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11 Ways To Say “Thank You” in Japanese in Any Social Situation

Saying “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 11 Japanese phrases of gratitude, from the extremely formal to the “only-with-your-friends” casual. 

Plus, see how to say thank you in professional situations, how different Japanese dialects say thanks and a few ways to respond when someone says “thank you” to you.

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


How 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 polite to the casual.

Japanese has a long history intertwined with Portuguese, featuring a number of loanwords from the Portuguese, like pan (bread, in both Portuguese and Japanese). As such, you may be tempted to assume that the word arigatou in Japanese comes from the Portuguese word for thank you, obrigado.

But the Japanese word actually has Japanese roots and just happens to be a false cognate with obrigado!

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

aru:  有る  — to exist

muzukashii: 難しい  — 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. It’s polite, but not too polite to use in most situations. For instance, you can say arigatou gozaimasu to a salesperson for helping you pick a perfect item.

2. 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.

You may notice there’s some crossover with doumo adigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much). A good rule of thumb is to use the gozaimasu form for general, in-the-moment thanks, and the gozaimashita version for thanking someone for something they helped you with in the past.

This concept can be a little difficult for learners to wrap their minds around, so it can help to just see the two phrases in use.

You can do this by searching for the phrases (or any other common phrase or word) on the FluentU program. This program lets you see authentic videos like movie clips and news segments, with dual-language subtitles.

Search for a word or phrase to see videos where the word appears, or turn your learning on its head by watching videos that look interesting and clicking on new words in the subtitles. This will give you a chance to see the meaning of the word in context (something that’s very important when words have multiple meanings, as we’ll see later in this post).

Remember: In Japanese, context is crucial!

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 a number of other ways.

5. Doumo arigatou: どうもありがとう

Meaning: Thank you very much

Usage: Formal

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).

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 is a form of respect or politeness. Using it makes this a more formal and meaningful way to say thank you.

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:

インスタグラムでフォローしてくれてありがとう! 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’d never use it with your superiors, like your professors or host parents.

9. Sankyuu: サンキュー

Meaning: Thank you! (Loan word)

Usage: Informal

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

Words like sankyuu and baibai 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,” and you’ll get a sense for when to use it. For instance, you can use sumimasen to thank someone who held the elevator door for you, or who lets 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.

Thank You in Japanese for Business

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

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:

  • Osoreirimasu: 恐れ入ります  — Thank you very much (to superiors)

    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.

  • Otsukaresama desu: お疲れ様です  — Thank you for your hard work

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

  • Gokurousama desu: ご苦労様です  — Thank you for your hard work (to subordinates)

    This phrase is specifically used with subordinates. While it’s not rude when used with your superiors, it’s insensitive to the hierarchy of the office.

  • Kanshya shimasu: 感謝します  — Thank you (written)

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

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

  • Makoto ni arigatou gozaimasu: 誠にありがとうございます  — Thank you kindly (written)

    Makoto ni is the respectful way to say hontou ni — “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!

  • Kyoushyuku desu: 恐縮です  — I am indebted to you

    Other than being written in correspondence from businesses to customers, you can 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 Hougen ( 方言 ) — 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:

  • Kansai: Ookini (arigatou)
  • Ehime: dandan
  • Toyama: kinodoku
  • Okinawa: nifueedeebiru
  • Yamagata: oshyoushina

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:

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:


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

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