I have heard from someone that phrases with ご無沙汰 imply "guilt for not staying in touch".

While I know this can be the case if words like "申し訳ありません" are used, is it true that ご無沙汰 always indicates guilt?

My feeling is this word is more neutral and does not necessarily indicate guilt.

For reference, this comment was made in context of comparing ご無沙汰 to 暫く and 久しぶり.

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    You may want to read careerpark.jp/54715 or dai-iad.net/ohsasiburidesu. – 永劫回帰 Sep 3 '17 at 17:40
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    Thanks. Near the end of the second article I do see a reference that ご無沙汰 originally comes from the meaning of apologizing for not staying in touch. However due to the fact this article exists I assume that maybe the average Japanese person doesn't know this technicality. If someone can post an answer about how the average Japanese person interprets this word, I'd appreciate it. – Locksleyu Sep 3 '17 at 23:28
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    Sounds like it.But I don't think it necessary implies guilty. I think it implies you haven't met someone for a while.Formality in this order ご無沙汰しています。暫く振りです。お久しぶりです。 – user25382 Sep 4 '17 at 12:08

I think it implies guilt only in the same sense that Japanese people often apologize for things that many people in other countries do not apologize for.

For example, in Japan people often apologize for sending "unsolicited emails" but really the "unsolicited email" is about something that the recipient and sender have already talked about, both parties want to continue talking about, and is not an unsolicited email.

Similarly, ご無沙汰 is generally just a formality of expressing guilt for things that people in many other countries would not express guilt for.

It's more formal and implies more guilt than 久しぶり.

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    "many people in other people" - something went wrong here – kuchitsu Jan 17 '18 at 23:02
  • ^ many people in other countries って書こうとしたんでしょうね・・たぶんね・・ – Chocolate Jan 18 '18 at 6:08

My feeling is this word is more neutral and does not necessarily indicate guilt.

You are right. at least "Today", the word ご無沙汰 is neutral.

Check the Youtube and search by the word ご無沙汰


The result shows the first 4 are about stories between woman and its boyfriend ( or vice versa ) who have not had sexual contact for certain period of time ( mostly long ).

The 6th result is a song by Takurou Yoshida, とんとご無沙汰, which is a love song about a male and a female who love each other but have not met for a long time.

So you can use ご無沙汰 perfectly neutrally.

( Though some say, ご無沙汰しています。申し訳御座いません。"I apologize that I have not sent you a letter etc. )


I think 'guilt' is a bit strong, but there is certainly an element of mild apology contained in the phrase (as with many Japanese phrases). Perhaps something like "I've left it too long to contact you, but ..." or "It's been far too long, but..." . Something along those lines.

So, not guilt and not quite an apology, but rather a courteous way of saying that you've left it a bit long before contacting someone again.

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