Essential Business Japanese

If your goal is to seamlessly slot into place with a team of Japanese colleagues then you are going to need two things: an understanding of the business culture and knowledge of appropriate workplace language.

Japanese culture is known for its food, art and animated Manga. These shows can be a fantastic way to learn informal Japanese, but this language won’t do for the days in the office.

Japanese business culture is known for its long hours, rigidity and formal nature.  While co-workers don’t tend to chat a lot at work, there will always be times you need to communicate with a colleague.

Japanese business language will always use the polite form, and while you will also find yourself using it in everyday conversation, you will use it less. Many words and phrases used in the workplace will be familiar from everyday activities, but some are kept strictly for business.

Knowing how to address colleagues properly and the phrases used in various business contexts will help to build those important working relationships and assimilate into a Japanese company. Feeling like you need some more key phrases and additional vocabulary? You can easily find a Japanese tutor in your area or opt for a tutor online instead.


Ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます)

Meaning: Good morning

Usage: You can use this with everyone you see when you walk into work. The time doesn’t matter, as long as it’s the first time you have been into the office that day.

Konnichiwa (こんにちは)

Meaning: Good Afternoon/Hello
Usage: This is the most commonly used greeting and is appropriate for pretty much all people, times and places
Konbanwa (こんばんわ)

Meaning: Good Evening
This is another commonly used greeting used in the evenings. It is an easy word to learn and pronounce and one that you will hear everyday.

Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu (よろしくおねがいします)

Meaning: Nice To Meet You

This is used before work starts as a sign of respect to your co-workers in the workplace. It can be used with “Good morning” when you arrive in the office.

Sumimasen (すいません)

Meaning: Excuse me/Sorry

Commonly used when you want to ask a colleague for something. Use this before you ask for the  favour and they will have no choice but to say yes!

Ima ojikan daijoubu desu ka (今お時間大丈夫ですか)

Meaning: Do you have a moment?

Should come straight after Excuse me/sorry if you want to take the politeness game to the next level. Especially good if you are interrupting someone in the middle of doing something else.

Thanking someone

Arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます)

Meaning: Thank you very much

Use this phrase when thanking a coworker. It can be used for anything that you would normally reply to with “thanks”.

Mistakes at work

Moushi wake gozaimasen (deshita) (申し訳ございません(でした))

Meaning: I’m sorry.

This phrase is not just an apology but taking responsibility for the thing that has gone wrong. 

This phrase is usually used in a formal setting, like the workplace, or when you are in very serious situation in which you are sorry or regret your actions.

At the end of the day

Otsukaresamadesu / Otsukaresamadeshita (おつかれさまです おつかれさまでした)

Meaning: Good job/well done

At the end of the day when everyone has finished working and leaving the office, it is customary to say “Good Job!” to everyone.

Dining out

Itadakimasu (いただきます)

Meaning: Let’s eat!

Eating out with co-workers is a frequent occurrence in Japan. This phrase is used before you begin eating your meal.

Leaving the office

Itte mairi masu (いってまいります)

Meaning: See you later!

Use this when you head out of the office for an appointment or meeting, but plan on coming back afterwards.

Coming back to the office

Tadaima Modori mashita (ただいまもどりました)

Meaning: I’m back!

This is to let your co-workers know that you have come back to the office after being out for a while. That way they can update you on anything you missed while you were out.

Use any of these phrases in your Japanese workplace to help you to assimilate into the culture and team. You won’t spend a lot of time in the office chatting to your co-workers, but there will always be times you either need help or need to ask a question. Keep it formal and polite and you will have no issues building good, solid working relationships. Ganbatte Kudasai!


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