Japanese people use many formal words of greeting that are known as aisatsu (あいさつ). Many of my colleagues use aisatsu words extensively during their conversation (at office). We can hear the formal greeting words in everyday life anywhere in Japan.
You might be familiar with the most common aisatsu words such as Ohayo gozaimasu (good morning), Konnichiwa (good day), Konbanwa (good evening), Hisashiburi desu (long time no see), tadaima (I am here), okaerinasai (Welcome back) etc. If you go to convenient stores (kombini), you will not miss the warm welcome word irasshaimase (Welcome).
There are some more useful aisatsu words that are often used in daily formal conversation situations. Let us see the list;
Itsumo Osewaninatteorimasu (いつもお世話になっております – いつもおせわになっております)
Osakini shitsurei itashimasu (お先に失礼致します – おさきにしつれいいたします）
Moushiwake gozaimasen (申し訳ございません – もうしわけございません)
Gobusatashite orimasu (ご無沙汰しております – ごぶさたしております)
Senjitsuwa arigatougozaimashita (先日はありがとうございました – せんじつはありがとうございました)
Otsukaresamadeshita (お疲れ様でした – おつかれさまでした)
Shouchi itashimashita (承知致しました – しょうちいたしました)
1. Itsumo Osewaninatteorimasu
いつもお世話になっております – いつもおせわになっております. Always at your service! Is there any better way express politely the willingness to offer a service? Customers are treated as Gods in Japan and they are offered with all kinds of respect. Sewa is the word for Service. Originally, the word sewa came from Sanskrit language (probably through Buddhism). Itsumo means always. O infront of Sewa denotes respect to the person. natteorimasu is a honorific form of saying the things. We are always at your service! Itsumo osewaninatteorimasu is written at the beginning of business emails in Japan, whether the mail transaction is within the company or outside the company.
2. Osakini shitsurei itashimasu
お先に失礼致します – おさきにしつれいいたします can be literally translated as “Excuse me, I am going first”. This polite phrase is used in the offices when someone leaves when others are busy in their work. This can be used in the elevators when someone exits first. Interestingly, the word Shitsurei 失礼 means ‘Impoliteness’. It is impolite to leave a place firt, especially when others are still working. Shitsurei itashimasu is more polite word and some people say just Shitsurei shimasu.
3. Moushiwake gozaimasen
申し訳ございません – もうしわけございません is another way of telling sorry/apology, but this is extremely polite sorry. It is like saying, I have no justification or reason, I am extremely sorry!
申し – moushi means I am sorry. Note that the Kanji 申 is the kanji for Saru – Monkey. I have no clue how does the meaning change to ‘I am sorry’ when the ‘monkey’ kanji joins with the hiragana character し.
訳 wake or yaku – means reason.
Moushiwake gozaimasen is apologizing politely for the mistakes. Sometimes you can hear this word from grocery shop staffs when they can’t find an item for you.
4. Gobusatashite orimasu
ご無沙汰しております – ごぶさたしております is honorific form of ‘long time no see’ The person telling this phrase feel sorry for not seeing the other person (often of a higher rank). This phrase is translated as ‘I haven’t heard of you–I’m sorry’ or ‘Sorry for not contacting you’
5. Senjitsuwa arigatougozaimashita
先日はありがとうございました – せんじつはありがとうございました means ‘Thanks for the other day’. You can guess something good might have happened the other day. Most probably a party or eating out where you paid the whole bill. Or simply for your presence in the party. You might have invited them to your home for a dinner. Then they have reason to say せんじつはありがとうございました. Note that ‘past tense’ is used to express the gratitude, indicating the incident happened in the past.
お疲れ様でした – おつかれさまでした means thanks for your good work. Literal translation is ‘You are very tired’. A person is tired after a tedious work. It is a custom in Japan to say thanks to the people who work hard. This has become a ritual to say ‘Otsukaresamadesu’ when someone leaves the office after completing his/her job. Here also, the past tense of ‘です’ can be used (でした).
7. Shouchi itashimashita
承知致しました – しょうちいたしました is the phrase used when politely say ‘I understood’. 承知 means ‘Know’. When 承知 combines with 致しました, it becomes a polite way of telling ‘I understood’, and there is no need to explain anything further.
You might have heard these phrases if you are already living in Japan. For others, who are learning the Japanese language, you need to practice by repeated use of these phrases, wherever you have chance. So, お疲れ様でした。