How to Begin a Conversation in Japanese--and How to Respond

How to Begin a Conversation in Japanese--and How to Respond
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As with every language, we need to know how to converse. Let’s start with some phrases that we will use to start a Japanese

conversation. The time of day is important when choosing which Japanese phrase to use. For example, if it is before 10 am, we use the phrase:

おはよう (ohayou) Good morning

In more polite situations, we would use the polite version:

おはよう ございます (ohayou gozaimasu).

The rule of thumb is once 10 am has passed, we use the Japanese greeting:

こんにちは (konnichiwa) Good afternoon/hello

At nighttime, the greeting becomes:

こんばんは (konbanwa) Good evening

Now, if this is the first person we have met, we will need to introduce ourselves. In Japanese conversations, two phrases are always used:

はじめまして (hajimemashite) How do you do?

どうぞ よろしく (douzo yoroshiku) Nice to meet you

In between these two phrases, we can tell the other person our name. The easiest is to use the ~です )

Saying Goodbye

After we have had our conversation, we need to know how to end it. To say goodbye in Japanese, we say:

さようなら (sayonara)

If we are saying good night, we say:

おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai)

Phrases For Home

Certain Japanese conversational phrases are used when at home. When we are leaving home, we announced to whomever is still in the house that:

いってきます (ittekimasu) I’ll go and come back

Whoever is home would say:

いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) Please go and come back

When we return home, we would say:

ただいま (tadaima) I’m home

The response to this phrase is:

おかえりなさい (okaerinasai) Welcome home

There are also special phrases we use when eating in Japanese. While not part of the overall conversation, it is important to say them before and after the meal, for the sake of politeness. Before a meal, we say the phrase:

いただきます (itadakimasu) Thank you for the meal

After the meal, we say:

ごちそうさま (gochisousama) Thank you for the meal

While both of these phrases translate the same in English, the unsaid translation is where in the meal they are said.


Banno, E., Ohno, Y., Sakane, Y. and Shinagawa, C. An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese. The Japan Times, 1999