The Japanese greeting hajimemashite (はじめまして) is a commonly used term in Japanese daily life that you may very well have come across before. It is often translated as ‘nice to meet you’, or ‘how do you do’ – and that’s not exactly wrong, as it is used in this way.
However, hajimemashite is one of those Japanese words that doesn’t have a word-for-word counterpart in English.
Let’s discuss hajimemashite and learn some other phrases which you may find useful when meeting someone new in Japanese!
Common ways to say nice to meet you in Japanese
Nice to meet you
Hajimemashite, which can be written 初めまして or はじめまして, is the standard phrase that Japanese people say when they first meet someone.
So does hajimemashite mean ‘nice to meet you’ in Japanese? Well, it holds a similar meaning to ‘nice to meet you’ in English, although it would not be a literal translation. In Japanese hajimete (はじめて) means ‘for the first time’. So hajimemashite is an acknowledgement that it’s your first time meeting someone.
Hajimemashite is a simple and polite phrase which is suitable to say when meeting anyone, regardless of age or status.
Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu
Pleased to meet you
The phrase douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu (どうぞよろしくお願いします / どうぞよろしくおねがいします) is often used in succession of hajimemashite. If you look it up in a dictionary you will probably find the translation to also be along the lines of ‘pleased to meet you’. However, paired with hajimemashite, the nuance would be closer to ‘please take care of me’.
Despite the fact that this is not a usual sentiment to hear in English, it’s an extremely common phrase in Japanese! It is essentially a friendly way to show your intent to continue good relations with the person you are meeting.
Depending on who you are speaking to, there are a few ways to chop and change the phrase in order to adjust the level of formality.
- Douzo yoroshiku
- Yoroshiku onegaishimasu
Always keep in mind that the longer the phrase, the more polite. When meeting someone for the first time it is always best to be as respectful as possible, so be sure to use the full utterance!
Kochira koso yoroshiku onegaishimasu
Nice to meet you too
Wondering how to reply to ‘nice to meet you’ in Japanese? Kochira koso yoroshiku onegaishimasu is the standard response.
Kochira koso is an expression which means ‘it is I who should say…’. It’s extremely useful in reciprocating sentiments such as thank you or sorry, and of course, nice to meet you.
A typical meeting might go like this:
Hajimemashite! Watashi wa Akira to moushimasu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Nice to meet you! My name is Akira. Please, treat me well.
Hajimemashite. Kochira koso yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Nice to meet you too. Let’s treat each other well.
O ai dekite ureshii desu
Nice to see you
This phrase is a more direct translation of ‘nice to meet you’ in Japanese. Let’s break it down.
- The honorific O (お) is used to show respect to the person you are speaking to.
- Ai (会い / あい) is the stem of the verb au (会う) meaning ‘to meet’. It is paired with the verb dekiru (できる) which means ‘to do’ or ‘to be able’.
- The te (て) form of the verb pair is used to connect it to ureshii (嬉しい / うれしい) which translates to ‘happy’.
- You can remember desu (です) as a polite term with which you can end a sentence.
Put everything together and we have the expression ‘I am happy to meet/see you’. Unlike hajimemashite, it is not exclusively used for the very first time you meet someone.
O ai dekite kouei desu
Pleased to meet you
As you can tell, this is the same as the previous phrase, however ureshii has been replaced by kouei (光栄 / こうえい). Kouei means ‘honour’ or ‘privilege’, making this utterance more polite and formal in nature.
You can compare it to the polite phrase ‘it’s an honour to meet you’ in English and you may use it likewise!
O me ni kakate kouei desu
Pleased to meet you
O me ni kakaru (お目にかかる / おめにかかる) is the humble form of the verb au which we know means ‘to meet’. In Japanese, humble speech exists as a way of showing respect to those of a higher status.
This is a highly formal way to say ‘nice to meet you’ so you should only use it when meeting someone of very high importance.
Don’t forget to bow!
As you may know, bowing or ojiigi (お辞儀 / おじぎ) is an integral part of Japanese culture. Japanese people bow in a variety of situations such as in greetings, apologies, at religious temples or simply to express respect.
It is customary to bow when introducing yourself to someone new, just like a handshake in western cultures.
If you ever visit Japan, you will see just how much Japanese people bow on a daily basis, and as a result you may even get into the habit yourself!
This video from JapanesePod101 demonstrates the proper way to bow when you meet someone, plus many other situations besides. (Did you know there are three different types of bowing in Japanese?!)
We recommend JapanesePod101 as the best way to learn Japanese online. They teach useful, everyday Japanese, and the lessons are fun too. You can get a lifetime account for free too – what’s not to love?!
Learn more essential phrases for meeting new people and introducing yourself in Japanese:
- 19 Different Ways to Say Hello in Japanese
- How to Say ‘My Name Is’ in Japanese: Introduce Yourself Like a Native!
- How to Say ‘How Are You’ in Japanese [15+ Essential Greetings!]
Hannah is a half Irish/half Japanese girl living in Ireland. Her love for Japan and the Japanese language led her to studying languages and translation in university where she specialised in Japanese. She spent a year studying abroad at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. In her free time, Hannah enjoys using her sewing machine to upcycle clothes and create new pieces!