Both "ようこそ" (y­ōkoso) and "いらっしゃいませ" (irasshaimase) seem to mean "welcome" but what are the precise circumstances under which each should be used?

  • "いらっしゃいませ" (irasshaimase) is uttered in unison by all the staff whenever you walk into a restaurant or shop
  • "ようこそ" (y­ōkoso) was used in a recent "Welcome to Japan" advertising campaign

But this is just based on my very limited experience so I'm obviously missing lots of subtleties and insights.

  • 1
    It is 「いらっしゃいませ」, not 「いらしゃいませ」.
    – user4032
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:40
  • 3
    @hippietrail The accepted answer isn't really correct. I think we can do better. Would you consider unaccepting the current answer to invite answers from other people?
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 9:20

4 Answers 4


Y­ōkoso = Welcome

It's not limited in space or context (written or not). It can be "welcome home" or "welcome to Japan" or" welcome to try that" or "you're welcome" as in response to "thank you".

Irasshaimase (you have a habit of asking keigo questions!)

is the sonkeigo form of to be and to come (いらっしゃる) thus giving you an approximative translation "thanks for coming" or maybe "It's an honor for us to have you here" :)


*If you're invited to some friend's house, they might tell you as you enter:

いらっしゃい、いらっしゃい (roughly = come in, friendly form of the sentence above)

*They could as well tell you something like:


  • 7
    You don't use ようこそ as a response to "Thank you." You don't use ようこそ to mean おかえり(なさい). I don't really know what you mean by "Welcome to try that" (maybe 「どうぞお[試]{ため}しください」or「ご自由にお召し上がりください」?) but I don't think we use ようこそ to mean that.
    – chocolate
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 5:53
  • Doesn't うち imply that it’s your home already, so no need for the 私?
    – Adam Hess
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 17:01

The size of the area seems to be the most crucial factor. For example, you can use ようこそ in welcoming someone to a country, prefecture, city, amusement park, etc, but いらっしゃいませ is for welcoming someone into an establishment (such as a restaurant or a store) within that larger area. いらっしゃいませ can also be used to invite people into an establishment; ようこそ does not have this function. (This last function explains why ようこそ、いらっしゃいませ is not redundant. ようこそ functions as "welcome", while いらっしゃいませ functions as "please come in".)

  • It has more to do with the fact public/private. This is why invitations to a public place you usually see ようこそ, while private places like your home you usually see いらっしゃいませ
    – Ken Li
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 17:55
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    @Ken: I have to respectfully disagree with you here, as I can find plenty of examples where ようこそ is used by a private establishment (such as a shopping mall or theme park). And as repecmps mentioned, you can welcome someone into your home (for the first time) with ようこそ. Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 18:16
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    Correction: I meant to say places you own, not private. shopping mall or theme park is a public place so yes you would use ようこそ
    – Ken Li
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 18:20
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    @Ken: But if "public" simply means "a place anyone can enter", why wouldn't the local supermarket or family restaurant use ようこそ instead of いらっしゃいませ? I understand how the distinction between public/private works in some cases, but thinking about it in terms of area, as I stated, leads to far fewer exceptions. Please let me know if I'm misinterpreting your reasoning. Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 12:17

"ようこそ、いらっしゃいませ" and "ようこそ、お越しやす," its popular Kansai version are a set of phrases welcoming the guest. "ようこそ" is a variation of "よくこそ" meaning “true / indeed / rightly.”

よくこそ is used in such way as;

よくこそ言ってくれた - Indeed, you said exactly what I wish to say.

よくこそここまで来た - Really (Thank God), we came a long way up to here.

Though the phrase, “いらっしゃいませ – welcome (your visit)” is heard very often at retail and food service establishments as you say – I’ve heard it even at a noodle shop in Taipei recently - , it’s not so common to hear “ようこそ” by its own on day-to-day social occasions, except the campaign, or TV program title –“ようこそ! ジャパン,” you mentioned, because ようこそ” implies “feel of welcoming,” but it doesn’t make a complete sentence by itself.


ようこそ means welcome but it's mostly used in written context rather than colloquial. いらっしゃいませ actually means "please come in" (literally) but it often carries the meaning of welcome, this is why you hear staff saying that whenever you visit a store, it is mostly colloquial.

In a big event you may also hear ようこそ、いらっしゃいませ used together as well.

  • sorry I had to -1 which I try not to do often. It's not a question of written or not written and いらっしゃいませ is not colloquial, it's very polite.
    – repecmps
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 17:51
  • I didn't say it is colloquial, I said it's mostly colloquial. いらっしゃいませ is a polite form of いらっしゃい, see italki.com/answers/question/99461.htm
    – Ken Li
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 17:52
  • sorry, this website's explanations doesn't look correct or is at least lacking some important points and is simplified to the extreme.
    – repecmps
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 17:55

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