Saying “Goodbye” in Japanese: Can it only be さよなら (Sayonara)?

Posted by on December 20, 2014 – Japanese Study
How to Say Goodbye in Japanese - Sayonara

How Can I Say “Goodbye” in Japanese?

Are you using Sayonara to say “goodbye” in Japanese? It may not mean quite what you think…

Using さよなら (Sayonara) to express Farewell
Casual Conversations
In Formal Context…
Not meeting for a while…

Using さよなら (Sayonara) to express Farewell

One of the first words that you will learn when studying Japanese is さよなら (sayonara), the standard “Bye” or “Goodbye” in Japanese. It’s ubiquitous in phrasebooks and textbooks but as you might have noticed living in Japan, the Japanese people don’t use sayonara in everyday conversation that much.

So what expressions are used to say farewell, if not “さよなら” (sayonara)? It depends a lot on the context and the person you are talking to. To understand it better, let’s have a look at some natural Japanese!

Casual Conversations

The following expressions are used casually and if you enjoy watching anime or read manga then you’ve probably heard them before. You will typically use these expressions when you don’t know when you will meet your friend again.

  • じゃあね ー See you
  • またね ー See you
  • じゃあ、また ー See you
  • バイバイ ー Bye bye

If you do know that you will be seeing your friends again you can mention the time when you will meet again.

      • またあした ー (See you tomorrow)
      • またらいしゅう ー (See you next week)


In Formal Context…

In business situations, different expressions are used that emphasize the hard work done by all that day.

おつかれさまでした: used in the working place, expresses the appreciation of your co-workers’ hard work when you leave for the day. The closest English translation would be “thank you for your hard work” or more simply saying “you worked hard”. To learn more about the use of otsukaresama desu.

おさきに失礼します: used in the working place, expresses the regret to leave before your colleagues still working. Literally “I’m rude to leave before you”.

Of course, if you are talking to a person of higher status you will need to use the proper level of polite Japanese.

今日はありがとうございました ー (Thank you very much for today)
それでは失礼します ー (Please excuse me)

Not meeting for a while…

If you won’t be seeing someone for a while you would use the following: would say goodbye to somebody you won’t be meeting for a while (Casual/Polite):


  • じゃあ、げんきで(ね) ー (Take care)
  • また連絡するね ー (Keep in touch)
  • また会おうね ー (Let’s catch up again)


  • お元気で ー (Take care of yourself)
  • また連絡します ー (Let’s keep in touch)
  • またお会いしましょう ー (Let’s catch up again)

Reading this article, you might wonder why is “sayonara” not used so much to say “goodbye” in Japanese for daily life. The reason has a lot to do with the nuances of Japanese culture as “sayonara” has a strong connotation of finality and implies that you will not see the person again.

Therefore since it implies a more solemn farewell than a simple goodbye you should not use sayonara when leaving a place such as your home, work unless you are not planning to ever come back.

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