support”.

You can use it as a very polite greeting when answering the phone or after taking knowledge of the caller’s identity. In this last case, you can add いつも itsumo (“always”). In Japanese culture, you should always care to share your appreciation for someone’s work.
世話せわになっております。コト・ランゲージアカデミーでございます。
Thank you for your support, this is Coto Japanese Academy.

いつもお世話せわになっております。
Itsumo osewa ni natte orimasu.
Thank you for your (continuous) support.

Here’s a look at some other possible phone call situations, and the phrases that go along with them:

Redirecting a Call in Japanese

At work, if the phone call needs to be forwarded to someone else, you can use:

かしこまりました、少々しょうしょうちくださいませ。
Kashikomarimashita. Shoushou omachikudasaimase.
Yes (I understand). Just a moment, please.

The person you’ve forwarded the call to will say:

電話でんわわりました。
Odenwa kawarimashita.
The call has been forwarded.

“Please Hold”

You likely know the phrase chotto matte kudasai. You can use the more formal version of that during a phone call where you need to place the caller on hold.

少々しょうしょうちくださいませ。
Shoushou omachi kudasaimase.
Please wait a moment.

Bad connection call

We all know how awkward it can be when you’re on a phone call with a bad connection. You can use these phrases should this happen to you while on a phone call in Japanese:

もしもし?
Hello?
すみません、こえますか.
Excuse me, can you hear me?
おそります。お電話でんわとおいようです。
Pardon me, it seems the phone is far. (bad connection)

Hanging up

Of course, you’re not going to say “bye” when talking to your boss. Japanese communication has different levels of honorifics. In English, you might just end it with a simple, “Talk to you later” or, “Goodbye.” The case is entirely different.

Ending the phone call with friends can be done with a simple “See you later.”

またね!
Mata ne!
See you!

あとでね!
Ato de ne!
Later then!

バイバイ!
Bai bai!
Bye bye

At work, you’ll use the more formal method:

失礼しつれいします。
Shitsurei shimasu.
Please excuse me.

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