Culture Note: Japanese Greetings

A bow is the traditional greeting between Japanese. Persons wishing to show respect or humility bow lower than the other person. The Japanese tend to shake hands with Westerners. While some appreciate it when Westerners bow, others do not, especially when the two people are not acquainted. Therefore, a handshake is most appropriate for foreign visitors. The Japanese are formal, and titles are important in introductions. A family name is used with the suffix -san (the equivalent to our Mr. or Ms.). Mr. Ogushi in North America is called Ogushi-san in Japan. The use of first names is reserved for family and close friends. Between business representatives, the exchange of business cards (offered and accepted with both hands) most often accompanies a greeting.

Business card exchange (from

The greetings Japanese use depend on the relationship. A worker might greet a superior with おはようございます Ohayougozaimasu (Good morning), but he or she would greet a customer with いらっしゃいませ Irasshaimase (Welcome). Another common greeting to customers is ようこそ Yokoso (Welcome), even the Japan tourism agency uses it in their logo. When business representatives meet for the first time, they may tell each other はじめましてHajimemashite (Nice to meet you). こんにちは Konnichiwa (“Hello” or “Good day”) is a standard greeting. お元気ですか?Ogenkidesuka? (How are you?) is like it’s English counterpart of “Hello, how are you?” and often comes up early in conversation. おはよう Ohayou (an informal “Good morning”) and 元気 Genki? (How’s it going?) are common casual greetings among the youth. 

Japan tourism site:
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