When you start learning a new language one of the very first things you’ll want to learn is how to say “hello”! You may have learned that こんにちは (konnichiwa) is Japanese for hello and it’s definitely one of the best ways you can say hi and start a conversation in Japanese. But there’s more to know than just konnnichiwa! From good morning and good night to saying hello on the telephone, here’s the most basic ways of saying “hello” you need to know in Japanese to get a conversation started!
The Most Basic Hello: Konnichiwa こんにちは
There’s a reason “konnichiwa” is one of the first words most people learning Japanese are taught! Konnichiwa is the most basic way of saying “hello” and it also doubles for “good afternoon”. It is a greeting used during the day time and you can use it with friends, family, coworkers, classmates, teachers, or even total strangers! Konnichiwa is a natural way of saying hello anytime during the day to anyone you meet regardless of your relationship and their social status.
There are no strict rules for when is the appropriate “day time” for konnichiwa, but I would say it is most appropriate roughly between 11:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Before 11:00 AM “ohayou gozaimasu” おはようございます is a more appropriate greeting. Ohayou gozaimasu (or Ohayou) translates to “good morning”. Similarly, after 6:00 PM “konbanwa” こんばんは which means “good evening” is the most natural way of saying hello.
Ohayou gozaimasu, konnichiwa, konbanwa. When meeting someone in person or starting to chat with someone online, these greetings are a great way of breaking the ice and getting the conversation started. You can use them over and over again, so every time you meet or come back online you can use these as your greeting! If you mess up and use the wrong greeting at the wrong time, don’t worry! Japanese people will still understand you’re trying to say hello, even if you use the wrong greeting. Plus when chatting with Japanese friends on HelloTalk or other online services, there might be a big time difference between your location and theirs, so don’t worry about the details of what time of day it is too much!
Tip: You may see “konnichiwa”, “ohayou gozaimasu”, or “konbanwa” written in kanji（今日は、お早うございます、今晩は）in some dictionaries and textbooks. This is not incorrect, but it is more natural to write these greetings in hiragana only（こんにちは、おはようございます、こんばんは）. So when chatting in HelloTalk to a Japanese speaking friend don’t worry about the kanji for these greetings!
Meeting for the First Time: Hajimemashite 初めまして
When meeting someone for the first time in person or online, hajimemashite 初めまして is another great phrase to remember! Hajimemashite roughly means “this is the first time we’ve met” and there is no exact word for it in English. But it is often translated as “nice to meet you” and is used in a similar way. Hajimemashite may be a bit challenging to remember at first but try saying it every time you meet someone new and you’re sure to get it down quickly! Although it doesn’t directly mean “hello”, this is the perfect way of striking up a conversation with someone new.
When meeting someone for the first time you can just say “Hajimemashite”, but adding a bit of a self introduction makes it sound even more natural. “Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa ___ desu” is a simple and straightforward way of saying hello for the first time and letting the other person know your name. If you’re chatting online they may already know your name based on your username though, and it’s okay just to say “hajimemashite” too!
Tip: Hajimemashite can be written 初めまして or はじめまして, with or without kanji! Use 初めまして with kanji if you can, but if you forget the kanji don’t be afraid to just use hiragana. That’s fine too!
Hello on the Phone: Moshimoshi もしもし
Have you ever heard “moshimoshi” before? If you like watching Japanese anime or TV shows you might have heard this phrase when a character answers the phone. “Moshi moshi” is how Japanese say hello on the telephone and you can also use it when voice chatting or talking on Skype, LINE or other similar voice only services. When video chatting I think “konnichiwa” would make more sense though, since you can see each other!
You can also use “moshi moshi” when on the phone if the call seems to be dropping or you can’t hear the person on the other line. Ask “Moshi moshi, kikoemasu ka?” (Hello, can you hear me?) to make sure your call is still connected!
Tip: Sometimes Japanese language learners mistake “moshi moshi” for “mushi mushi” but watch out! “Mushi” means bug! But don’t worry too much, if you pick up the phone and accidentally say “mushi mushi” most Japanese people will still understand what you were trying to say.
Here’s some sample conversations for you to practice your Japanese reading skills with! See how the above phrases are used in real life and try reading the conversations aloud or rewriting them for extra practice.
Saying “hello” and meeting someone in real life
Your Friend: こんにちは！あ、これは同僚の佐藤さんです。(turns to introduce their coworker)
Your Friend’s Coworker: こんにちは、初めまして。佐藤タクミと申します。
Your Friend’s Coworker: ボブさんですね！よろしくお願いします。
Your Friend: Konnichiwa! Aa, kore wa douryou no Satou-san desu! (turns to introduce their coworker)
Your Friend’s Coworker: Konnichiwa, hajimemashite. Satou Takumi to moushimasu.
You: Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa Bobu desu.
Your Friend’s Coworker: Bobu-san desu ne! Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
You: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Your Friend: Hello! Ah, let me introduce my coworker Mr. Satou! (turns to introduce their coworker)
Your Friend’s Coworker: Hello, nice to meet you. My name is Takumi Satou.
You: Nice to meet you, my name is Bob.
Your Friend’s Coworker: Bob! Great to meet you, I hope we can be friends.
You: Same, nice to meet you.
Saying Hello on HelloTalk or other online chat services
Chat Partner: こんばんは(^^)
Chat Partner: 私の名前はサユリです。よろしくお願いします！
Chat Partner: サラちゃんは可愛い名前ですね〜
Chat Partner: Konbanwa (^^)
You: Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa Sara desu.
Chat Partner: Watashi no namae wa Sayuri desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!
You: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!
Chat Partner: Sara-chan wa kawaii namae desu ne~
You: Good evening.
Chat Partner: Good evening (^^)
You: My name is Sarah, nice to meet you.
Chat Partner: My name is Sayuri, nice to meet you too!
You: I hope we can be friends!
Chat Partner: Sarah is such a cute name!
On the phone
Other Person: こんにちは！鈴木です。
Other Person: …
Other Person: …あ、すみません！今は聞こえます！
You: Moshi moshi?
Other Person: Konnichiwa. Suzuki desu.
You: Suzuki-san! Konnichiwa. Ogenki desu ka?
Other Person: …
You: Moshi moshi? Suzuki-san? Kikoemasuka?
Other Person: …a, sumimasen. Ima wa kikoemasu!
You: Hello? (on the phone)
Other Person: Hello! This is Mr. Suzuki.
You: Mr. Suzuki, hello! How are you?
Other Person: …
You: Hello? Mr. Suzuki? Can you hear me?
Other Person: …oh, sorry about that! I can hear you now!
Ohayou gozaimasu, konnnichiwa, konbanwa, hajimemashite, moshimoshi… there are many ways to say hello and start a conversation in Japanese, but with these basics you’re sure to be chatting in no time! Next time you meet someone new or start a new chat in Japanese, don’t be afraid to try using some of these phrases and remember practice makes perfect! がんばってください！ Good luck with your Japanese studies!
This post was contributed by our HelloTalk member Laura. Laura has been studying Japanese for over 11 years and she loves to travel, try new foods, and practice Japanese calligraphy. Laura currently works for a Japanese app company based in Tokyo. Their latest app Festar (http://festar.jp/en/) is a real time dating and chat app that matches online users based on their hobbies for a live 10 minute chat. Festar is currently available for free in English, Japanese, and Korean.