When you’re first starting out with the language, you want to learn a lot of the common words and phrases first. Things such as how to say goodbye in Japanese will serve you well for the rest of your days.
After all, it’s a word that you can practice in the real world many times each day, depending on how many people you normally interact with.
But did you know that there are actually a lot of different ways that Japanese people say goodbye? Choosing the right one depends on the context of the situation, and your relationship with the other person.
Let’s dive right in and learn the different ways now!
1. Goodbye (For A Long Time)
Almost every English speaking person knows one of the words for good bye in Japanese. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you already know this one as well. Here it is now:
While this word does mean “goodbye” in Japanese, it actually isn’t used all that often by natives themselves. That’s because this particular word is really only used when you aren’t expecting to see the other person for a long time. This could be a couple months, or several years, if ever again.
So when you leave Japan to return home, your host family or friends will use this word to bid you farewell. But if you know you’re going to see a friend within the next week or so, then you’ll want to use a different form of the word.
We’ll get to those in a minute, but first I wanted to touch upon the kanji for this word. At some point in your reading, you might run into the word like this:
This is simply the kanji version of it. The meaning is exactly the same, but the author might be writing it this way to give it a special feeling. The hiragana version that we saw first is far more common.
As a final word on this word (heh) there is also a tendency for people to shorten the elongated ō to just o when they are speaking informally.
It’s time to say goodbye.
Just be aware in case you run into it.
2. The Casual, More Common Way
So if さようなら is the word used at the end of the movie when the hero rides off into the sunset, then which form of the word is used on a day to day basis?
Well, there are actually several different ones. The meanings of them are pretty much all the same, but there is just a little bit of a different flavoring for each one. Let’s take a look at each of them and explore them in detail.
This word literally means “well, again” and is basically a way to say “later” in Japanese. It has several variations such as:
And sometimes you can thrown in the Japanese word for tomorrow when you want to say “see you tomorrow” as your goodbye:
The thing to note about this last phrase is that since the final vowel in また is the same as the beginning vowel in 明日 there is a tendency for it to sound like one long word, as in: matāshta.
And you may have noticed that I dropped the i vowel right there at the end. It’s pretty common for this vowel to become silent in this phrase.
Let’s do a final one before moving on to the next section.
Sometimes you will hear people say this before departing:
This literally means “with this…” and it falls in line with how roundabout the Japanese language and culture can be when communicating.
What they person is really saying is “with this current situation the way it is, I will take my leave.”
3. The Respectful Way
The Japanese culture is very hierarchical in nature. That means the people above you command a level of respect for no other reason than their relative position to you.
So when you enter into their room or office, it is typically to use this phrase as a way of saying “excuse me for intruding”:
But here’s where things get interesting. You will also use this exact same phrase when leaving as a polite way of saying goodbye, and again apologizing for bothering them (even if they called for you to come).
Excuse the intrusion / I shall take my leave
It kind of makes sense when you think about certain situations. Let’s say for example that you are doing an interview in Japanese for a job or something, and after finishing all of the questions it is time for you to leave.
You don’t want to use さようなら since it gives the impression that you don’t expect to see them again for a very long time, and by extension you’re not expecting to get the position.
On the other hand, all of the ways to say bye in the second section are far too casual and would perhaps come off as arrogant since they make it seem as if you will definitely be seeing this person again soon, because you know that you’re getting hired.
So we switch over to 失礼します which is not only a very polite way to say goodbye, but it is also neutral in regards to the nuance it brings with respect to when you think you’ll encounter this person again.
Speaking of being in the office, there is yet again another way to tell your co-worker’s that you are departing after a long day at work is finally over.
Are you getting tired of all these different phrases yet? I hope not because we’ve still got about two more to go before we are finished.
4. When Leaving The Office
So the Japanese have an international reputation for their work ethic when it comes to not only how hard they work, but also how long they are at the office each day.
In fact, there is even a Japanese word for “death from overwork” that you hear about sometimes while reading the news. The Japanese word I’m talking about is 過労死 (karōshi) and hopefully you’ll never experience anything even slightly resembling this!
But anyway, it is very common for the lower level employees to stay at the office until really, really late into the night. I’m talking like 10-11 PM… and that’s if they don’t spend the night! They sometimes do.
Anyway, when a person is going to leave for the day, the chances are very high that there will still be other people who are saying behind for a while longer. So how would you say goodbye to these people? In Japanese, the phrase is:
o saki ni
This literally means before; ahead but within the context of leaving the office, it is a set expression that says “pardon me for leaving (first).”
In other words, this phrase is how you say goodbye to your fellow co-works whom you are leaving at work. It is a nice way to acknowledge them for remaining behind and putting in a little extra sweat for the company.
What I’ve shown you above is the abbreviated version that gets used most often, but there is a longer version as well that sounds more polite and formal.
o saki ni shitsure shimasu
You will no doubt recognize the extension part from the previous section in this article. Either way is fine, but probably you will use this longer version when you’re still the “new guy/gal” at work, or when speaking to your senpai.
After you’ve been there for several months, shorted it down to お先に and get the BLEEP outta’ there!
5. The English Loan Word
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t contain at least one English loan word!
Even though there are hundreds, and perhaps thousands of English loan words, I really only focus on the ones that are commonly used nowadays by natives.
The one that they use for say bye is:
Yep, this is by far the easiest one on the list! And one that I hear used by women more often than men. I think it’s probably because it sounds cute in Japanese, and men typically want to be seen as manly.
6. Farewell! To You, And This Lesson.
It’s time for me to say “farewell” to you for today and then wrap up this lesson.
go kigen yō
If you also want to know how to say hello in Japanese, then you can do so by clicking on that link.
Or if you are ready to take your Japanese to the next level and are looking for an excellent course to teach you Japanese, then you can check out the ones I recommend the most.
Either way, I look forward to seeing you next time!
What other words do you know for goodbye in Japanese? Which of these versions do you hear used the most?
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: