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After you learn to say ‘hello’ in Japanese, next you’d be curious about how to say ‘goodbye’, right? How do you say goodbye in Japanese?
Usually, the first Japanese word for goodbye that we learn is sayonara (さよなら). Well, it does mean ‘goodbye’ – but not in the same way the English word does!
In context, sayonara means ‘goodbye forever’, for when you don’t know when you’ll see that person again. It is also considered very formal.
Picture this: you’re an exchange student in Tokyo going back to your dorm after classes. You most probably will be seeing your classmates again the next day, so you might like to reconsider using sayonara when you say goodbye for the day – or they’ll wonder if you’re about to disappear!
Instead, you can start learning these different ways to say goodbye in Japanese based on the time of day, level of formality, or the kind of occasion!
We begin with sayonara (さよなら), which can also be written with a long ‘o’ sound sayounara (さようなら). Both of them mean the same thing and are considered formal.
Sayounara was originally written in kanji as 左様なら (さようなら), which means “farewell”, but it is more common to see it written in hiragana in its shortened form sayonara (さよなら).
It is the first word for goodbye we’re taught, but it is also the least commonly used word! Like we said earlier, sayonara is more fitting to situations where you won’t see the other person ever again, or at least for a long time.
See you tomorrow!
Mata ashita is a casual goodbye word used when you’re meeting the same person the next day! For example, in school or at work. You may hear this among friends, classmates, or coworkers.
Another tip: ashita (明日 / あした) means ‘tomorrow’. You can replace this with words like raishuu (来週 / らいしゅう) which means ‘next week’, or on New Year’s Eve, you can use rainen (来年 / らいねん) meaning ‘next year’.
This gives us the additional ways to say bye in Japanese, mata raishuu (また来週 / またらいしゅう – see you next week) and mata rainen (また来年 / またらいねん – see you next year).
See you again
As an alternative to mata + other time indicators, another popular way to say goodbye in Japanese is mata ne. It is also a causal expression used among friends when you expect to see them again very soon, even later in the same day.
You can also use mata (また) alone. It means ‘again’ or ‘next time’. Adding ne (ね) makes a word sound more feminine, but mata ne is commonly used together, regardless of gender.
Well then, see you
This is another casual way to say goodbye! It can be used among friends, classmates, and relatives.
Jaa (じゃあ) means “Well, then…”, and it can be used alone without the ne (ね), just like with mata ne above.
I’ll be going
Now this is a common phrase to hear at home. People leaving the house to go to work or school say itte kimasu to let the others know that they’re going out.
Itte kimasu literally translates to ‘I will go and come back’, The proper response to this is itterasshai (行ってらっしゃい / いってらっしゃい), the next expression on the list.
Please go and come back
As mentioned earlier, itterasshai is the response of the people you’re saying itte kimasu to. Parents say this whenever their children leave for school. This can also mean ‘see you later’.
Ki wo tsukete kudasai
Please take care
This semi-formal expression is said towards someone who is leaving (a house, school, workplace, etc.). For example, when a visiting friend is about to go out the door, you can say ki wo tsukete kudasai.
Do take note that only those staying behind can use this phrase! The person leaving cannot use this. We use this to wish that person a safe journey or trip to their next destination.
Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu
Excuse me for leaving first
When saying goodbye in a Japanese workplace, especially if you’re leaving before some of your coworkers, you can use osaki ni shitsurei shimasu. There is no direct translation in English, but the best way to interpret it is ‘excuse me, because I will leave ahead of you’.
In Japanese work culture, it’s more common to stay until your boss leaves. However, when it can’t be helped or you’re allowed to leave early, this phrase can come in handy!
Good job / Thank you for your hard work
This expression works both as a way to say goodbye and to say thank you in Japanese. Otsukaresama deshita is commonly used at work or school. After a hard day’s work, you can end it with this.
Otsukaresama comes from the verb ‘to be tired’: tsukare (疲れる / つかれ). This doesn’t really mean you’re telling someone they look tired, though! This functions as a ‘thank you’ because you’re recognizing someone’s hard work after a long day.
Good job today
This is very similar in meaning to the previous one! But in context this variant of otsukaresama deshita is used by superiors to their juniors.
For example, a boss says this at the end of the day, to which the juniors should reply otsukaresama deshita. Juniors cannot say gokurōsama deshita to their boss because hierarchy in a Japanese workplace is important!
Derived from the English phrase “bye bye”, this is commonly used by women and children. You can also use this among family and friends because baibai is a very casual expression!
When you’re saying goodbye at night, you can use oyasuminasai. This is the polite form, however, so if you’re using it with friends, you can use the shortened, casual form oyasumi (おやすみ).
This expression comes from the word yasumi (休み / やすみ) which means ‘rest’. It’s like saying ‘please take a rest’ or ‘rest for tonight’!
Genki de ne
To wish a friend the best, to be well, or to take care, you can use this expression! Genki (元気 / げんき), as an adjective, means ‘healthy’ or ‘well’.
Get well soon
This one is usually said towards someone who is sick. Daiji (大事 / だいじ) means ‘important’, so it’s just like telling someone it’s important to take care of their health!
Oai dekite yokatta desu
It was nice meeting you
If you meet someone for the first time and must leave, you can say this formal phrase. However, it might also mean that you will never meet again, so use this phrase with caution!
Oai comes from au (会う / あう), a verb that means ‘to meet’.
I must go now
This is an informal expression you can use when saying goodbye to close friends! Ikanakucha has the word iku (行く / いく), ‘to go’.
Ways to say goodbye in Japanese
So now you know how to say bye in Japanese in several different ways! With the help of this list, you should always be able to pick an appropriate way to say bye, whether you’re leaving work or drinking with your Japanese buddies.
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Thea is a freelance content writer, currently majoring in Japanese studies. She likes to create art and draws inspiration from film and music. Thea was inspired to study Japanese language and culture by reading the literary works of Haruki Murakami and Edogawa Ranpo.