2.3 The Art of Meeting and Greeting

In this module, you will learn how to introduce yourself politely and when to use common greetings, while exploring the cultural nuances and the usage of the honorific suffix さん (san).

How can I introduce myself in Japanese?

There is no set formula for introducing yourself in Japanese, as it can vary depending on the situation and personal preferences. However, you can try this commonly used, straightforward set of expressions for introducing yourself in Japanese:

Step 1. はじめまして

はじめまして (hajime mashite) is a polite and friendly way to greet someone for the first time. It literally means ‘This is the beginning’ and can be roughly translated as ‘Nice to meet you’ in English.

Step 2. Your name + です

Next, say your name followed by です (desu). For example, リナ(りな)です (Rina desu) means ‘(I am) Lina’.

You can also add the pronoun 私(わたし: watashi: I) and the topic particle は (pronounced ‘wa’). For example, 私はリナです means ‘I am Lina’.

We will learn more about how to use the ‘X は Yです’ sentence structure in Module 2.4.

It is important to remember not to use さん (san) with your own name. The honorific is intended for others as a sign of politeness and respect, not for self-reference.

Step 3. よろしくお願(ねが)いします

よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is a phrase used to express your desire for a good relationship with the person you are speaking to. It can be translated as ‘Please treat me kindly’ or ‘Nice to meet you’ in this context.

In a casual situation, such as a class activity with peers, you can use a shorter, more casual version: yoroshiku. However, it is important to remember that it is not appropriate to use this shorter version to address teachers or people who are older than you.


To put it all together, you can say:

はじめまして。(私は) リナです。よろしくお願いします。

Hajime mashite. (Watashi wa) Rina desu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.

Nice  to meet you. (I am) Lina. Please treat me kindly.


Introducing yourself in Japanese can be a bit intimidating, but don’t worry! With these simple phrases and a friendly smile, you can make a great impression.


Exercise 1

Introduce yourself by filling in your name in the blank in the following sample sentences and record your voice. Afterward, listen to your recording to ensure that your pronunciation is clear and easy to understand.



In addition to these self-introduction sentences, bowing is an important aspect of the greeting process in Japan. The timing of the bow may vary, but it is typical to bow while saying よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu).

Here, it’s important to keep your eyes down while bowing. This contrasts with the Western practice of shaking hands, where maintaining eye contact is seen as polite and indicative of honesty. In Japanese culture, bowing with your eyes lowered is a sign of humility; direct eye contact during a bow can be perceived as aggressive or disrespectful.

If you’re interested in practising the pronunciation of these self-introduction sentences with the correct pitch – which refers to the variation in the tone and how high or low the voice is – you may find the following resource created by Speak Japanese Naturally to be helpful.


The expression よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu), or simply よろしく (yoroshiku) in more casual situations, is incredibly versatile. It is used in various contexts, including when asking for a favour.

The following resource, created by MINA LUNA JAPANESE, may help you gain a better understanding of the nuances and variations of this expression as it is used in everyday conversations.


What is the difference between はじめまして and よろしくお願いします?

はじめまして (hajimemashite) is used when meeting someone for the first time, equivalent to ‘Nice to meet you’ in English. It’s an introductory greeting to express that it’s the beginning of your acquaintance.

よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is harder to translate directly but can mean ‘Please be kind to me’, ‘I’m looking forward to working with you’ or ‘Thank you in advance’. It’s used after introductions to request favourable treatment or to express anticipation of a good relationship.

So, はじめまして introduces oneself, while よろしくお願いします requests a positive interaction moving forward.

What are the other simple greetings and expressions I can use?

Here are some simple Japanese greetings and expressions that you can use in both formal and casual settings:

こんにちは (konnichiwa)

This is a common greeting that means ‘Hello’ or ‘Good afternoon’. It can be used in both formal and casual settings. The は in こんにちは is pronounced wa instead of ha because it is used here as a particle that marks the topic of the sentence – the greeting is actually based on the sentence ‘Today is a good day’ (こんにち [today] は [topic particle] いい [good] ひ [day] です). So, to write こんにちは correctly, use the topic particle は instead of the character わ.

おはようございます (ohayou gozaimasu)

This greeting means ‘Good morning’ and is used in formal settings such as the workplace or with someone you don’t know well. The casual version is おはよう (ohayou), which can be used between family members and friends.

ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu)

This phrase means ‘Thank you very much’ and is used in formal settings. The casual version is ありがとう (arigatou), which can be used between family members and friends.

どういたしまして (dou itashi mashite)

This phrase is similar to ‘You’re welcome’ in English. It is used to respond to expressions of gratitude in a polite and humble way.

すみません (sumimasen)

This phrase means ‘Excuse me’ or ‘I’m sorry’ depending on the situation, and can be used in formal settings.

ごめんなさい (gomen nasai)

This phrase means ‘I’m sorry’ and is used when apologising to someone.

The phrases すみません (sumimasen) and ごめんなさい (gomen nasai) both mean ‘I’m sorry’ in Japanese, but they are not completely interchangeable.

ごめんなさい is a bit more informal, though still polite, and is often used in casual apologies, whereas すみません is more formal and professional.

Notably, すみません is used more widely than ごめんなさい, serving not only to apologise but also to get someone’s attention or to excuse oneself in minor situations, like when you’re trying to make your way through a crowd.

Remember, when greeting someone in Japanese, it is important to consider the level of formality required for the situation. In general, using polite language, with endings such as です (desu) and ござい(ます)(gozai[masu]), is appropriate in formal settings, while shorter and more casual versions are used among friends and family members.

Exercise 2

Choose the most appropriate expression for each situation.



Why do Japanese people bow?

In countries like Australia, it’s common to hug as a greeting among close friends or family. In contrast, Japanese culture emphasises bowing, regardless of whether you’re standing or sitting.

Casual greetings, like meeting friends or colleagues, typically involve a slight bow with a nod of the head. In more formal situations, such as meetings with acquaintances or during ceremonies, the bows are deeper and longer, reflecting the level of respect and formality in the interaction.

In Japanese culture, hugging and kissing are viewed differently than in many Western countries. Traditionally, physical contact is minimised, with hugging and kissing reserved for close family or romantic partners, and not common in public or formal settings. However, these gestures are becoming slightly more prevalent among younger generations. Still, they are intimate gestures and not typical for everyday greetings, contrasting with Western cultures where such actions are often signs of affection or greeting.

What is the honorific suffix ‘san’? How do I use it when I meet someone?

In Japanese, it’s customary not to address someone by their name alone unless there’s a close relationship, like with friends or family. Instead, an honorific suffix is typically used after the person’s name.

There are several honorific suffixes used in Japanese to show respect to the person being addressed. The most common and neutral suffix is さん (san), which can be added to both family names and given names. For example, Ms Rie Kimura can be addressed as ‘Kimura-san’ or, more informally, ‘Rie-san’.

The term 先生(せんせい: sensei) translates to ‘teacher’ or ‘master’ and is used to show respect toward experts in various fields such as teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers or authors. It is typically used on its own or as an honorific suffix after someone’s family name, rather than their given name.

For example, if Ms Rie Kimura is a high school teacher in Japan, she would be referred to as ‘Kimura-sensei’ or simply ‘Sensei’. However, it would be unusual to call her ‘Rie-sensei’. In a kindergarten setting, she might be addressed as ‘Rie-sensei’, but it’s not customary to use 先生 after someone’s first name in formal situations.

On a final note, honorific suffixes are used to address or refer to other people, not yourself. This is a common mistake for many Japanese learners, but make sure you don’t use an honorific suffix after your own name!

Exercise 3

If you want to learn more about honorific suffixes, here is a concise summary of them created by George Japan.




George Japan. “How to Use Honorifics in Japan (san, chan, kun, sama).” YouTube video, 1:00. January 19, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/shorts/9Ux7BTVy2bo.

MINA LUNA JAPANESE. “Learn Japanese | How to Use ‘Yoroshiku onegaishimasu’ [English Sub.].” YouTube video, 5:44. October 16, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmO1VMjoJfc.

Speak Japanese Naturally. “How to Introduce Yourself in Japanese with Pitch accent | 自己紹介(じこしょうかい).” YouTube video, 5:18. August 9, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsaNCx8Xzl0.




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Japanese Introductory 1 Copyright © 2024 by Iori Hamada is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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