Watashi Wa: Introducing Yourself in Japanese

Meeting someone for the first time entails one to greet the other person as well as introducing one’s self. Really, this is just common courtesy regardless if one is a girl or a boy. However, what if one finds him or herself in another country without the knowledge of its local language? This may prove to be rather difficult, to say the least. Thankfully, there are common phrases that one can try to learn before visiting a foreign country in order for one to at least be able to introduce him or herself.

If one ever decides to travel to Japan just to get a new life experience, then one must also learn a few Japanese phrases. This is because while the public signs in the Land of the Sun have their own English translation, not every citizen in the country can speak English. In fact, there are only few people in Japan that can fully understand the English language, as the citizens love their own in general.

 “Watashi wa… desu.”: Introducing By Name and Explaining Yourself

 Being in another country can be both exciting and intimidating, especially if one cannot understand the local language. One of the basics to learn when visiting Japan is how to introduce one’s self. The basic words to know are “watashi wa…,” which translates to “I am…” in the English language. This is the simplest, as well as the most common, method to introduce one’s self. It would be best to learn this in order to make new friends in the country.

If one would like to be more specific, one can say, “Watashi no namae wa ___ desu,” which basically translates to “My name is ___.” For example, if one’s name is Anna Miyazaki, the phrase would be “Watashi no namae wa Miyazaki Anna desu.” This is a formal approach of introducing one’s self. However, most Japanese do not use the word “watashi.” In fact, if one would like to sound more like the local, one can just say, “Anna desu.” This translates to just the same meaning as the formal approach.

To understand the phrase “watashi wa” better, the simplest way is to separate the two words. The Japanese term “watashi” translates to “I” in the English language, which is referring to one’s self. On the other hand, the Japanese term “wa” represents the topic of the sentence being stated. Therefore, saying “watashi wa” means that the sentence would be about one’s self. However, saying the whole phrase is not that common among the locals unless one is trying to separate one’s self from another person in context. It is important to note that in the Japanese language, people rarely use pronouns and instead utilizes humble honorifics to explain who is doing something.

Aside from introducing one’s name, one can also use the phrase “watashi” to explain one’s self. That is to say, the phrase can be used to describe one’s self. This description may include age, profession, or nationality. An example of this is if one would like to say that he or she is of a certain nationality. One can say, “Watashi wa Amerikajin desu.” This translates to “I am American” in the English language. Another example would be “Watashi wa juugosai desu.” This translates to “I am fifteen years old.”

When meeting somebody for the first time, however, one does not just spring the introduction by giving one’s name. It is common for the Japanese people to first say the phrase “hajimemashite” when meeting someone new. When the other person replies with the same greeting, then that is the time that one may introduce one’s self. This introduction often ends with the phrase “yoroshiku,” which somehow roughly translates to “Please be good to me.” This is commonly done by transfer students in schools in Japan.

The Sequence of Introducing Yourself (with Kanji characters)

When introducing one’s self to a stranger in Japan, there is a typical sequence of how the introduction would go. The first step would be to say either “konnichi wa (こんにちは),” which means “hello” in the English language, or “hajimemashite (初めまして),” which means “nice to meet you” in the English language. “Konnichi wa” is a typical Japanese greeting while “hajimemashite” is a common Japanese phrase used when meeting another person for the first time.

The second step would be introducing one’s self. It is during this time that one can say, “Watashi wa (name) desu. (私は (name) です。)” This translates to, “My name is (name).” after which, one can proceed to provide other information about one’s self. To tell someone where one is from, one can say, “(Place) kara kimashita. ((Place) からきました。)” This translates to, “I am from (place).” Also telling the other person one’s nationality is typical. One can say, “(Nationality) desu,” which just means, “I’m (nationality).”

Other information that one can include is age and occupation. To tell someone one’s age, one can say, “Watashi wa (age) sai desu. (私は(age)歳です。)” This translates to, “I am (age) years old.” As for the occupation, one can say, “Watashi wa (position) desu. (私は(position)です。)” If one is a student, the Japanese translation would be, “Watashi wa gakusei desu. (私は学生です。)” Say one’s job is programming, one can just say, “Watashi no shigoto wa puroguramingu desu. (私の仕事プログラミングです。)” This just means, “My job is programming.”

If one is a foreigner, chances are, the local would be surprised that one can speak the Japanese language. The follow up question would be how long one has been studying the Japanese language for and for what reason. One can answer with, “Watashi wa (time)kan nihongo o benkyou shiteimasu. (私は (time)間日本語を勉強しています。)” This would mean, “I have been learning the Japanese language for (time).” Say one has been learning the Japanese language for a year, one can say, “Watashi wa ichi nen kan nihongo o benkyou shiteimasu. (私は 一年間日本語を勉強しています。)”

As for the reason why one is studying the Japanese language, one can reply with, “Watashi wa (reason) da/kara, nihongo o benkyoushiteimasu. (私は(reason) だ/から、日本語をべんきょうしています。)” This just means, “I am learning the Japanese language because (reason).” Say one has been learning the Japanese language because one is interested in Japan, one can just say, “Watashi wa nihon ni kyoumi ga aru kara, nihongo o benyoishiteimasu. (私は日本に興味があるから、日本語をべんきょうしています。)”

Finally, the last part of any introduction being made for the first time is saying the phrase “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. (よろしくお願いします。)” This just means, “Please be good to me,” or, “Please take good care of me.” This phrase is not exactly a popular phrase but a common one to say when ending the introduction for the first time. For a more casual tone, one can simply just say “yoroshiku.”

Etiquette in Japanese Introduction

Even though one is talking about one’s self when saying the words “watashi wa,” there are still some manners that one would adhere to when introducing one’s self. First of all, one should state their family name first before stating their first name. This is unlike the West wherein people give their first names first followed by their family name. With the culture and history of families and clans in Japan, it is no wonder that it is common to introduce one’s family name first.

The second tip would be when one provides information regarding one’s occupation. It is common in the West to state the name of one’s profession and to provide a brief summary of what one does for his or her job. However, in Japan, the common answer would be to only state the words “会社員かいしゃいんです。” This just means that one works for a company or is an office worker. There is no more need to elaborate on the job itself. On the other hand, if one is introducing one’s self in a business setting, it is acceptable to mention one’s company as part of one’s introduction. After all, it would be good for the business to get the name of the company out there.

Another tip would be not to talk about one’s self too much. It is typical for the Japanese people to say a few self-deprecating words as a sign of humility though this is typically followed by a few positive words. This does not have to be applied in every conversation but suffice it to say, the Japanese are humble people and value humility. Hence, it is typical for the locals to keep their strengths low-key. This way, no one would feel like he or she is being challenged by the strengths of another person. It would not bode well should one be talking and boasting about one’s self too much.

A common practice for the Japanese when introducing himself or herself or meeting someone is to bow. While it is typical for people in the West to shake hands when meeting someone, this is not the case in Japan. This is especially true when one is meeting another person of a higher level or position. Either that, or the person one is meeting is older. Handshakes in Japan are only for people of equal status, hence, shaking hands with a person of a higher position is considered to be rude. The safe way to go would be to bow, both at the beginning and at the end of the introduction.

Another thing to take note of when making a bow is that one should not do this while talking. This is just confusing, as well as rude, to the person that one is talking to. The right way to do this is to bow after introducing one’s self and before saying the phrase “yoroshiku onegaishimasu.” One also does not need to bow so low for first introductions. A half bow would suffice for regular people while a full bow to show full respect would be great when meeting people of a high position.

The last tip would be not to hold one’s hands behind one’s back. The Japanese see this action as signalling one’s importance to another person. If one is not of a high position or status, holding one’s hands behind one’s back may make it seem like one is full of one’s self. If not that, it may also seem like one is over-confident or arrogant. The recommended pose would be to put one’s hands in one’s front with the left hand on top of the right hand. Either that, or put one’s hands beside one’s body instead. Also, do not be stiff and just relax one’s muscles. With this, one pose would look confident enough but still humble, which is a principle that the Japanese value.

Watashi wa anata o aishiteimasu: Saying “I Love You” in Japanese

The more common phrase known to translate the words “I love you” in Japanese is “Aishiteru.” However, another translation may be “Watashi wa anata o aishiteimasu.” To dissect this phrase, “watashi” means “I,” “wa” represents the subject of the sentence, “anata” means “you,” “wo” represents the object marking particle, and “aishite imasu” is the Japanese verb for “to love.” However, due to the construction of this sentence, it sounds polite and formal. To better express the love that one is feeling, it is recommended to just say the words “Aishiteru.” For a lighter form of affection, one can just say either, “Sukidesi,” or, “Sukidayo,” both of which translates to “I like you.”

There are, of course, many more words and phrases that one can learn in the Japanese language. When visiting Japan any time of the year like January or October, these phrases would prove to be useful especially in terms of meeting the locals. It would also be useful when traveling from one city to another in Japan as not all people in the country understand or speak the English language. Not only would these phrases put a smile on the faces of the Japanese people, it would also show them one’s effort of learning the language, as well as the culture, of Japan. This would make them feel better and would make them be more hospitable, welcoming, and happy to entertain foreign guests into their homeland.