thank you in japanese

Thank You in Japanese: 20 Phrases for Saying Thank You Like You Mean It

In Japanese, you could simply thank someone with ありがとう, but that phrase simply won’t fit every time. 

Saying “thank you” can be expressed in many ways in Japanese, just like greeting someone and wishing them goodbye!

Here are 20 Japanese phrases of gratitude that work for diverse situations.


How to Say Thank You in Japanese

1. Thank You (Polite): ありがとうございます

This is the most common way textbooks teach you how to say thank you in Japanese. As you probably guessed, it’s also formal.

But it’s not the end-all for saying thank you. There are plenty of other expressions! 

2. Thanks or Hello: どうも 

I’ve only used this phrase to thank and greet my closest friends.

That’s right, it’s a 挨拶(あいさつ)— “greeting,” too!

But if you’re meeting for the first time, say 初めまして(はじめまして)— “Nice to meet you” instead.

3. Thank You Very Much (Polite): どうもありがとう

Yes, as in the famous song by Styx! This is a polite and respectful way to thank someone.

You can use it in situations where someone has done something nice for you (like the Robot for the singer in the video).

The next phrase is more commonly used, however.

4. Thank You Very Much (Formal): どうもありがとうございます

This is where we get fancy. The ございます at the end shows a form of 尊敬(そんけい)— “respect” or 丁寧(ていねい)— “politeness.”

It’s the same as the ございます in お早うございます(おはようございます)— “good morning.” I’ve included the kanji 早い(はやい)for “fast” or “early” to highlight that this phrase is a polite way to say “it’s early.”

What’s more, ありがとうございます is a formal way to express how a hardship you’ve experienced has made you thankful.

5. Thank You Very Much (Past Tense): どうもありがとうございました

Use this phrase when someone has already done something for you.

For example:

Thanks for helping me with my homework yesterday.

When is it best to use this phrase?

Well, there’s some crossover with どうもありがとうございます — “thank you very much.”

A good rule of thumb is to remember that this phrase is more apt for actions that have been done as far back as yesterday.

It wouldn’t be weird to thank someone for something they just did for you with this phrase.

6. Thank You for Doing…:  ~てくれて+ありがとう

You can use this phrase as in the following example:

Thanks for following me on Instagram!

Of course, to make it more polite, we can add the respectful sentence ending ございます.

But what about even more laid-back ways to say thank you in Japanese?

Japanese Slang for Saying Thank You

7. Thanks! (Casual): あざーす

This is a very casual way to say thank you. I’ve had this said to me by classmates when I studied abroad. However, I never used it with my host parents or any of my superiors.

But it’s definitely used a lot with the younger crowd!

8. Thank You! (Loan Word): サンキュー(さんきゅー)

This is normally written in katakana because it’s a loan word from English. Japanese is known for having loan words integrated into the language.

Phrases like バイバイ(ばいばい) mean “goodbye” but give off a more casual feel. So I’d make sure to only use this with friends or people you already know.

9. Thank You (Usually by Male Speakers): 済まない(すまない)

I’ve only ever heard guys use this phrase, but it’s the casual form of すみません, which isn’t a gendered phrase. If you choose to use it, make sure it’s in a casual setting, like with your friends.

I wouldn’t say it to my boss or teacher if I were you!

Polite Ways to Say Thank You in Japanese to Superiors and in Business

Earlier I talked about knowing how to thank 目上の人(めうえのひと)— your superiors. This means being mindful of 自分(じぶん)— the self and your status.

You don’t have to have an existential crisis or anything. It’s just considerate to understand the relationship hierarchy in Japanese culture.

I certainly had to get used to it when I worked for a Japanese company. To save you some struggle, here are business phrases I heard used the most:

10. Thank You Very Much (to Superiors): 恐れ入ります(おそれいります)

Going back to those nuances, this can also mean “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry.”

Just think of it as something you’d say after a superior has done something for you.

A real-life example I can think of is when I recycled my plastic bottle at Disney Land Tokyo. The maintenance person told me, “恐れ入ります!”

I am by no means someone’s superior! But in the context of a customer-employee relationship, it put me in a position worthy of more respect than I’d usually receive.

11. Thank You for Your Hard Work: お疲れ様です(おつかれさまです)

This is a phrase you can say to your superiors and 同僚(どうりょう)— your co-workers.

After a long day of hard work, saying this phrase is a nice pick-me-up. In some situations, it’s also used as a greeting. I used this phrase constantly with my bosses when I worked in Japan.

12. Thank You for Your Hard Work (to Subordinates): ご苦労様です (ごくろうさまです)

Don’t say this to your superiors! It’s not a rude phrase but saying it shows that you don’t understand the hierarchy.

It may be said to 目下の人(めしたのひと)— subordinates. We’ll look at how to respond to thank you in Japanese a little later on.

13. Thank You (Written): 感謝します(かんしゃします)

Thank you for your continued support.

You may see this written more than spoken, like in writing Japanese emails.

14. Thank You Kindly (Written): 誠にありがとうございます(まことにありがとうございます)

誠に(まことに) is the respectful way to say 本当に(ほんとうに) — “very.”

I’ve seen this written a lot, especially in emails that go out to subscribers, customers, etc. If you plan to say it, use it with someone like your superior. It would probably feel out of place to say to your friend.

15. I Am Indebted to You: 恐縮です(きょうしゅくです)

This is another phrase that’s often used in business settings. Other than being written in correspondences from businesses to customers, you can say this to your superiors after they’ve helped you out with something.

However, note that there are some situations where this phrase actually means “I’m sorry.”

For example:

Sorry to trouble you…

But in other situations, it expresses gratitude.

Thank you for being so kind.

More Ways to Say Thank You: Japanese Dialects!

That’s right, Japan has 方言(ほうげん)— local dialects! Like the awesome prefecture Osaka and the beautiful city of Kyoto, different regions add their own little flair to the Japanese language.

Here’s how different regions say “thank you” in Japanese:

16. From Kansai: おおきに (ありがとう)

17. From Ehime: だんだん

18. From Toyama: 気の毒(きのどく)

19. From Okinawa: にふぇーでーびる

20. From Yamagata: おしょうしな

Responding to “Thank You” in Japanese

Saying “You’re Welcome”

What’s the point of knowing how to say “thank you” if you don’t know how to say “you’re welcome?”

Most likely, you won’t be the only one doing the thanking in Japanese. Other people will thank you for your time and generosity, too!

Thus, it’s equally important to know how to respond to “thank you” as it is to say it.

Let’s take a look at some must-know phrases for saying “you’re welcome” in Japanese:

Business Japanese and More Formal Ways to Respond to “Thank You”

Of course, business settings are much different than personal settings in everyday life.

Let’s take a look at some useful ways to respond to “thank you” while doing business in Japanese.

What Does “Thank You” Really Mean In Japanese?

Now that you know about the different ways to say “thank you” in Japanese, there’s also the cultural background to consider—what does gratitude mean in Japanese culture?

You can find out a lot just by analyzing the most common word among them: ありがとう.

Looking at the Kanji for “Thank You”

The kanji for ありがとう is written as 有難う.

In this video, Japanese comedian ゴルゴ(ごるご)— Golgo explains that 無難(ぶなん)— “safe” means “no difficulty” or “no hardship.”

The opposite of 無難(ぶなん)would be 有る(ある)— “to have” and (なん)— “hardship.”

That is to say, “to have hardship” makes us thankful.

Pretty deep, right?

There aren’t any subtitles but if you’d like, watch this video to learn even more beautiful kanji meanings. It’s okay if you tear up. I did too!

The Word for “Thanks” in Japanese

So that’s it for the meaning behind the phrase “thank you!” What about the word for showing thanks?

Yes, there’s a difference!

感謝(かんしゃ)— “gratitude” is the equivalent of what we would call “thanks.”

感謝祭(かんしゃさい)— “Thanksgiving Day” is the term used to refer to the holiday in the United States.

Similarly, Japan has a day when it gives thanks to its laborers, called 勤労感謝の日(きんろうかんしゃのひ)— “Labor Thanksgiving Day.”

Why Are There Different Ways to Say Thank You in Japanese?

Japanese has different degrees of politeness, so there are different degrees of saying thank you.

敬語(けいご)— Japanese respectful language showcases varying levels of respect. Longer phrases usually express more politeness, but there are some exceptions to this.

As you continue to use Japanese, you’ll get better at picking the proper phrases for certain contexts.

Still, it can be a little tough to decide which phrase suits best!

Think about the relationship you have with the person you’re speaking to and the amount of politeness that you want to express. 

For example, you definitely wouldn’t want to say ありがとう to your superiors (like your boss or teacher) but it would be nice to know casual phrases to say to your friends!

And if you ever find yourself on one of the trains of Tokyo during rush hour traffic, you’ll want to say すみません “thank you/excuse me” instead of the usual ありがとう if someone lets you wriggle through to find a seat.

How to Practice Saying Thank You in Japanese

I know what you’re thinking—are there seriously so many different ways to say thank you in Japanese?

How am I ever going to memorize and remember them all?

First, it’s not always necessary to learn every phrase like the back of your hand.

If you aren’t working in Japan or have no need to use Japanese in a business setting, don’t worry too much about business phrases for the term “thank you.”

However, it’s always important to be aware of them. What if one of those phrases pops up in the middle of an intense negotiation scene in your favorite Japanese drama

Speaking of dramas, learning through your favorite movies and TV shows is a great way to improve Japanese grammar and vocabulary.


There are specific learner resources for this—for example, FluentU lets you watch Japanese media with interactive subtitles and flashcards included so you can study conversational expressions.

Another great way to put this knowledge to use is by finding language partners and trying out the different forms of thank you with them. You’re likely to come across most (if not all) of the phrases above anyway.


So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start practicing!

お疲れ様です(おつかれさまです)— thank you (for reading)!

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