Introducing yourself in English is usually pretty straightforward.
It goes something like this:
“Hey there! How are you? I’m Em.”
“Hi Em, I’m Julie. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.”
A handshake ensues, then small talk.
It really isn’t that different in Japanese, minus the handshake. But just like in English, a one-size-fits-all self-introduction isn’t always considered appropriate.
You wouldn’t hop up to your new intimidating boss, perkily exclaiming:
“Hey there, nice to meet you! I’m Em! Let’s be best friends!”
More likely than not, you’d say something along the lines of a polite greeting and then an introduction:
“It’s a pleasure to be working with you. Thank you for this opportunity. My name is Em.”
In Japanese, how you introduce yourself also depends on the situation and level of formality involved. Below, we cover the most common methods of self-introduction that you’ll definitely need to know if you ever plan on traveling to Japan.
First, let’s explore exactly why you should load up on Japanese introduction words and phrases.
Why You Should Know More Than 1 Way to Introduce Yourself in Japanese
As mentioned above, introductions come in different shapes and sizes. Here are three important reasons why you should know how to introduce yourself in various ways to really nail that first impression:
- Different situations call for different introductions. Remember our examples above? Simply stating your name or using informal language might get your point across, but true fluency involves knowing and properly using culturally appropriate language.
- There are formal and informal ways to introduce yourself. Introductory situations can be formal, casual and everything in between. Having a good arsenal of self-introduction phrases along with the proper context will help you avoid a serious social faux pas.
- The more phrases and vocabulary words you know, the more fluent you’ll become. Even if you rarely use some of these introduction phrases, you’re still increasing your knowledge bank of Japanese vocabulary and phrases. You’re on your way to being the ultimate fluent speaker!
Introduce Yourself in Japanese: The Guide to Formal and Casual Introductions
Understanding Katakana and “Japan-ifying” Your Name
The Japanese language has a pretty strict set of syllables. It can be very difficult for native Japanese speakers to pronounce foreign words and names.
Because of this, understanding katakana and figuring out how to pronounce your name the Japanese way is important before diving into introductions.
Katakana, like hiragana, is a syllabary in which one character represents a particular Japanese syllable. The only difference is that katakana was developed for writing and pronouncing foreign words in the Japanese language.
Using katakana, work out how you’d say your name within the limit of the Japanese syllable system. Here are a few examples:
ジョナサン (じょなさん) — Jonathan or “Jonasan”
エム (えむ) — Em or “Emu”
ザカリー (ざかりー) — Zachary or “Zakarī”
ジェシカ (じぇしか) — Jessica or “Jeshika”
Practice katakana and develop the correct way to pronounce your name in Japanese for improved communication.
Vocabulary Words for Introducing Just About Anyone
When you introduce yourself, it’s often appropriate to include your position, career, status or any other relevant information about yourself that the other person might need to know. Whether you’re a student, writer or a supervisor at a company, it’s a good idea to learn the relevant vocabulary.
Here are a few common words that you might use to describe your career or job:
学生 (がくせい) — student
医者 (いしゃ) — doctor
看護師 (かんごし) — nurse
先生 (せんせい)/教師 (きょうし) — teacher
芸術家 (げいじゅつか) — artist
作家 (さっか) — writer
政治家 (せいじか) — politician
調理師 (ちょうりし) — chef
会計士 (かいけいし) — accountant
兵士 (へいし) — soldier
会社員 (かいしゃいん) — employee
サラリーマン (さらりーまん) — salaryman
フリーター (ふりーたー) — part-timer
監督 (かんとく) / 管理者 (かんりしゃ) — supervisor
エンジニア (えんじにあ) — engineer
If none of these describe you, look up the Japanese word for your profession or the position you hold in your company. It’ll make meeting people much easier, as this is usually one of the first bits of information that new acquaintances exchange.
Watching actual Japanese speakers introduce themselves to each other is an excellent way to learn the nuances and pick up even more self-introduction vocab.
Don’t have any Japanese friends to practice with? No problem! Just load up FluentU on your browser or mobile device and immerse yourself in the culture and language of authentic Japanese content, like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks.
The immersive, entertaining content makes grammar and vocabulary much more memorable. You’ll also get a better sense of body language and other nuances to watch for when interacting with people in Japanese.
Business Card Culture in Japan
Business cards are important for professional situations in Japan, however casual your networking is.
Study up on Japanese business card culture and consider putting together your own business cards if you plan on working in Japan. It can definitely end up being a major part of how you introduce yourself to other professionals.
How to Introduce Yourself in Japanese (Informal)
1. Find the right way to say “Hello.”
There are a few ways to say hello in Japanese based on the time of day and the vibe of the situation:
こんにちは — Hello
こんちゃ — Hello (shortened version of こんにちは)
おはよう — Good morning
こんばんは — Good evening
ヤッホー！ (やっほー！) — Hi!
おす！— Hey! (Used by young men among each other)
よぉ！— Yo! (Used in a really comfortable setting)
Pick one that’s appropriate for the time and situation.
2. お元気ですか？(おげんき ですか？) / 元気？(げんき？) — How are you?
These are common expressions used in casual conversation. You may not get a very in-depth response, perhaps as little as a nod with a smile.
The phrases both literally mean “are you healthy?” but they work just like the English “how are you?”—as a greeting, not an actual inquiry into someone’s health or well-being.
元気？is usually used between good friends, while お元気ですか？is a bit more polite.
3. …です。— I am…
Precede です with your name. For example:
ジョナサンです。 — I am Jonathan.
エムです。 — I am Em.
ザカリーです。 — I am Zachary.
ジェシカです。 — I am Jessica.
This is also how you’d use any one of the essential career words we mentioned above. For instance:
学生です。— I am a student.
4. 初めまして。(はじめまして。) — Nice to meet you.
It’s quick, to the point and polite without being overbearingly formal.
The key to informal introductions in Japanese is to keep things as brief and relaxed as possible, while still being polite and respecting introduction “rules.”
5. よろしくお願いします。(よろしく おねがいします。) — Please show me kindness.
This isn’t the most commonly used phrase out there, but there are a few situations in which you’d use it. If a friend introduces you to someone or you’re networking with someone but not formally working with them yet, this phrase can help you seem friendlier.
There isn’t an exact translation of this term in English, but the closest concept is that you’re asking your new friend to be gentle with your feelings.
6. Find the right way to say “Goodbye.”
Remember, keeping things short and sweet but still genuine is the key to making a great informal introduction. Here are a few ways to wrap things up:
じゃあね — Bye
またね — See you soon
バイバイ (ばいばい) — Bye-bye
では、また — Well then, see you
How to Introduce Yourself in Japanese (Formal)
1. Find the right way to say “Hello.”
There are a few formal and polite ways to greet someone in Japanese. Some options include:
おはようございます — Good morning
おはよう様です (おはようさま です) — Good morning (slightly less formal)
こんにちは — Hello
こんばんは — Good evening
おやすみなさい — Good night
2. お元気ですか？(おげんき ですか？) — How are you?
This is the same whether you’re in a formal or informal situation.
It can be optional, but it adds a sense of caring to your conversation and can help you seem more approachable.
3. …と申します。(…と もうします。) — I am…
と申します is the more formal way of saying “my name is” or “I am.” Simply precede the phrase with your name. (Note: If you’d like to follow this up with your profession, you should still use …です for that!)
If you’re in a work setting, it may be wise to introduce yourself by your last, then first name.
4. 初めまして。どうぞよろしくお願いします。(はじめまして。どうぞ よろしく おねがいします。) — Nice to meet you. I look forward to working with you.
This extended version of よろしくお願いします isn’t appropriate for all formal situations and is mostly used for first meetings in school or at work.
This phrase is usually accompanied by a nod or brief bow.
5. Find the right way to say “Goodbye.”
In a formal situation, it would be rude to end a conversation with “later, dude.” Here are a few more polite ways to say goodbye:
さようなら — Goodbye
失礼します (しつれい します) — Excuse me
お疲れ様でした (おつかれさま でした ) — Thank you for your hard work
お先に失礼します (おさきに しつれい します) — Excuse me for leaving first
Optional: 自己紹介させていただきます。 (じこしょうかい させて いただきます。) — I will begin my self-introduction.
You could also see this phrase as a way of saying “allow me to introduce myself.”
This is a very formal phrase you’d use to introduce yourself to someone at a formal get-together such as a wedding or business trip when you approach them first. If you’re giving a speech, it would be wise to open with this phrase before beginning the rest of your self-introduction.
In any other situation, this phrase is just a bit too formal to use.
This list of phrases might seem a little complicated if you’ve never introduced yourself in Japanese before. Keep in mind that you won’t have to use all of these constantly if you’re planning on travelling to or living in Japan.
Knowing these phrases and their context, however, will really help you improve your overall Japanese fluency—and make some friends along the way!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist who writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
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