We all know how to say “goodbye” in Japanese. Right?
Believe it or not, Japanese people don’t walk around saying “sayounara.”
Sorry to burst your bubble.
Sayounara (さようなら ) is the direct Japanese equivalent of goodbye, but is not commonly used by native Japanese speakers.
Actually, sayounara has a strong sense of finality to it, and means there is a good chance you might not be meeting the other person for quite some time.
It’s all well and good that you can whip out some fantastically useful Japanese phrases and know how to communicate politely while speaking with a language exchange partner. However, after all your hard work reading Japanese learning blogs and listening closely to podcasts, you could end up causing some serious misunderstandings simply by saying the wrong goodbye phrase.
Shraying sayounara to a boss or loved one may leave them feeling confused or upset. You’ve already learned how to speak conscientiously and behave tactfully in tune with Japanese etiquette. Now it’s time to finish your Japanese conversations with the same level of care.
How to Say Goodbye in Japanese: 10 Useful Expressions
1. 行って来ます (いってきます, itte kimasu) – I’m leaving home
If you are leaving your home, you should say 行って来ます (itte kimasu). Literally it means “go and come back.” It is usually shouted out as you slip your shoes on in the 玄関 (げんかん, genkan), or the entrance way of the house. The appropriate response is 行ってらっしゃい (いってらっしゃい, itte rashai), or “go and come back” and is said by the people remaining in the house.
2. お先に失礼します (おさきにしつれいします, osaki ni shitsurei shimasu) – Excuse me for leaving first
It is well known that Japanese people work long hours. In western countries, there might be a mad rush to the door when it is time to finish work, but in Japan, people will usually keep working away at their desk. Of course eventually you will need to leave the office, so people politely excuse themselves from leaving, by saying: お先に失礼します (osaki ni shitsurei shimasu). It literally means, excuse me for leaving first. You can also just say the abbreviated form お先に (おさきに, osakini), to close colleagues, but not your boss.
3. お疲れ様でした (おつかれさまでした, otsukaresama deshita) – Thank you for your hard work
The usual response to: お先に失礼します (osaki ni shitsureishimasu) said by the people who remain in the office is: お疲れ様でした (otsukaresama deshita). There is no real translation to this phrase in English, but you can think of it as something like “thank you for your hard work.” You can also say it to a colleague who might have just told you a story about a difficult client, but not of course in front of the client!
Another similar phrase you might hear is: 御苦労様でした (ごくろうさまでした, gokurousama deshita). It has a similar meaning to otsukaresama deshita, but is said to people of a lower than you. For example, a boss might say it to his staff. In terms of politeness you are safer with お疲れ様でした (otsukaresama deshita).
If you are in an office and going out say to a meeting outside of the office, you should use 行って来ます (itte kimasu), like you would when leaving your home, and your colleagues will reply 行ってらっしゃい (itte rashai). In this case, be careful not to use お先に失礼します otherwise your colleagues might think you are heading home early.
4. じゃあね (jaa ne) – See you
With friends, you can be more casual, by saying: じゃあね (jaa ne) “see you,” or またね (mata ne).
5. バイバイ (ばいばい, bai bai) – Bye bye
You will also hear young people, especially girls use the English phrase: バイバイ (bai bai). Be careful using it if you are guy, because it can sound kind of feminine.
6. また明日 (またあした, mata ashita) – See you tomorrow
There are also many phrases that relate to the time you will meet the person again, such as また明日 (mata ashita), see you tomorrow, or また来週 (またらいしゅう, mata raishu), see you next week. They are still considered casual forms, so they shouldn’t be used as a replacement for the more formal phrases discussed above.
Just before New Year, you will get a few laughs from your friends if you say, また来年 (またらいねん, mata rainen) or “see you next year.”
7. 気をつけて (きをつけて, ki wo tsukete) – Take care
Just as we say “take care” in English as a parting phrase, you can also say 気をつけて (ki wo tsukete) in Japanese. You can say this to someone who is leaving your house or who might be going on a holiday.
8. 元気で (げんきで, genki de) – All the best
If someone is going on a long trip or moving to a different place and you won’t be seeing them for a long time, you can say 元気で (genki de), which is like saying “take care of yourself,” or “all the best.”
9. お大事に (おだいじに, odaiji ni) – Get well soon
If you are saying goodbye to someone who is sick, you can say お大事に (odaiji ni), or “get well soon.”
10. さらばだ (さらばだ, saraba da) – Adios!
A very old expression (think samurai times) for saying goodbye is さらばだ (saraba da) and perhaps the closest equivalent expression is “adios!” So it is not something you would ever say to your boss, but you could use it as a joke amongst close friends.
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