I thought I knew my Japanese greetings before moving to Japan. However, I just realized that nowadays I use totally different phrases to say hello to my friends and when greeting my coworkers in Japanese. So here is how to say hello in Japanese in casual, formal, and semi-formal situations.
The most common ways to say “Hello” in Japanese are “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは) throughout the day, “Ohayou Gozaimasu” (おはようございます) in the morning, and “Konbanwa” (こんばんは) in the evening. “A, (name)”, “Yahhoo”, “Osu”, and “Haroo” are casual Japanese greetings that can be used to greet people you know well.
It might be shocking to hear but the most classic Japanese greeting “Konnichiwa” is actually the one I use the least. There are so many other more common ways to greet people in Japanese and the best choice really depends on the situation. Below you can find 26 different ways to say hello in Japanese including greetings for close friends, male friends, coworkers, and on the phone.
1. Konnichiwa – Hello, Good Afternoon (formal)
Konnichiwa (こんにちは) is the most basic Japanese greeting and means “hello” or “good afternoon” in English. When you want to greet somebody you don’t know very well or when you are in a semi-formal or formal situation, this is the most classic way to say hello in Japanese.
The greeting can be used at any hour throughout the day. However, it is primarily used during the daytime from around 11:00 in the morning until 17:00 (5 p.m.) in the afternoon.
Make sure to pronounce it “Kon-ni-chi-wa“. Don’t forget the “n” in “Kon” followed by another one in “ni”. Saying “Ko-ni-chi-wa” instead of “Kon-ni-chi-wa” is a common mistake. Also, when you write it it is “こんにちは“. The last syllable is the particle “は” (ha, but pronounced as “wa”) and not the Hiragana syllable “わ” (wa).
While it might be normal in Germany or in your home country to say hello to strangers on the street, this is not common in Japan. Only when you go hiking in the mountains you will hear it a lot and you can use “Konnichiwa” to greet other hikers.
2. Ohayou Gozaimasu – Good Morning (formal)
In the morning when you arrive at your school or at work you should use Ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます) to greet your teacher or your boss. The phrase means “good morning” and is the common greeting until 11:00 or 11:30.
Some people might even use it to say hello until noonish, while other people consider that as too late and might make a joke about it. At work, however, it often functions as the standard greeting no matter the time of the day.
At my learning studio, for example, we always greet each other with Ohayou gozaimasu. Even when I give them a call in the evening to close some lessons they say Ohayou gozaimasu after the standard phone greeting. And sometimes they add “Ohayou ja nai noni” which means “even though it isn’t morning.
(or more casual “Ohayou“)
3. Ohayou – Good Morning, Morning (casual)
Adding the word “gozaimasu” usually makes a phrase more polite. So with close friends, family members, or other people you know well you can drop the formalities and just greet them with Ohayou (おはよう).
Without ございます (gozaimasu) the phrase turns into a casual version of “good morning” and can be used in the same situations as the common shortening “Morning!“.
You can also stress the “o” at the end and say “Ohayooo!” as most Japanese do.
(or more formal “Ohayou gozaimasu“)
4. Konbanwa – Good Evening (formal)
Konbanwa (こんばんは) is the evening counterpart of the standard daytime greeting “Konnichiwa”. It translates as “good evening” and is used in the late afternoon, in the evening, and at night.
You might hear people start using this phrase from as early as 17:00 (5 p.m) or after the ringing of their local goji no chaimu (the 5 p.m. bell). However, in my experience, most Japanese use this greeting after sunset when it has already gotten dark.
5. A, (name)! – Hi, Hey (most common casual greeting)
While this Japanese greeting might feel unnatural or a bit strange, this is actually one of the most common ways to say hello to your friends in Japan. “A” (あ) or “Aa” (ああ, あぁ, あ〜) followed by the name of your friend translates as “Hi, (name)!” or “Hey, (name)!” or just “hi!” or “hey!“.
If you bump into your friend unexpectedly you can exchange the “A~” with “O” (お) or “Oo” (おお, おぉ, お〜) which is an exclamation of slight surprise and well means “Oh” or “Oh hey!“, “Oh hi!”, etc. “O~, Sakura-chan!” or “Oo, Naruto-kun!“.
When you say your friends name it is also common to add an honorific title such as the cute honorific chan (ちゃん) for women or the common honorific suffix kun (くん, 君) for male friends. If you are unsure which one you have to choose check out my ultimate Japanese honorific guides.
(or any of the casual greetings)
6. Haroo – The Japanized Version of “Hello” (foreign)
Even though I consider Haroo (ハロー) rather a casual greeting than a formal one, your close Japanese friends will hardly ever use it to say hello to you. This Japanized version of the English word “hello” is mainly used by bold teenagers to greet or start a conversation with foreigners they don’t know.
To be honest, in the beginning, I got a bit upset about it, but now I just play along. Sometimes they also have an assignment from their teacher to ask tourists some questions in English. So it is a good thing if you take some time and help them out. They might also have a small present for you.
Whenever this happens feel free to respond with “hello” in English or any other Japanese greeting you know including “Haroo“, “Konnichiwa“, etc.
(or “Haroo“, “Hello“, etc.)
7. Yahhoo! – Howdy, Hey (popular casual greeting)
This seems to be the most trendy Japanese greeting among teenagers right now. Yahhoo (ヤッホー, やっほー) or Yahoo (やほー) is a very casual way to say hello and should only be used with close friends. In English it means “howdy“, “hey“, “yoo-hoo“, “hi-de-ho“, or an exaggerated “hallooooo” (source).
Both boys and girls can use it, but the greeting has a slightly more feminine touch. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend using it if you are an adult unless you intend to sound girlish.
If someone greets you with “Yahhoo” you can respond with the same phrase as usual, but it is also common to use other greetings. You can greet your friend with their name “Keiko!“, “Oo, Misa-chan” (Oh, Misa-chan!), or “Sora-kun!“, for example, or use any of the other casual greetings following next.
(or “O, (name)“, “(name)” “Yaa“, etc.)
8. Yaa! – Hi, Hey (casual greeting between friends)
Yaa (やあ) is another informal Japanese greeting among close friends that translates as “Hi!“, “Hey!“, or “Yo!“. In response, you can greet your friends with “A, Ryo!” (Aah, Ryo!), “Oo, Daisuke!” (Oh, Daisuke!), or just their name “Tatsuro-kun“.
You could also say something like “Yaa, matteta yo” (Hey! I have been waiting for you!) or combine it with another greeting “Yaa, konbanwa” (Yo! Good evening!).
Sometimes this phrase is also used as an expression of surprise meaning “Wow” or just as an exclamation to grab your friend’s attention (source).
(or “O, (name)“, “Yahhoo“, etc.)
9. Yoo! – Yo, Hey (more masculine casual greeting)
This is probably the easiest Japanese greeting to remember for everyone who speaks English since it is exactly the same. Yo (よー, よう) means “yo!“, but it can also be translated as “hey!”, or “hi!“.
You should only use this casual greeting with close (same-aged male) friends since it is rather masculine. It is not the best choice for you if you are female, however, if you want to sound a bit tomboyish or if you are trying to get someone’s attention, you can use this greeting even as a woman or a girl.
(or “Yoo“, “Ooi“, “(name)”, etc. )
10. Ossu! – Hey Man (manly greeting among guys)
Do you remember the greeting Yahhoo (ヤッホー) which was a bit girlish? Here we have the complete opposite. Ossu (おっす) or Osu (おす) is an extremely masculine greeting that should only be used among men to say hello to each other. It is usually never used by or said to women.
In English, it translates as “hey!” “hi!”, “yo!”, “Hey man!” or “hey dude!“. It is usually a standalone expression but you can also follow it up with your friend’s name. Sometimes, especially in anime, it is also used as “Yes, sir!” or “Roger!“.
As with most Japanese greetings Ossu is written in kana alone, but in manga, you will sometimes see it written as 押忍 (osu, ossu). A slightly longer version of Ossu is Oissu (オイッス). They have the same meaning and are interchangeable.
Oh, and as a side note, the greeting is actually the contracted form of “Ohayou gozaimasu” that originated in the military. Take the first syllable “o” and the last one “su” and you get “Osu“.
(or “Ussu“, “Ossu“, “Yoo!“, etc)
11. Ussu! – Hey (greeting often used in sports clubs)
Ussu (うっす) or Uissu (うぃっす) is another rather masculine greeting very similar to the ones we have just discussed. It is often used in school sports clubs and martial art clubs and either means “hey“, “hi“, “yo“, or “yes“.
I read in a Japanese forum (source) that it is primarily used by older club members called “Senpai (senior)” to say hello to younger club members called “Kohai ( junior)” and in response to the greeting “Ossu”. So better don’t use it with older people or your senpai.
If you want to know more about the important Senpai-Kohai relationship in Japan and what the Japanese word “Senpai” means in Anime and English, you can check out the post I have just published.
(or “Ussu“, “Uissu“, “Yoo!“, etc)
12. Ooi! – Hey, Ahoy (greeting someone far away)
With this greeting, you have to be very cautious because if you don’t stress or exaggerate it enough it can sound angry or aggressive. Ooi (おーい, おおい, オオイ) usually said in a very exaggerated way “Oooooi” means “hey” or “ahoy“.
In anime, it is often used by (male) characters when they greet someone who is still far away. Judging from my own experience in Japan so far, it only seems to be used in anime, though.
A short Oi (おい), on the other hand, is an exclamation used in real life, too. It also means “hey!” but in an angry or aggressive way that shows that you don’t like what the other person is doing. It is just like “oi!” in English.
13. Hajimemashite – Nice to Meet You (first time greeting)
When you meet someone for the first time this is the standard semi-formal Japanese greeting you should use. Hajimemashite (はじめまして) means “Nice to meet you” or “How do you do” in English.
It is usually followed by your name and the phrase Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu (よろしくお願いします). Here is my introduction as an example “Hajimemashite. Alex desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.“.
In a professional or extremely formal setting, you might want to use the even politer phrase Oai dekite kouei desu (お会いできて光栄です) which means “It is an honor to meet you” or Oai dekite ureshii desu (お会いできて嬉しいです) which means “It is a pleasure to meet you“.
(followed by “(Name) desu. Yoroshiku …)
14. O-Hisashiburi Desu – Long Time No See (formal)
O-hisashiburi desu (お久しぶりです) and O-hisashiburi desu ne (お久しぶりですね) are two phrases that you can use to greet someone you haven’t seen for a while. Usually when you haven’t met for at least 2 – 3 weeks and all the way up to several months and years.
It means “Long time no see” or “It’s been a while“. The “ne (ね) can be translated as “huh?” (It’s been a while, huh?) or “right?” (Long time no see, right?). The sentence end particle makes the sentence sound a bit softer.
This Japanese greeting can be used to say hello to coworkers and friends alike after a long holiday, etc. However, below is a more casual version for really close friends.
|response||O-Hisashiburi desu ne|
(or “O-Hisashiburi desu“, “Hisashiburi“, etc.)
15. Hisashiburi – Long Time No See (casual)
Hisashiburi (久しぶり), O-hisashiburi (お久しぶり), Hisashiburi desu (久しぶりです), and Hisashiburi desu ne (久しぶりですね) are all more casual ways to say “Long time no see” and “It’s been a while“.
As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the phrase, the more casual it is.
(or “Hisashiburi“, “Hisashiburi desu ne“, etc.)
16. Shibarakuburi Desu Ne – It’s Been A While (very formal)
This is another way to say “It’s been a while” or “Long time no see“. Just like the phrases we have just learned you can use Shibarakuburi desu ne (しばらくぶりですね) to say hello to someone you haven’t met for a while.
Compared to “Hisashiburi” it seems to be more formal, but to tell you the truth I have personally never encountered or used this phrase in Japanese before. Everyone around me says “Hisashiburi”.
|greeting||Shibarakuburi desu ne|
|response||Ohisashiburi desu ne|
(or “Sou desu ne“)
17. Tadaima – I’m Home
I’m pretty sure you already know this phrase from anime and manga. Tadaima (ただいま) means “I’m home“, “I’m back“, or “I have returned home” and is used to greet everyone when you arrive back home.
It can also be used at work when you return to the office after you went out to grab or eat lunch, for example. Many Japanese also tend to say this phrase when they are living alone and nobody else is at home or to greet their pet.
I always say it when I arrive at Narita airport in Japan after visiting my family and relatives in Germany, hehe.
(or “okaeri nasai“)
18. Okaeri Nasai – Welcome Home (formal)
While the person who arrives back home greets everyone who is at home with “Tadaima”, the people who are at home say hello using the phrase Okaeri nasai (おかえりなさい, お帰りなさい). Literally, the greeting translates as “You have returned”, but it means “welcome back” or “welcome back home“.
19. Okaeri – Welcome Home (casual)
Okeari (おかえり, お帰り) is the casual version of Okaeri nasai. It can be used with your mother, father, sister, brother, and any other family member, good friend, and even coworkers. If you want to be more polite or respectful use the formal “Okeari nasai”, though.
Everyone from my host family in Nagano tends to use “Okaeri” and “Okaeri nasai” completely interchangeably for whoever arrives back home.
20. Moshi Moshi – Saying Hello on the Phone
I have the feeling this is one of the popular greetings everyone has been waiting for Moshi moshi (もしもし). It means “Hello” or “Hello?” and is the standard greeting on the phone in Japanese. You can use it when you make a phone call to someone and when answering the phone.
(or “ohayou gozaimasu“, etc.)
21. Irasshaimase – Welcome (greeting for customers)
Irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ) is the phrase that you will hear all over Japan whenever you enter a store, a restaurant, a convenience store, or a small ramen shop in Japan. In English it means “Welcome“, but it is only used by shop owners, staff, chefs, and waiters to greet their customers and guests.
The appropriate and most common response to Irasshaimase is usually just nodding and smiling, but you can also say Arigatou (ありがとう, thank you).
When you are a regular customer you might also hear the phrases Maido irasshaimse (毎度いらっしゃいませ) and Maido arigatou gozaimasu (毎度、ありがとうございます) which translates as “Thank you for your continued patronage” or “We will always welcome you“.
In this case, you can, of course, also greet the staff with “Konnichiwa” or “Konbanwa“, etc.
|response||*just nodding and smiling*|
(or “Arigatou“, “Konnichiwa“, etc.)
22. Youkoso – Welcome (greeting for traveler and tourists)
Youkoso (ようこそ) is a formal greeting that you will hear when you arrive somewhere after a long flight or a long trip. It means “Welcome” but it can also be translated more broadly as “Welcome to Japan” or “Welcome (to your new) home“.
When you arrive at Narita airport, for example, you will be greeted with the words Nihon he youkoso (日本へようこそ) aka “Welcome to Japan“. Your host family might also greet you with “Youkoso“.
The standard response would be either Arigatou (ありがとう, thank you) or Tadaima (ただいま, I’m home).
23. Hai Douzo – Please Come In (welcoming your guests)
This is the standard greeting I receive from one of my students when I ring the doorbell or knock on the door of her house. She usually says Hai douzo (はい、どうぞ) or just Douzo (どうぞ) to tell me to come in. Sometimes she also uses “Haaaiiii, please come in” which sounds so cute.
In English, it means “please come in“, “come in“, “please after you“. However, this useful phrase can be used in all kinds of different situations and can also mean “please go ahead” or “here you are“.
When you enter someone else’s house you should greet them politely with Ojama Shimasu (お邪魔します). It translates as “Excuse me for disturbing you” or “Excuse me for interrupting you“.
(or “Ohayou“, “Konnichiwa” etc.)
24. Doumo – Hello (slightly old-fashioned greeting)
Domo (どうも), also often written as Doumo, is another useful phrase that is used in all kinds of situations. It means everything from “thanks” to “hi” or “hey” to “very“.
The phrase dates back to the Edo period and some people might find that when used as a casual greeting it can sound a bit rude or old-fashioned. After the second world war, it was popularized by a couple of celebrities on TV and it is still occasionally used, but mostly by males.
(or “ossu“, “yoo“, “ohayou“, etc.)
25. O-Genki Desu Ka – How Are You? (formal)
O-genki desu ka (お元気ですか) is actually a follow-up question asking “How are you?“. It can also be used as a Japanese greeting especially when you first state the name of the person as for example in “Misa-san, o genki desu ka?“.
Please note that using the polite honorific suffix san (さん) is better here since this is the formal version of the phrase.
|greeting||Misa-san, o-genki desu ka?|
|response||Genki desu. Sakura-san wa?|
26. Genki? – How Are You? (casual)
Of course, there is also a shorter more casual version which is just Genki? (元気？). It means the same “How are you?” but sounds less formal and less stiff. So this is the phrase you should use with your friends and family members.
This is also a really good way to say hello to your friends when sending them a text message. Another version you could use is Genki datta? (元気だった？) which translates as “How have you been?“.
And there are a lot of other ways to ask “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” in Japanese such as Saikin dou? (最近どう？) or Choushi dou (調子どう？) which I’m going to cover in another blog post.
The positive response is usually “Genki! (Name) wa?” (元気！＿は？), but if you haven’t been doing so well you could also reply with Chotto (ちょっと) or Maa maa (まあまあ). Again, there are so many options here that you will find them in a future blog post.
|response||Genki! Sakura-chan wa?|
(or any other casual phrase to ask “How are you?”)
Overview – How to Say Hello in Japanese
For the pronunciation of most of the phrases, you can check out Japanese Ammo with Misa‘s video.
And here is the summary and overview of all 26 ways how you can say “hello” in Japanese. Now, I bet you want to learn how to say goodbye, isn’t it? You can check out my blog post “26 Ways to Say Goodbye in Japanese (Casually & Formally)“.
|Ohayou gozaimasu||Good morning||おはようございます|
|Ohayou||Good morning (casual)|
|A, (name)||Hi! / Hi, (name)!|
Hey! / Hey, (name)!
|Hajimemashite||Nice to meet you|
How do you do
O-hisashiburi desu ne
|Long time no see|
It’s been a while
|Long time no see (casual)|
It’s been a while (casual)
|Shibarakuburi desu ne||It’s been a while||しばらくぶりですね|
|Okaeri nasai||Welcome back!|
|Okaeri||Welcome back! (casual)|
Welcome home! (casual)
|Moshi moshi||Hello (on the phone)||もしもし|
|Irasshaimase||Welcome (in shops, etc.)||いらっしゃいませ|
|Youkoso||Welcome (after a trip)||ようこそ|
|Hai douzo||Come in||はい、どうぞ|
|Doumo||Hello (not standard)||どうも|
|O-genki desu ka?||How are you?||お元気ですか|
|Genki?||How are you? (casual)||元気？|