Do you want to say “hello” in Japanese?
Now, 挨拶 (aisatsu) means “greeting” in Japanese. And you’ll need to know your Japanese greetings if you want to start a conversation in Japanese! Greetings are some of the most simple phrases to learn, and you’ll say them all the time.
You may already know one or two Japanese greetings, like konnichiwa. But konnichiwa isn’t how you would normally greet someone, especially if they’re close to you. How to say “hi” in Japanese depends on the situation and whom you’re greeting.
Let’s learn to say “hello” in Japanese and more with these essential Japanese greetings.
“Hi” in Japanese – やあ！ (Ya-)
A super simple greeting to start off with! やあ is used casually between friends. It’s more of an exclamation to grab attention. In Japanese, it’s common to greet your friends and coworkers with a やあ, or just あー (Aah-), followed by their name.
Here’s an example:
やあ！すずきちゃん、今日いい天気ですね。(Yaa-! Suzuki-chan, kyou ii tenki desu ne.)
“Hi! Suzuki-chan, nice weather today, huh.”
You could even omit the exclamation and only greet someone with their name to say “hi.”
“Hello” in Japanese – こんにちは (Konnichiwa)
こんにちは is “hello” in Japanese, but it’s not used as often as you would think. こんにちは is somewhat formal so it would sound a bit awkward to say it to a friend. While it’s normal in some cultures to exchange short, friendly greetings to those you pass on the street, that’s a big no-no in Japan. You wouldn’t greet a passing stranger with こんにちは. It’s mainly used in semi-formal situations, like in an office space.
It also means “good afternoon” in Japanese, and so you would really only use it in the afternoon.
“My Name is” in Japanese – 名前は＿＿＿です。(Namae wa ____ desu.)
How to say “my name is” in Japanese is quite simple. You could say it two ways: 名前は＿＿＿です。 (Namae wa _ desu.) or ＿＿＿＿です。(____ desu.)
All you have to do is fill your name in the blank. So, for example, I would say 名前はケイトリンです。 (Namae wa Keitorin desu) Or, I could shorten it and say: ケイトリンです。(Keitorin desu.)
In Japanese, Namae is “name,”, wa is the subject marker, and desu is the helping verb “is.” That’s why you can say Namae wa or just your name and desu. The first means “My name is Caitlin” while the second means “I am Caitlin.”
To be technical, the full phrase would be 私の名前は＿＿＿です。 (Watashi no namae wa _ desu.) But watashi no (“my”) isn’t needed because it’s understood in context. You almost never need to use watashi unless you need to clarify the subject.
If you’re in a very formal situation, there is one less common way to introduce yourself: と申します。(*_ to moushimasu.*) It’s a polite way to say “My name is” or “I call myself.” This is humble speech and used when talking to someone of much higher status. It’s usually only used in business situations when you’re introducing yourself to a new company client or the company president.
“Good Morning” in Japanese – おはようございます (Ohayou gozaimasu)
In the mornings, you can greet people with おはようございます. It's a formal way to greet someone so you would use it when saying hello to your boss in the morning.
Informally, you would drop gozaimasu and just say ohayou. This is very common to say to everyone. You’ll often hear friends exaggerate the sounds, and draw out the “o” at the end like おはよー！
“Good Evening” in Japanese – こんばんは (Konbanwa)
In the evening, greet others by saying こんばんは. It’s a polite and formal way to say “good evening.” You can use this with most anyone, but it’s definitely more common to greet friends and family with an informal greeting on this list instead.
“Goodnight” in Japanese – おやすみなさい (Oyasumi nasai)
This is more a parting phrase than a greeting. But at night and when going to bed, you say おやすみなさい. It literally means “Go take a rest.”
Between friends and family, you would leave off the nasai that makes the phrase formal. Instead, say おやすみ－！
“Long Time No See” in Japanese – お久しぶりですね (O-hisashiburi desu ne)
If you haven’t seen someone for a while (three weeks or longer) you can say お久しぶりですね。This means, “It’s been a while, huh?” or “Long time no see!” You can say this to anyone, from a friend to someone in the workplace. The “o” at the beginning adds respect, and the “ne” at the end means “huh” or “right?” Both can be dropped, to make it a less formal statement.
You’ll combine this phrase with other greetings. Here’s an example:
あー、すずきさん。久しぶりですね。元気だった？ (Aa-, Suzuki-san. Hisashiburi desu ne. Genki datta?)
“Ah, Suzuki-san. Long time no see, huh. How have you been?”
“Yoohoo” in Japanese – ヤッホー (Ya-ho-)
This is a very casual greeting, usually between young kids or close friends. It’s a more feminine greeting, but don’t worry boys — your greeting is next.
ヤッホー is another exclamation type of greeting used to grab a close friend or child’s attention. It’s like yelling “Yoohoo!” and waving for attention. You would follow it with your friend’s name.
“Hey” in Japanese – おす！ (Osu!)
おす is a masculine, slang way to greet other guys. Girls don’t typically say this (although I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my favorite informal greeting. I use it sometimes with friends — often receiving strange looks). And guys wouldn’t say it to girls.
Unlike the other informal phrases on this list, it’s an exclamation that’s more often used when you already see and have the person’s attention. So you don’t need to follow it up with their name, but you still can.
It can also be used as “Yes, sir!” or a “Roger!” Some anime use this, but it’s not common in everyday speech.
“Yo!” in Japanese – よー！(Yo-!)
Exactly the same as English. You can greet a close friend informally with a simple yo! You wouldn’t say this to anyone older than you, though. This one is also more masculine, but sometimes young girls and women say it, too, to get someone’s attention.
You could also use the phrase おーい！(O-i!) This is only used as an exclamation, and it’s a more masculine expression. It can be a bit rude or harsh, so you’d only use this with people close to you.
“How are you?” in Japanese – お元気ですか (O-genki desu ka)
You can greet someone with “How are you” by saying お元気ですか. The “o” here is to show respect, and “ka” is the question particle. You can drop the “o” to make it informal and to reply, you could say Genki desu. The word genki means “energy” or “healthy,” so you’re asking “Are you healthy?”
Unlike in English, you don’t ask someone this phrase often. You usually wouldn’t ask someone you saw yesterday, “How are you today?” in Japanese. But if it’s been a while, it’s common to put the phrase in the past tense and ask 元気だった？ (Genki datta, “How have you been?”) To simplify it further, you could only say “Genki?” and raise the inflection on the last syllable.
Another way to ask how someone is doing is to say いかがですか (Ikaga desu ka). It means both “How are you?” and “How’s it going?” But it’s more formal and used to ask a higher-status individual how something specific is going. Like their job, or school.
お仕事はいかがですか。(O-shigoto wa ikaga desu ka)
“How’s work going?” or “How is your work going?”
“How’s it going?” in Japanese – 調子はどうですか (Choushi wa dou desu ka)
The actual translation for this one is “What’s your condition?” but it’s used informally to ask “how’s it going” in Japanese.
The difference here is that it’s a “how are you” phrase to follow up on something that was already discussed between you and a friend. For instance, the last time you saw your friend, they told you they were slammed at work and stressed about it. When you see them again, you can ask 調子はどうですか to see how it’s been since.
“I’m Back!” in Japanese – ただいまー (Tadaima-)
When you come home, you can announce it by proclaiming ただいまー！This means “I’m back!” or “I’ve returned home!” You can use this at work, too, when you’ve left the office for a while and returned.
You’ll be greeted in return with お帰り (Okaeri) which literally means “You've returned” but translates better as “Welcome back.” If you’re returning to the office from a business trip or out-of-the-office meeting, you might be greeted instead with お疲れ様 (otsukaresama) or just お疲れ (otsukare). Both mean “you must be tired” or “thanks for your hard work,” but otsukare is less formal.
“Nice to Meet You” in Japanese – はじめまして (Hajimemashite)
When you meet someone for the first time, you can start off by saying はじめまして. This means “Nice to meet you.”
You would normally follow it by giving your name, and then saying よろしくお願いします (Yoroshiku onegaishimau). This is also usually translated as “nice to meet you” but it has many, many uses in Japanese. A more accurate (but awkward in English) meaning would be “please look after me.” It’s a formal expression used whenever you’re asking to build a relationship with someone, or when you have to put your trust in them. It can also be shortened to “yoroshiku” to be less formal.
A common greeting at New Year’s is あけましておめでとうございます。今年もよろしくお願いします。(Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.) So when you see people after the new year, you’re wishing them “Happy New Year! This year, again, please look after me.” To close friends, you shorten it to あけおめ！今年もよろしく (Akeome! Kotoshi mo yoroshiku).
“Welcome!” in Japanese – いらっしゃいませ (Irasshaimase)
When you walk into a store in Japan, you’ll often be greeted with いらっしゃいませ！It means “welcome” to store guests.
However, you wouldn’t say this to someone coming into your home. When you arrive at someone else’s home, you greet them with お邪魔します (Ojama shimasu). It means “I’m sorry to bother you.” The host would welcome you by saying どうぞ (douzo), or “please, after you,” “come in,” or “go ahead.”
“Hello” on the Phone in Japanese – もしもし (Moshi moshi)
Answering your phone in Japanese also has its own greeting! When you say “hello” on the phone, you say もしもし with a raised inflection to say “Hello?” It comes from the verb 申す (mousu), the humble version of “to say.” However, you would only use moshi moshi when answering a phone call from a friend or family member.
In business situations, moshi moshi is considered rude. So instead, you’d answer the phone with はい (hai, “yes”), followed by your last name/family name or the company name.
“Nice day, huh?” in Japanese – いい天気ですね (Ii tenki desu ne)
Like English, you can also start off by greeting someone with a generic phrase about the weather. Usually, it’ll be something along the lines of いい天気ですね (Ii tenki desu ne, “Nice weather, isn’t it?”) or 暑い / 寒い ですね (Atsui / samui desu ne, “It’s hot / It’s cold, isn’t it?)
How Do YOU Say “Hello” in Japanese?
There are many ways to greet someone in Japanese! But the best way to strike up a conversation and get started speaking Japanese is with a simple “hello.” Learning these phrases is a great place to start getting comfortable with the language.
Now, learn your core Japanese words to expand your vocabulary!
What’s your go-to way to greet someone in Japanese? Do you stick with the traditional こんにちは or do you like to branch out and try new slang terms like おす? Did I miss one that you like to use? Share it in the comments!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.