By Will Morgan and Dan Cohen
How do you say goodbye in Japanese? Everyone knows it’s さようなら (sayōnara). But is it really? Despite being so well known as to be included in English dictionaries, it’s very rare to hear anyone say it in Japan. In almost all situations there is a better, or more contextually appropriate way to say goodbye. There’s more than one way to part ways in English, so let’s explore a few ways in Japanese.
Let’s address ‘sayonara’ first. There are two acceptable ways of pronouncing it: long ’o’ Sayōnara and short ‘o’ Sayonara. Next, this farewell has a finality which leads Japanese people to avoid it. Be alarmed if you hear your doctor say ‘sayonara’ before you go into surgery. On the other hand, saying sayonara just before boarding a plane to fly back to your home country would be appropriate. Most times when you say goodbye to someone, you don’t want to indicate that you never plan on seeing them again. So how can you say goodbye?
Are you saying goodbye to friends after hanging out?
じゃね (ja ne) – the equivalent of ‘see ya’. Quite informal.
またね (mata ne) – ‘See you later’. More below.
また〇〇 (mata ____) – mata can be used in conjunction with a time such as 明日(ashita – tomorrow), 来週 (raishū – next week), or 今度 (kondo – next time) to give a more cordial and specific farewell. It can also be used with 会いましょう (aimashō) to indicate you look forward to seeing them again.
Are you going home after work?
お先に失礼します (o-saki ni shitsurei shimasu) – Pardon me for leaving before you.
お疲れ様でした (o-tsukaresama deshita) – a common workplace goodbye. Often used in conjunction with or as a reply to the above ‘o-saki ni’.
Are you saying goodbye when leaving for a short period, for example going to work in the morning?
行ってきます (itte-kimasu) – “I’ll be back!”
いってらっしゃい (itte-rasshai) – the response to itte-kimasu.
Finally, while it isn’t a “goodbye”, an important phrase when saying farewell to coworkers or someone who has helped you extensively is お世話になりました (o-sewa ni narimashita.) It roughly means thank you for everything or thank you for taking care of me. It’s very polite and worthwhile to include in a farewell speech.
Happy studies! Mata kondo!