I've seen a lot of people saying that First Learners should be careful when greeting a Japanese. I have to be careful how to address Japanese people with '-Chan', '-Kun', '-San' and '-Sama' and also how to refer them. I noticed that it would be hard for me to greet a Japanese properly in our first meeting since I don't know her/his name.

Out of curiosity, is it informal to greet Japanese strangers with 'Ohayo', 'Konnichiwa', or 'Konbanwa' only when I go around and see one?

If this question seems inappropriate or stupid, I apologize for my curiosity.

  • japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/39740/…
    – Jack Bosma
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 16:03
  • From my experience when meeting a stranger you'd say "Hajimemashite" (nice to meet you (for the first time) or "Yoroshiku/Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" (nice to meet you (take care of me)) the last is when you're being introduced to someone who will study with you or work, someone who might help you with something. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 16:06
  • I think using ohayou gozaimasu or konnichiwa would maybe seem a little strange on a first meeting, but generally I don't think it's a fauxpas. It also depends a lot on the social context. If you happen to be a teenager and are meeting another teenager in school or the like, hajimemashite may be a bit too formal, so you would probably stick to a more informal form. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


If you are meeting someone for the first time, you should use hajimemashite. By "meeting" I mean you are going to introduce yourself and talk to them for a while.

If you are simply greeting someone as you pass by, you can use

  • ohayō gozaimasu "good morning",
  • konnichiwa "good day/afternoon", or
  • konbanwa "good evening"

depending on the time of day. However, if you don't know them and have never talked to them before, you usually only say this if they belong to your social sphere (e.g. a coworker, a neighbour, someone you pass every morning on your way to work, etc.).

Note that in the countryside, probably everyone belongs to your social sphere (your host's cousin's neighbour's friend) so you greet away.

However, if they are complete strangers I would say it is uncommon to greet people verbally. A small nod approximating a small ojigi is much less intrusive.

Then again, if you are a foreigner, you can probably ignore all of the above and greet people anyway. Most will take this the friendly way, but there is some chance you make them feel uncomfortable.


Basically, konnichiwa is a global address to anyone already known to you. Hajimemashite is a very formal 'Nice to meet you'. Ohayou gozaimasu is a slightly more formal 'good morning' but 'ohayou' can be used with friends.

San means 'mrs/mr' and is used after someone's name if you respect them. If they are highly honoured, like a priest or celebrity, you can say 'hime'. Chan and kun are for people who you look down on in a friendly way (small kids, or a cute way for girls to call their boyfriends). If they're your friends, just say their name.

  • 1
    I think a priest or celebrity would be quite surprised if you addressed them with hime, especially if they are male.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 18:56

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