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24 Ways to Say “Thank You” in Japanese in Any Social Situation (Plus 13 Ways to Say “You’re Welcome”)

“Thank you” can be expressed in many ways in Japanese, just like greeting someone and wishing them goodbye.

That’s why we’ve rounded up 24 Japanese phrases of gratitude, from the extremely formal to the “only-with-your-friends” casual. 

You’ll also learn how to say thank you in professional situations, how different Japanese dialects say thanks, 13 ways to respond when someone says “thank you” to you, nonverbal ways to express gratitude in Japanese and a quick wrap-up of everything.

Read on to learn all about thank you in Japanese. You can thank us later. (In Japanese, of course!)


Most Common Ways to Say Thank You in Japanese


1. Arigatou: ありがとう

Meaning: Thank you

Usage: Formal and informal

This no-frills “thank you” is the most common form you’ll hear. You can use arigatou in almost any situation, from the office to a binge-watching session with friends.

The Japanese language has a surprisingly long history with Portuguese, featuring a number of loanwords from the latter like pan ( パン or ぱん), which means “bread” in both languages. As such, you may be tempted to assume that the word arigatou in Japanese comes from the Portuguese word for thank you, which is obrigado.

In fact, arigatou has Japanese roots and just happens to be a false cognate with obrigado!

The kanji for arigatou is written as 有り難う . You may recognize the two main kanji in this word:

aru:  有る  (ある) — to exist

gatou: 難う (がとう) — difficult

Think about it this way: Every time you say arigatou, you’re expressing that something was difficult to attain. It’s a very poetic way to show your gratitude!

2. Arigatou gozaimasu: ありがとうございます

Meaning: Thank you very much

Usage: Formal

This is the textbook way to say “thank you” in Japanese, and is more polite than arigatou. You could say arigatou gozaimasu in situations like thanking a salesperson for helping you pick the perfect item.

Sometimes, you’ll see it in kanji written as 有り難う御座います (ありがとうございます), though this isn’t as common as the hiragana version.

3. Arigatou gozaimashita: ありがとうございました 

Meaning: Thank you (for something you did in the past)

Usage: Formal

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

Kinou, shyukudai o tetsudatte kurete arigatou gozaimashita.

Thanks for helping me with my homework yesterday.

4. Doumo: どうも

Meaning: Hey

Usage: Informal

You can use this phrase to say thank you to your closest friends. Think of it like saying “thanks!”

Doumo is a very versatile word, and can also be used as an informal greeting (“Hey!”), an apology (“My bad!”), to add emphasis (“very”) and in a number of other ways.

5. Doumo arigatou: どうもありがとう

Meaning: Thank you very much

Usage: Formal

You’ve probably heard this phrase in a 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.

6. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu: どうもありがとうございます

Meaning: Thank you very much

Usage: Formal

The gozaimasu at the end of this phrase makes it a more formal and meaningful way to say thank you. You normally use this for general, in-the-moment expressions of thanks.

You can use this phrase to thank someone for doing you a big favor, when receiving a present or any other higher level of gratitude.

It’s also a formal way to express how a hardship you’ve experienced has made you thankful.

7. -te kurete + arigatou: てくれて+ありがとう 

Meaning: Thank you for doing…

Usage: Informal

You can use this phrase to thank someone for doing something for you, as in the following example:

Insutaguramu de forou shite kurete arigatou!
Thanks for following me on Instagram!

While the phrase is fairly informal, you can make it more polite by adding the respectful sentence ending gozaimasu.

8. Azaasu: あざーす

Meaning: Thanks!

Usage: Informal

This is a very casual way to say thank you. You might say it to a classmate or someone else of equal ranking and age as you. However, you never use it with your superiors, like your professors or host parents.

9. Sankyuu: サンキュー (さんきゅー)

Meaning: Thank you! (Loan word)

Usage: Informal

Japanese is known for having loan words integrated into the language, and this one is no exception. Like many other Japanese loanwords, it’s written in katakana.

Words like sankyuu and baibai ( バイバイ or ばいばい) mean exactly what they do in English, but give off a more casual feel. So I’d make sure to only use this with friends or people you already know.

10. Sumimasen: すみません

Meaning: Sorry

Usage: Formal and informal

Wait, why is “sorry” on this list of thank yous in Japanese? Well, because you can use sumimasen to say thanks in some situations!

Think of it as an apologetic thank you, as in “sorry for intruding.” For instance, you can use sumimasen to thank someone who held the elevator door for you, or who let you see the notes from a work meeting you missed.

11. Sumanai: すまない

Meaning: Thank you (usually said by male speakers)

Usage: Informal

I’ve only ever heard guys use this phrase, the casual form of sumimasen. If you choose to use it, make sure it’s in a casual setting, like with your friends.

12. Itadakimasu: いただきます

Meaning: I humbly accept (this meal)

Usage: Formal and informal

Before you partake in a meal, it’s always polite to take a moment to sincerely say itadakimasu. Itadaku ( 頂く or いただく) is a verb that means to receive with respect, so itadakimasu suggests that you’re going to accept and indulge in your food with gusto.

It’s a way to thank all the folks, present or otherwise, responsible for the delicacies in front of you.

13. Gochisousama deshita: ごちそうさまでした

Meaning: It was a lot of work and effort/Thank you for the meal

Usage: Formal

You can never be too grateful for grub. With every itadakimasu comes goshisousama deshita. When you finish your meal, tap your hands together and offer a final thanks with this phrase.

By uttering gochisousama deshita, you’re saying that you’re grateful for all the hard work that enabled you to have a full and happy belly.

Thank You in Japanese for Business

When choosing the right phrase to thank your coworkers and superiors, you’ll need to consider your position in the contextual hierarchy.

I certainly had to get used to it when I worked for a Japanese company. To save you the trouble, here are some of the most common business phrases I’ve heard used to express thanks:

14. Osoreirimasu: 恐れ入ります (おそれいります)

Meaning: Thank you very much (to superiors)

Usage: Formal

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.

15. Otsukaresama desu: お疲れ様です (おつかれさまです)

Meaning: Thank you for your hard work

Usage: Formal

After a long day of hard work, saying this to your superiors and coworkers is a nice pick-me-up. In some situations, it’s also used as a greeting.

16. Gokurousama desu: ご苦労様です (ごくろうさまです)

Meaning: Thank you for your hard work (to subordinates)

Usage: Formal

This phrase is specifically used with subordinates. While it’s not exactly rude when used with superiors, using this greeting with them can come across as attempting to disrupt the hierarchy or status quo.

17. Kanshya shimasu: 感謝します (かんしゃします)

Meaning: Thank you (written)

Usage: Formal

You may see this more often in writing, like in Japanese emails. For example:

Itsumo sapouto shite itadaki, kanshya shimasu.
Thank you for your continued support.

18. Makoto ni arigatou gozaimasu: 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)

Meaning: Thank you kindly (written)

Usage: Formal

Makoto ni ( 誠に orまことに) is the respectful way to say hontou ni ( 本当に or ほんとうに), which means “very.” I’ve seen this written a lot, especially in emails that go out to subscribers and customers. It would feel out of place to say to a friend!

19. Kyoushyuku desu: 恐縮です (きょうしゅくです)

Meaning: I am indebted to you

Usage: Formal

Apart from using it in written business correspondence, you can also say this phrase 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:

Taihen kyoushyuku desu ga…
Sorry to trouble you…

But in other situations, it expresses gratitude:

Shinsetsu ni shite itadaki, kyoushyuku desu.

Thank you for being so kind.

Thank You in Japanese Dialects

That’s right, Japan has several hougen ( 方言 or ほうげん) — local dialects! Different regions, like the awesome prefecture of Osaka and the beautiful city of Kyoto, have added their own flair to the Japanese language.

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

Responding to Thank You in Japanese

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:

As we’ve established, the expressions you’d use in a business context are very different from the ones you’d use with friends, family or others you know casually.

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

Bowing and Gift-giving Etiquette in Japan

Aside from expressing your thanks in words, there are nonverbal ways to say thank you in Japanese. The main ones include bowing and gift-giving.

Ojigi ( お辞儀 or おじぎ) is the art of bowing. Indeed, the humble bow actually has a lot of nuance in Japanese culture.

How you bow depends on the person (such as their age, social rank, occupation) and overall context. There are also different protocols on the mechanics of bowing based on whether you’re standing or sitting.

These protocols are complex enough to fill several books. In fact, you can find entire books on Japanese bowing! Generally, though:

  • The more respect you want to show, the deeper and more sustained your bow should be.
  • Don’t make direct eye contact with the other person.
  • Try to keep your body rigid while you bend over.

As for gift-giving, it isn’t reserved for special dates like birthdays or holidays. It can be done simply to express respect or show that you thought of someone. Generally, gift-giving in Japan goes like this:

  • Offer a wrapped gift with both hands to be respectful. Do the same when you’re receiving a gift.
  • It’s common for the recipient to politely refuse at first before ultimately accepting the gift.
  • If you receive the gift, thank the giver appropriately, and do not open it in front of him or her (unless they explicitly request otherwise).

These cultural concepts can be a little difficult for learners to wrap their minds around, so it might help to expose yourself to authentic ways to show gratitude in Japanese.

You can do this by searching for phrases related to gratitude (or any other common phrase or word) on a program like FluentU.

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Remember: In Japanese, context is crucial!

Thank You in Japanese: FAQs

How Do Japanese People Say Thank You?

With much of their culture revolving around modesty and humility, Japanese people express thanks through a variety of ways.

While simply saying arigatou ( 有り難う or ありがとう) with a bow is the standard, you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re thanked with an actual gift. Okaeshi ( お返し or おかえし) are “return presents,” typically small consumables like snacks, that are frequently given as tokens of gratitude.

Should I Say Arigatou or Arigatou Gozaimasu?

In most scenarios, the simple arigatou will do just fine. If the favor done for you isn’t too much, or you’re thanking a buddy for helping out, arigatou is enough.

Arigatou gozaimasu can be double-layered. It’s more formal, so you’re more likely use it with more esteemed company. It can also suggest that you’re more than just a little grateful to someone. You’ll hear arigatou gozaimasu many times in business and similar contexts.

What Do You Say After Arigatou?

As mentioned earlier, common responses (which can roughly translate to “you’re welcome” or “no problem”) include:

A simple haai ( はーい ) can also be a quick, easygoing response to acknowledge gratitude from others.

How Do You Say “No, Thank You” Politely in Japanese?

You can politely refuse someone or something using these expressions:

  • kekkou desu: 結構です (けっこうです) — I’m fine (formal)
  • daijoubu desu: 大丈夫です (だいじょうぶ です) — It’s okay (slightly less formal)

You can precede either of them with iie ( いいえ or “no”) to more strongly affirm that you need nothing else.


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

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