Hello in Japanese: 25 Greetings for Different Occasions (Plus Audio and Example Sentences)

Every friendship and conversation begins with a “hello.”

Learn how to say “hello” in Japanese at various degrees of formality, so you know how to greet everyone from your closest friend to your boss.

Plus, find out when to use every new term you add to your Japanese vocabulary.

Let’s begin—or, as we say in Japanese, 始めましょう (はじめましょう!) — Hajimemashō!


“Hello” in Japanese and Other Common Greetings

1. Konnichiwa — Hello / Good afternoon

Japanese: こんにちは

Usage: Formal

This is the classic “hello” you may think of when you consider how to say hello in Japanese. It’s a way of greeting someone that’s appropriate for almost all occasions.

Since this word technically means “good afternoon,” it’s mostly used during the day (after the morning but before the evening).

Example sentence:

こんにちは、元気ですか? (こんにちは、げんきですか?) — Konnichiwa, genki desu ka? (Hello, how are you?)

2. Ohayō gozaimasu — Good morning

Japanese: おはようございます

Usage: Formal

This is the formal way of saying “good morning.” It’s used when meeting with a superior or someone you don’t know well in the early hours.

You can drop the second part of the phrase to get the informal version, おはよう (ohayou). If you’ve been working at the same place or been part of the same class for a long time, this would be an appropriate way to greet everyone in the morning.

Example sentence:

おはようございます、今日も頑張りましょう! (おはようございます、きょうもがんばりましょう!) — Ohayō gozaimasu, kyō mo ganbarimashō! (Good morning, let’s do our best today!)

3. Konbanwa — Good evening

Japanese: こんばんは

Usage: Formal

You can use this phrase when greeting someone in the evening. You wouldn’t use it as a send-off when saying “good night” to someone (you do that with おやすみなさい or oyasuminasai

Example sentence:

こんばんは、ゆっくり休んでくださいね。 (こんばんは、ゆっくりやすんでくださいね。) — Konbanwa, yukkuri yasunde kudasai ne. (Good evening, please take your time to rest.)

4. Yā! / Ya hō! — Hi (Informal)

Japanese: やあ / ヤッホー! (やあ / やっほー!)

Usage: Informal

This is the equivalent of saying “hi,” “yo” or “hey” in English. It’s appropriate for greeting a close friend, though it can also be used to get someone’s attention. 

It’s an enthusiastic way to say hello, and as such is often used by the younger generation.

Example sentence:

ヤッホー!元気にしてる? (やっほー!げんきにしてる?) — Yahhō! Genki ni shiteru? (Yahoo! Are you doing well?)

5. Ōi! / Osu! / Ossu!— Hey! (Informal)

Japanese: おーい! / おす! / おっす!

Usage: Informal

These are more like exclamations than greetings, but they’re useful if you need to get someone’s attention, similar to saying “hey you.”

All three words can be seen as gruff and masculine, and are mostly used between young men.

Example sentence:

おっす!今日は何する (おっす!きょうはなにする?) — Ossu! Kyō wa nani suru? (Hey! What are you going to do today?)

6. Yo! — Yo! (Informal)

Japanese: よぉ!

Usage: Informal

This is another exclamation used when trying to get the attention of someone you know very well. This is typically said by younger men, but any gender can use it.

Example sentence:

よぉ!一緒に遊びに行こうぜ! (よぉ、いっしょにあそびにいこうぜ!) — Yō! Issho ni asobi ni ikōze! (Hey! Let’s go play together!)

7. Ikaga osugoshi desu ka? — How are you doing? (Very formal)

Japanese: いかがお過ごしですか? (いかが おすごし ですか?)

Usage: Formal

This is a formal way to ask how someone is doing. Use this phrase when connecting with a manager, an older person or someone of authority you don’t know very well.

Example sentence:

いかがお過ごしですか?お忙しい日々ですか? (いかがおすごしですか?おいそがしいひびですか?) — Ikaga o-sugoshi desu ka? O-isogashii hibi desu ka? (How are you doing? Are you busy these days?)

8. O genki desu ka? — How are you? (Formal)

Japanese: お元気ですか? (おげんきですか?)

Usage: Formal

This is a good phrase to use after greeting a somewhat new friend or someone you don’t know well. The literal meaning is “Are you healthy?” 

It’s a formal phrase you can also use with friends and family and implies a very earnest interest in how someone is doing.

Don’t lead straight in with this phrase, though. Make sure you say “hello” first, or your greeting may seem abrupt and unnatural.

Example sentence:

お元気ですか?最近いい調子ですか? (おげんきですか?さいきんいいちょうしですか?) — O-genki desu ka? Saikin ii chōshi desu ka? (How are you? Are you in good spirits lately?)

9. Genki datta? — How are you? (Informal)

Japanese: 元気だった? (げんき だった?)

Usage: Informal

This phrase is a casual way to ask how someone’s been doing. Its informal nature makes it a good option for greeting friends. 

You can also completely drop the second half and simply ask 元気? (げんき?— genki?)

Example sentence:

元気だった?最近、お気に入りの曲を見つけましたか? (げんきだった?さいきん、おきにいりのきょくをみつけましたか?) — Genki datta? Saikin, o-ki ni iri no kyoku o mitsukemashita ka? (How are you? Have you found any favorite songs lately?)

10. Kyōwa donna kanji? — How are you today? (Informal)

Japanese: 今日は、どんな感じ? (きょうは、どんな かんじ ?)

Usage: Informal

This phrase literally means “How is it today?” and is appropriate for most social interactions, especially when building rapport with your coworkers.

Example sentence:

今日は、どんな感じ?仕事は忙しいですか? (きょうは、どんなかんじ?しごとはいそがしいですか?) — Kyō wa, donna kanji? Shigoto wa isogashii desu ka? (How do you feel today? Is work busy?)

11. Saikin dō? / Nan ka atta? — What’s up? (Informal)

Japanese: 最近どう? / 何かあった? (さいきん どう? / なんか あった?)

Usage: Informal

最近どう?(Saikin dō?) implies the question “How have you been?” while 何かあった?(Nani ka atta?) can literally be translated as “What happened?” or “What’s happening?”

You can use either phrase when you meet up with a friend, especially after they had some kind of event, like a job interview or confessing their love to their crush. You might receive a response somewhere along the lines of “I had a good day” or “I’ve been good.”

Example sentence:

最近どう?最近旅行に行きましたか? (さいきんどう?さいきんりょこうにいきましたか?) — Saikin dō? Saikin ryokō ni ikimashita ka? (What’s up? Have you recently gone on a trip?)

12. Dōyo? — How’s it going?

Japanese: どうよ?

Usage: Informal

This phrase usually follows a greeting and is a casual way to inquire how someone’s doing. It literally means “How is it?” and the closest equivalent in English is “How’s life?”

Example sentence:

どうよ?最近は何か面白いことがあった? (どうよ?さいきんはなにかおもしろいことがあった?) — Dō yo? Saikin wa nanika omoshiroi koto ga atta? (How is it? Have there been any interesting things happening recently?)

13. Chōshi dō? — How’s it hangin’?

Japanese: 調子どう? (ちょうし どう?)

Usage: Informal

The literal translation is “How is your condition?” and shouldn’t be used with someone of a higher social position than you. Instead, this phrase is best used with very good friends with whom you have a goofy, fun-loving relationship.

Example sentence:

調子どう?最近の趣味はどんな感じ? (ちょうしどう? さいきんのしゅみはどんなかんじ? ) — Chōshi dō? Saikin no shumi wa donna kanji? (How are you feeling? How are your hobbies going lately?)

14. Moshi moshi — Hello?

Japanese: もしもし

Usage: Informal and formal

This isn’t the kind of phrase you’d use in real life, but rather when picking up the phone.

Example sentence:

もしもし、お父さん、お元気ですか? (もしもし、おとうさん、おげんきですか? ) — Moshimoshi, otōsan, ogenki desu ka? (Hello, Dad, how are you doing?)

Also, here’s an example (courtesy of Abe-chan the bird) which demonstrates how to properly use this phrase!

15. O ai dekite kōeidesu — It’s an honor to meet you (Very formal)

Japanese: お会いできて光栄です (おあいできて こうえいです)

Usage: Formal

This is a very formal way to meet someone for the first time.

It’s a good one if you’re meeting a potential new employer, for example, or a superior. 

Example sentence:

お会いできて光栄です。ご指導いただけると幸いです。  (おあいできてこうえいです。ごしどういただけるとさいわいです。) — Oaidekite kōei desu. Goshidō itadakeru to saiwai desu. (It’s an honor to meet you. I would greatly appreciate your guidance.)

16. Hajime mashite — Nice to meet you (Formal)

Japanese: 初めまして (はじめまして)

Usage: Formal

This is the relatively more informal version of the previous phrase. Note that it’s still polite, as you’re using it with someone you’ve met for the first time! 

When meeting somebody at a party, bar or at an event that’s not exactly a professional setting, this is the phrase you’d use.

Example sentence: 

初めまして、私は田中と申します。よろしくお願いします。 (はじめまして、わたしはたなかともうします。よろしくおねがいします。) — Hajimemashite, watashi wa Tanaka to mōshimasu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. (Nice to meet you, my name is Tanaka. Pleased to make your acquaintance.)

17. Watashi no namae wa… — My name is…

Japanese: 私の名前は… ( わたし の なまえ は…)

Usage: Formal and informal

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you can use this phrase to tell them your name. To make the phrase a bit less formal, you can drop the わたし の  (watashi no) part and just say 名前は… (なまえは… — namae wa), which literally means “Name is…”

You can also ask for the other person’s name with this phrase: 名前は何ですか? (なまえ は なん です か?) —  Namae wa nan desu ka? (“What is your name?” or literally “Name is what?”).

Example sentence:

こんにちは、私の名前はジョンです。よろしくお願いします。 (こんにちは、わたしのなまえはじょんです。よろしくおねがいします。) — Konnichiwa, watashi no namae wa Jon desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. (Hello, my name is John. Nice to meet you.)

18. Daijōbu desu ka? — Are you okay? (Formal)

Japanese: 大丈夫ですか? (だいじょうぶ ですか?)

Usage: Formal

This is another phrase you’ll hear on television a lot, typically after someone has been hurt or embarrassed.

In everyday situations, you can use it if you notice someone is struggling, or if you’re greeting a friend with a long face. Think of it as asking “You good?”

Example sentence: 

大丈夫ですか?それはひどい転倒でしたね。 (だいじょうぶですか?それはひどいてんとうでしたね。) — Daijōbu desu ka? Sore wa hidoi tentō deshita ne. (Are you okay? That was a bad fall.)

19. Daijōbu? — Are you okay? (Informal)

Japanese: 大丈夫? (だいじょうぶ?)

Usage: Informal 

This is the shorter, less-formal way of asking if someone is okay. 

Example sentence: 大丈夫です、助けはいりません。 (だいじょうぶです、たすけはいりません。) — Daijōbu desu, tasuke wa irimasen. (I’m fine, I don’t need help.)

20. Tadaima! — I’m home!

Japanese: ただいま!

Usage: Informal 

This phrase is a pretty interesting phenomenon in Japan. Many Japanese people use it when entering their home after a long day, even if they live alone. You’ll see this in Japanese movies and television quite often.

The proper response when someone comes home and says this phrase, is お帰りなさい (おかえりなさい) — Okaerinasai (Welcome back).

Example sentence: 

ただいま戻りました。 (ただいまもどりました。) — Tadaima modorimashita. (I’m back now.)

21. Irasshaimase! / Maido, irasshaimase — Welcome! (Formal)

Japanese: いらっしゃいませ! / 毎度、いらっしゃいませ (いらっしゃいませ!/ まいど、いらっしゃいませ)

Usage: Formal

If you visit Japan, you’ll definitely hear this phrase at least a few times. The literal translation of 毎度、いらっしゃいませ (Maido, irasshaimase) is “each time” or “every time,” which essentially means “we will always welcome you.” The 毎度  (まいど) — maido is often dropped to just say “welcome!”

This is a common phrase you’ll hear when entering convenience stores or restaurants. It’s not typically a greeting you’d use yourself, but rather one that you’ll hear said to you.

When you’re greeted with いらっしゃいませ!(irasshaimase!), you can respond with a smile and a nod, or by saying ありがとう arigatou (thank you) or こんにちは — konnichiwa (hello).

Example sentence: 

いらっしゃいませ!どうぞおくつろぎください。 Irasshaimase! Douzo o-kutsurogi kudasai. (Welcome! Please make yourself comfortable.)

22. Maido — Welcome (Informal)

Japanese: 毎度 (まいど)

Usage: Informal

This is the less formal version of the previous phrase. While the previous phrase is heard in businesses and is generally directed at you, 毎度 (maido) can simply be used to say “hi” any time of day with anyone.

This greeting is an example of Kansai-ben and is more often used in the Kansai region of Japan.

Example sentence:

まいど、おっす!何してんの? (まいど、おっす!なにしてんの?) — Maido, ossu! Nani shiten no? (Hey, what are you up to?)

23. Yōkoso! — Welcome home / Welcome to Japan!

Japanese: ようこそ!   

Usage: Informal

This is an extremely common phrase to say after someone arrives after a long flight or traveling a long way. You’ll hear people say this when you arrive in Japan.

You may also hear the more formal version, 日本へようこそ! (Nihon e youkoso) or “Welcome to Japan!”

If you’re being greeted by an acquaintance or someone hired to pick you up from the airport, a simple ありがとう (arigatou)will do. For a friend or family member, an enthusiastic ただいま (tadaima) is a good response.

Example sentence: 

ようこそ!私たちの街へお越しくださいました。 (ようこそ!わたしたちのまちへおこしくださいました。) — Youkoso! Watashitachi no machi e o-koshi kudasaimashita. (Welcome! Thank you for coming to our town.)

24. O hisashi buri desu — Long time no see (Formal)

Japanese: お久しぶりです (おひさしぶりです)

Usage: Formal

This phrase is the equivalent of “Long time no see” or “It’s been a while” in English.

It usually follows a basic “hello” greeting and is used in frank and informal circumstances, like with an old friend or absent family member.

Example sentence: 

お久しぶりです。お身体の調子はいかがですか? (おひさしぶりです。おからだのちょうしはいかがですか?) — Ohisashiburi desu. O-karada no choushi wa ikaga desu ka? (It’s been a while. How is your health?)

25. Hisashi buri — Long time no see (Informal)

Japanese: 久しぶり! (ひさしぶり!)

Usage: Informal

When you drop the お or O off おひさしぶりです (O hisashi buri desu), you get this less formal version. It’s used a lot in Japanese and literally just means “long time.” As a general rule, the formal version is more often used by women than men.

Example sentence:

久しぶり!何か飲みに行かない? (ひさしぶり!なにかのみにいかない?) — Hisashiburi! Nanika nomi ni ikanai? (Long time no see! How about going for a drink?)

How to Bow to Greet People in Japan

Aside from verbal greetings, there are nonverbal ways to say “hello” in Japanese. One of these is bowing.

Generally, here’s how you bow to greet people in a Japanese context:

  • Stand straight. Keep your feet together and your arms flat on your sides.
  • With your eyes forward, lower your head and bend at the waist. Note that the degree of the bow depends on the formality of the context.

    For example, if you’re greeting a friend, a slight nod will do. But if you’re greeting a boss or superior, you should bow at a 45-degree angle at the very least. 

  • Hold the bow for a few seconds before you return to an upright position. 

For more examples of how to say hello in Japanese, you could try an online language learning platform like FluentU.

FluentU features an array of authentic videos (that native speakers actually watch) complete with interactive subtitles. If you want to learn more about the context and other information surrounding a word or phrase, all you have to do is click on it when it appears in the subtitles and you’ll see the meaning, pronunciation, example sentences, tips on how to use it and more. 


These Japanese phrases weren’t that difficult to grasp, were they? Good luck with your studies and don’t forget to 練習 (れんしゅう) — renshuu (practice)!

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