The word ‘hello’ is one of the first words we want to learn in any language! It’s no surprise that when we start learning Japanese, we want to learn the word ‘hello’ first.
This simple greeting helps us make connections and friends.
Well, of course nothing is ever simple in Japanese…
You may have learned that the way to say hello in Japanese is konnichiwa (こんにちは). Well, that is one very useful Japanese greeting! But in fact, konnichiwa is closer in meaning to good day or good afternoon.
There are actually many different ways to greet somebody. It depends on the time of day, your level of formality, whether you’ve seen that person recently…
Yes, there are many unique ways to say hello in Japanese. Well, they don’t all translate exactly as ‘hello’, but they are different greetings used in the same way.
Let’s take a look at some of those today!
First of all, please watch this awesome video from JapanesePod101. Then, let’s take a closer look at when you can use each word or phrase below!
Here’s a closer look at the words and phrases from the video…
This is how to say good morning in Japanese. This is the most common greeting to use in the morning, up until about 11 or 12. You can shorten it to ohayō when speaking casually to friends or family. The ō is a long ‘oh’ sound.
This is a very casual way to say hi or hey there! to a close friend. It’s not that commonly used and I wouldn’t recommend using it unless a Japanese friend says it to you first!
Ikaga o-sugoshi deshita ka
How have you been?
This is quite a formal greeting. You can say this when meeting somebody with higher status than you – perhaps a coworker or professor.
Genki desu ka
How are you?
This is a more casual way to ask how someone is. Japanese people often greet a friend with genki desu ka without saying hello.
To make it more formal, add the honorific prefix ‘o’: ogenki desu ka?
To make it more casual, you can just ask genki?
Chōshi wa dou desu ka
How’s it going?
This is a Japanese greeting that means how have you been? or how are you doing lately? Chōshi means somebody’s state of health.
Kyō wa donna ichi-nichi deshita ka
How was your day?
This is a nice way to greet someone when you meet them in the evening and you want to hear about their day.
Most people learn konnichiwa as the way to say hello in Japanese. But actually, it’s closer to good day or good afternoon. You can use it after around 11am and in the afternoon, up until around 5 or 6pm.
Before then, you would say ohayō gozaimasu (good morning) instead.
Konbanwa is how to say good evening in Japanese. It can be used in formal and informal conversations.
O-ai dekite kouei desu
It’s nice to meet you
This is a formal way to greet somebody you meet for the first time in Japanese.
Shibarakuburi desu ne
Long time no see
Here is a way to greet a Japanese friend who you haven’t seen in a while. You can also say ohisashiburi desu which has roughly the same meaning.
… And here are even more Japanese greetings that weren’t covered in the video!
Hello (on the phone)
This special greeting is used only on the phone. The person making the call and the person receiving the call can both use this expression.
Perhaps you’ve already learned dōmo as meaning something like ‘very’. Well, when it’s used by itself, it can be a very casual greeting, kind of like ‘sup‘. It sounds quite cool but extremely informal. Use carefully!
Very casual greeting used mostly between young men who are close friends. This is not really used by women, or by men speaking to women. Don’t say this one to your Japanese teacher!
By the way, you don’t pronounce the final ‘u’. So it’s pronounced more like ‘oss’.
This is a cute and feminine way to say hello in Japanese that is only used by young women and girls. It’s casual and kawaii!
This is another very casual way to say hi or hey to a close friend only.
Here is one more very casual greeting. You would use this to get somebody’s attention, for example if you want to say hi to a friend who you saw in the street.
This means something like ‘how have you been recently?‘ or ‘what’s up?‘ but it’s a casual form, used between friends.
This is just the English word hello in Japanese katakana! Sometimes people say hello in English to be cute or funny. Again, it’s a casual way to say hello.
Tadaima is the greeting that you say when you get back home after you’ve been out. It means I’m back or I’m home.
When you hear somebody say tadaima, you should respond with okaeri (welcome back).
Hello in Japanese
Now you know quite a few different ways to say ‘hello’ in Japanese, whether you’re talking to friends, family or your boss!
Next, check out our post on how to say goodbye in Japanese for more essential greetings.
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Rebecca is the founder of Team Japanese. She spent two years teaching English in Ehime, Japan. Now back in the UK, she spends her time blogging, self-studying Japanese and wrangling a very genki toddler.