How to Write Emails in Japanese : Emails can be scary to write, no matter what language you’re using. Sometimes it can be hard to know how you come across over text, and more formal situations don’t allow for the use of emojis to really illustrate your point.
How to Write Emails in Japanese
So, what happens when you need to write an email in Japanese? Well, you can just read about it in this article. Writing emails in Japanese can be a bit different from what we’re used to in English.
First of all, I’m going to be talking about two very different emailing situations. In Japan, texting and emailing are kind of the same thing. I’ll talk about emailing in a more formal business setting, then how to text your friends in a normal way.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have to do this very much. When I was in Japan, I never really had a situation where I needed to write a formal email. However, I think it’s still a pretty good skill to have, so let’s go over it.
The first important part is your subject line. This is pretty true in English too, at least in business settings. If I scrolled through my work email right now, I would know exactly what each email is about because it’s important to use concise, informative subject lines so the recipient doesn’t just ignore the email. Do that in Japanese too, even if you feel like the subject line is kinda long.
Next, you’ll need to address the recipient. You don’t need a greeting, just use their last name and the right honorific (i.e. Itou-sama, Tanaka-san, Honda-sensei). I have seen some people add へ after the name, but that’s more of a handwritten letter thing, and you don’t need to do that.
The first line in your email after that should be a self introduction. I do this in English too. It’s pretty common to see an email start with “This is so-and-so from this company,” or “This is so-and-so from your Japanese Literature class.” This is really important to do in a Japanese email.
After you’ve introduced yourself, write the rest of your email. Keep it clear and very formal. You don’t want your email to be ignored for being wordy or rude.
You can end the email with a nice wrap up phrase. One that works really well is “Yoroshiku onegai shimasu” (よろしくお願いします). You can even substitute “shimasu” with “itashimasu” (いたします) to give it even more of a formal spin.
When you sign your email, you don’t need to bother with “regards” or “best wishes” or anything like that. Just use your name. And remember, when referring to yourself, never use honorifics such as “san” or “sama” (heaven forbid). When in doubt, opt to be more formal in an email.
Texting in Japanese is called “meeru” (メール), and it can be done using an email address. Of course, there’s messaging apps like Line that a lot of people use, but texting etiquette is pretty much the same across the board when it comes to informal conversation.
When you’re texting your friends in Japanese, don’t be afraid to be expressive. Everyone in Japan uses emojis and emoticons all the time (emoticons are the faces made with punctuation ^_^). I’ve even had a friend who thought I was mad at her when I didn’t include an emoticon in a text I sent her. People throw lots of punctuation in to really drive points home.
With emojis, if you dig through the emojis on your phone, you’ll find a lot that are pretty exclusively Japanese. I’m not just talking about pictures of sushi, but things like the emoji of the letters “NG” which stands for “no good,” and is used like “dame” (だめ) or “iya” (いや) in text.
There’s also a few variations with proper Japanese when it comes to texting, much like English. You might see words cut off or extended using small versions of kana (such as っ to cut off a word or ぇ to extend an “e” sound). If you’re wondering how to type small kana, you can usually do it by putting an “x” in front of the sound if you’re typing using romaji.
Also, if you have Japanese friends, they’re probably on Line. This isn’t an ad or anything, everyone just uses Line. When I asked people about becoming friends of Facebook or emailing, they would literally always ask me if I had a Line instead. I do now. I learned.
Hopefully, this helps you with your formal and informal emailing situations. Remember, emails are easy if you just take them one step at a time. And if you’re emailing someone who is higher on the social ladder than you, please remember to be formal.