A Good Japanese Evening through Konbanwa

Greeting as a form of respect in the Japanese language

Respect is one of the most important facets of Japan’s culture. It is clearly embedded in all their traditions and beliefs. People value the importance of rank and seniority. The elders get the most respect in their society. Japanese people are taught not only to respect other people of higher rank, they are also taught to respect other people who are the same as them.

Greetings are important, of all culture and societies, because it is a way for people to create connections with one another. It is the beginning of every conversation. For the Japanese, a greeting is so much more than a way to start conversations. For them, it is a form of acknowledging another person and his or her status. A person of a lower rank, say a junior in a firm, is always to first to greet the seniors.

A lot of foreigners are surprised that people working in the service industry do not get tired of every individual that is entering their café or their shop. This is because of the fact that greetings are shown as a form of respect. Business owners want their clients to feel welcome inside their stores because a friendly atmosphere can keep them coming back.

It is also very important for people to show appreciation and acknowledgment. For instance, before every meal it is common for them to say “Itadakimasu” or “Let’s eat”. After eating, it is common for them to say “Gochisosama Deshita” which means “Thank you for the great meal”. Although these seem like simple mannerism, for the Japanese it has a deeper meaning. It shows appreciation and thankfulness for the gods for the gifts that they are receiving and for the individual that made an effort to prepare the food for them.

Konbanwa in Japanese

What Konbanwa means

The word konbanwa literally translates to “good evening”. It is common custom for the Japanese to use this once darkness starts to set in. What is interesting is that it is not time-related, it is darkness related. The time 5 o’clock during the wintertime is surely darker than during the same time at summer. At 5 o’clock wintertime, people often say konbanwa or good evening. However, at 5 o’clock summertime, people still say konnichiwa or good afternoon. This is because of the fact that the sun is still bright at this time during the summer season.

Konbanwa is also a formal greeting, this is why it is more appropriate to use it with strangers, neighbors, employers, bosses, seniors, and the like. It is not too common to hear it among friends. For foreigners who are still learning the language, this particular expression can be used when entering restaurants, cafes, and pubs.

Some people do not prefer to be greeted with either konbanwa or konnichiwa. This is because of the fact that it sounds distant and too formal. Some people would prefer hearing ohayo because this is a warmer and friendlier greeting. Maybe saying ohayou gozaimasu is more appropriate because it can be used in both formal and casual scenarios. It is an expression that is both respectful and friendly at the same time.

Konbanwa in Kanji and Konbanwa in Hiragana

There is only one way to write down the word konbanwa in Hiragana. Hiragana is the way to write a Japanese word by its syllables. This word is written as (こんばんは) in Hiragana. This is the formal way of writing it and people usually use this in serious situations. Through the help of technology, there are now different ways of greeting another person a good evening. There are emoticons and shortened phrases which are popular with younger generations of Japanese.

Konbanwa proper spelling and Konbanwa Pronounce

The good thing about the word konbanwa is the fact that it is not difficult to spell as it is spelled how it is pronounced (in English). For its spelling using Japanese characters, it is spelled as (こんばんは). Also, when pronouncing this properly, it is good to make sure that the last “a” sound is longer. So the proper pronunciation of konbanwa is kon-ban-waah.

Different ways of saying good night or good bye

There are different ways of saying ‘goodbye’ in Japanese and it all depends on who is the receiving end of the greeting. There are formal means, traditional ways, and casual customs to greet another person. Here are a few expressions that the Japanese use when saying ‘Good Bye’ in Japanese:


What is interesting about the Japanese culture is that when they say good night or say good bye, there is always a promise of seeing one another at another time. Saying sayounara is the opposite. The word Sayounara literally means goodbye. It is not commonly used in Japan and people are not that comfortable either hearing it or saying it. This is due to the fact that there is so much finality in saying goodbye.

For foreigners that are learning the language for the first time, it might be a good idea to avoid saying this. This is due to the fact that the receiving end might be confused or upset upon hearing it. It is important to remember that ending a conversation is just as critical as starting it. Respect must be given at all times.


A household expression that people normally use with family members, ittekimasu is the same as saying “I’m leaving home!”. It is letting the people know inside the house or office that a person is about to take his leave for another place. It is also a reminder to people that if there is anything that has been forgotten to say – a favor, a reminder, etc, it is a good time to say it.

Some foreigners might find this a little odd to shout an expression directed to no one in particular. The expression does simply mean “I am leaving” however for the Japanese it has more heart and soul to it. In a deeper sense, saying ittekimasu is the same as saying “I am leaving home but will go back safely”. This is how the Japanese interpret this expression.

Osaki ni Shitsurei Shimasu

This expression means “Excuse me for leaving first” is an alternative to saying ittekumasu. However, the difference is that it is used in more formal situations like work or a meeting. It is common knowledge for a lot of people that the Japanese work longer hours than expected as a form of showing respect to their boss. This is why it is a bit embarrassing to leave ahead of other people.

This is a way to politely say that they are going ahead and excuse themselves for leaving earlier than the rest. When speaking with a colleague on a friendly level, it could be shortened to osakani.

Jaa ne or Mata ne

For a less formal way to end a conversation, people can casually say jaa ne which means see you. Some people also use mata ne. This expression can be used around friends.

Mata ashita

This is similar to the expression mata ne but there is an indication of the time when a person expects to see the other again. Mata ashita literally means “See you tomorrow’. Again, this is normally used among friends or with anyone a person has a casual relationship with.

Ki wo tsukete

This is a normal response to someone saying goodbye. The phrase ki wo tsukete literally means “take care”. When receiving a friendly goodbye like mata ashita, or jaa ne, saying ki wo tsukete is a respectful response.

Genki de

This expression is somewhat similar to the one earlier discussed. The only difference is that it means “all the best”. A lot of people usually use this when saying good bye to someone that they will see for a long period of time.

Saraba da

This is an archaic way of saying good bye. The phrase saraba da has no direct translation. However, it is along the lines of saying adios. It is an expression from the feudal age of Japan and is rarely used in modern conversations. Some people use it as a way of joking around with friends. However, it is ill-advised to use it among acquaintances, family members, and especially bosses.

Konbanwa minna

Saying Good night is also a good way of ending a conversation and announcing that a person is about to take leave. The phrase konbanwa minna literally translates to “Good evening everyone”. It is more common to hear this kind of expression during gatherings, meetings, speeches, and the like. It is a formal way of greeting another person.

Oyasumi Nasai

Another way of saying good evening or good bye can be by saying oyasumi nasai. This expression literally means “good night”. Although it is more common to hear mata ashita, mata ne, and other expressions of good bye rather than oyasumi nasai. However, there are still some people who use this expression.

Konbanwa vs. Konnichiwa

The word konnichiwa has “good day” as its translation. This means that it could be used any time of the day as long as the sun is still out. It could be used to mean “good morning” or “good afternoon”. It is a good way to start a conversation with someone. It is important to remember that having conversations with people is a good way to build harmonious relationships.

What is most confusing about konbanwa is the fact that a lot of people use it for saying good bye, or ending a conversation. However, it can also be used as a greeting of hello. For instance, when meeting a friend or an acquaintance at night it is a good thing to greet them konbanwa. Some people use konbanwa genki desu ka. This phrase translates to “Good Evening, how are you?” This expression can be used in both formal and casual situations. The question “how are you” is an indication that the other person wishes to have a conversation.

It is more common to hear both konbanwa and konnichiwa as a means of saying hello. For less formal situations, people use ohayou gozaimasu or simply ohayo. This expression literally translates to “hello”. The three of these are the first sets of expressions that any first-time learner of the language learns. Keeping them in mind might get handy when going on a vacation to Japan. It is considered a nice gesture for foreigners to learn standard customs and practices when greeting the locals. It is a way for them to see the effort in trying to blend in with the culture.  

Greetings for the Japanese

Formal way of greeting vs. Informal way of greeting

When greeting another person in Japan, it is important to learn to learn to place a proper greeting. People of superiority must be greeted formally especially at the workplace or introduction meetings. The elderly must also always be greeted formally. For first time learners of the language, this information might be helpful and important.

For friends, colleagues, or any person with a close relationship, casual greetings can be used but only sparingly. It is important to know who to joke around with because respect is such an important subject in the culture and traditions of the Japanese.

Furthermore, it is important to learn proper gestures that come with greetings. It is important to avoid eye contact when greeting a person formally. There are different degrees of bows that would be appropriate to the degree of relationship with another person. A deep bow is formal and a short nod is more casual. It is also important to learn when a hand shake is appropriate. This is especially true since hand shakes are not really used in the culture of the Japanese.

On the other hand, there are people who would prefer to be greeted in a friendlier manner. This is because formal greetings usually sound distant and not heartfelt. There is no cause for worry because there are ways to greet another person in a friendlier way but still retaining the politeness.