How do you say “goodbye” in Japanese? Most Japanese books teach the word Sayonara (さようなら). Is that the one you know?
In that case, I have good and bad news for you.
The good news is that sayonara is indeed the Japanese equivalent of “goodbye.” The bad news is that in Japana almost no one uses it. In fact, foreigners are the ones who use it, because it appears in Japanese teaching books. Native speakers, however, don’t use it anymore. Let’s see why.
Perhaps, as sayonara carries the idea of a final farewell or that you will not see the other person for a long time, this expression has become obsolete with the advancement of technology: now it is much easier to keep in touch with people.
Just as we have seen the importance of knowing how to say hello in Japanese and to show respect to Japanese culture and etiquette when greeting others, it’s just as important to say goodbye using the appropriate expression. Therefore, in this post we’ll see different forms of farewell that everyone who wants to learn Japanese should know.
How to say “goodby” in Japanese
1. Itte kimasu
- (hiragana: い っ て き ま す; kanji: 行 っ て 来 ま す)
It literally means “to go and return”, and it is used when one leaves the house. It is similar to when we say “I’m leaving”, “I’ll be back” or “see you.” Although in this case one is going to be away from home all day. The one who stays answers itte rashai, literally: “go and come back” (hiragana: いってらっしゃい; kanji: 行ってらっしゃい).
It is not only used when leaving home. If you are at work and have to leave your team, for example to go to another office, you can also say itte kimasu. Or itte rashai if someone else is leaving.
2. Osaki ni shitsurei shi masu
- (hiragana: お さ き に し つ れ い し ま す; kanji: お 先 に 失礼 し ま す)
It is a well known fact that the Japanese can spend many hours at work. When they leave, they usually use this greeting that means “Excuse me for going first.”
It is a polite way of saying goodbye to whoever will stay at work, as if one apologized for leaving before the other. To a co-worker you can use the shortened form Osakini (hiragana: おさきに; kanji: お先に).
3. Otsu karesama de shita
- (hiragana: お つ か れ さ ま で し た; kanji: お 疲 れ 様 で し た )
This form of farewell is to respond to the previous greeting. It means “thank you for your hard work.” If an office colleague goes home before you and says goodbye with osakini, you respond with this greeting.
If it is your boss who stays (or you are the boss and you stay), the way to say goodby to whoever leaves first can be Gokurousama deshita (hirahgana: ご く ろ う さ ま で し た; kanji: 御 苦 労 様 で し た). It means pretty much the same.
Casual ways to say “goodby” in Japanese
4. Ji yaa ne
- (hiragana: じ ゃ あ ね)
This is a very common way to say goodby in Japanese to your friends. It means “See you”.
5. Mata ashita
- (hiragana: ま た あ し た; kanji:ま た 明日)
In this case, it means “see you tomorrow”. With mata you can form other greetings depending on when people will see each other again.
In a formal context, such as work, it isn’t used very much. It’s common in more casual and informal situations.
6. Ki otsu kete
- (hiragana: き を つ け て; kanji: 気 を つ け て)
This form of farewell is used in the same situations as when we say in English “Take care”.
7. Genki de
- (hiragana: げ ん き で; kanji: 元 気 で)
If after spending time in Japan you return to your country, or go to another place, your friends will say goodbye to you with genki de. It is the way to wish you “all the best” during the time, probably long, in which you will not see each other.
8. Bai bai
- (hiragana: ば い ば い; kanji: バ イ バ イ)
Yes! You nailed it! It’s dear old English “bye bye”. Girls love this Anglicism. Among boys it’s not so common.
9. Saraba da
- (hiragana: さ ら ば だ)
This one for the end because it’s quite nice. In fact, it is used as a joke between friends, like when a friend of yours says goodbye saying “ciao” or “adiós”. Maybe the reason is because it is a very old expression, from the time of the Samurai.
Now you know how to handle goodbye greetings in Japanese. Knowing the importance of showing respect to Japanese etiquette, it is very important that as a student of the language you know these greetings to start your conversations on the right foot and end them with the proper finishing touch.
Would you like to know more? What attracts you to Japanese culture and its language?
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