Useful Japanese Phrases to Know

Common Polite Expressions to Use When Visiting Japanese Homes

In Japanese culture, there seem to be many formal phrases for certain actions. When visiting your superior or meeting somebody for the first time, you will need to know these phrases in order to express your politeness and gratitude.

Here are some common expressions you are likely to use when visiting Japanese homes.

What to Say at the Door

GuestKonnichiwa.
こんにちは。
Gomen kudasai.
ごめんください。
HostIrasshai.
いらっしゃい。
Irassaimase.
いらっしゃいませ。
Yoku irasshai mashita.
よくいらっしゃいました。
Youkoso.
ようこそ。

"Gomen kudasai" literally means, "Please forgive me for bothering you." It is often used by guests when visiting someone's home.

"Irassharu" is the honorific form (keigo) of the verb "kuru (to come)." All four expressions for a host mean "Welcome". "Irasshai" is less formal than other expressions. It should not be used when a guest is superior to a host.

When You Enter the Room

HostDouzo oagari kudasai.
どうぞお上がりください。
Please come in.
Douzo ohairi kudasai.
どうぞお入りください。
Douzo kochira e.
どうぞこちらへ。
This way, please.
GuestOjama shimasu.
おじゃまします。
Excuse me.
Shitsurei shimasu.
失礼します。

"Douzo" is a very useful expression and means, "please". This Japanese word is used quite often in everyday language. "Douzo oagari kudasai" literally means, "Please come up." This is because Japanese houses usually have an elevated floor in the entrance (genkan), which requires one to step up to go into the house.

Once you enter a home, be sure to follow the well-known tradition of taking off your shoes at the genkan.

You might want to make sure your socks don't have any holes before visiting Japanese homes! A pair of slippers is often offered to wear in the house. When you enter a tatami (a straw mat) room, you should remove slippers.

"Ojama shimasu" literally means, "I'm going to get in your way" or " I will disturb you." It is used as a polite greeting when entering someone's home.

"Shitsurei shimasu" literally means, "I'm going to be rude." This expression is used in various situations. When entering someone's house or room, it means "Excuse my interrupting." When leaving it is used as "Excuse my leaving" or "Good-bye." 

When Giving a Gift

Tsumaranai mono desu ga ...
つまらないものですが…
Here is something for you.
Kore douzo.
これどうぞ。
This is for you.

For the Japanese, it is customary to bring a gift when visiting someone's home. The expression "Tsumaranai mono desu ga ..." is very Japanese. It literally means, "This is a trifling thing, but please accept it." It might sound strange to you. Why would anyone bring a trifling thing as a gift?

But it is meant to be a humble expression. The humble form (kenjougo) is used when a speaker wants to lower his/her position. Therefore, this expression is often used when speaking to your superior, in spite of the true value of the gift.

When giving a gift to your close friend or other informal occasions, "Kore douzo" will do it. 

When Your Host Begins to Prepare Drinks or Food for You

Douzo okamainaku.
どうぞお構いなく。
Please don't go to any trouble

Although you may expect a host to prepare refreshments for you, it is still polite to say "Douzo okamainaku".

When Drinking or Eating

HostDouzo meshiagatte kudasai.
どうぞ召し上がってください。
Please help yourself
GuestItadakimasu.
いただきます。
(Before Eating)
Gochisousama deshita.
ごちそうさまでした。
(After Eating)

"Meshiagaru" is the honorific form of the verb "taberu (to eat)."

"Itadaku" is a humble form of the verb "morau (to receive)." However, "Itadakimasu" is a fixed expression used before eating or drinking.

After eating "Gochisousama deshita" is used to express appreciation for the food. "Gochisou" literally means, "a feast." There is no religious significance of these phrases, just social tradition. 

What to Say When Thinking about Leaving

Sorosoro shitsurei shimasu.
そろそろ失礼します。
It is about time I should be leaving. 

"Sorosoro" is a useful phrase to say to indicate that you are thinking of leaving. In informal situations, you could say "Sorosoro kaerimasu (It's about time for me to go home)," "Sorosoro kaerou ka (Shall we go home soon?)" or just "Ja sorosoro ...

(Well, it's about time ...)".

When Leaving Someone's Home

Ojama shimashita.
お邪魔しました。
Excuse me.

"Ojama shimashita" literally means, "I got in the way." It is often used when leaving someone's home.