Traveling to Japan – Local Lingo

Traveling to Japan – Local Lingo


A little Japanese for your Travels

In Japan, greetings are given great importance. It is considered rude to fail to greet someone or even to greet them in a lazy or offhand manner.

The most common ways to greet someone in Japan are:

  • Konnichiwa (Hi; Good afternoon.)

  • Ohayō gozaimasu/ Ohayō (Good morning [formal/informal])

  • Konbanwa (Good evening)

    Say Ohayō gozaimasu to your superior instead of Ohayō. And don’t forget to bow when you greet him.

How are you? How’s it going? How many times a day do you hear or say these brief greetings at the beginning of your conversations? So many times, in fact, that half the time, you don’t even pay attention. These pleasantries are common in Japan as well. The Japanese phrase equivalent to “How are you?” is Genki desu ka, which literally means “Are you well?”

Other common ways to ask how someone is doing are

  • Hajimemashite. (How do you do?)

  • O-genki desu ka. (How are you? [formal])

  • Genki? (How are you? [informal])

  • Maiku-san wa? (How about you, Mike?)

As you’d expect, when someone asks you how you’re doing, there are many possible responses.

  • Hai, genki desu. (Yes, I’m fine.)

  • māmā desu. (Well, so-so.)

  • Hai, watashi mo genki desu. (Yes, I’m fine, too.)

    The particle mo in Watashi mo genki desu means “also.”

There are also many ways to say goodbye.

  • Mata ashita. (See you tomorrow.)

  • Sayōnara. (Goodbye.)

  • Oyasumi nasai. (Good night.)

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