Good Morning!: How to Use Ohayogozaimasu in Japanese :Greetings are a very important part of Japanese culture. There are many different ways to greet people, and every situation calls for a set phrase that is understood and used universally among all Japanese people.

Good Morning!: How to Use Ohayogozaimasu in Japanese

Greetings are one of the many aspects of the culture that Japanese people take with them no matter where they end up in the world. Today, we are going to focus on the greeting, “Good moring,” or, “おはようございます (ohayō gozaimasu)” in Japanese.     

According to sources, Japan is known for its rising sun because of the influence of China. Japan is located to the east of China, so every morning when the Chinese rose to watch the sun edge over the horizon, they were looking at Japan, hence the nickname “the land of the rising sun.”

Japanese people place great importance on mornings. The sun’s rays spilling in through their windows at dawn invigorates them. It dusts the sleep from their eyes and lets them know that they are alive. They wake up, stretch, and ready themselves to seize another day.

Therefore, a hearty “Ohayō gozaimasu” morning greeting is an indispensable feature of the daily routine of the Japanese.

Let’s take a closer look at the meaning of the phrase ohayō gozaimasu in the next section.

Ohayō gozaimasu: Meaning

Ohayō gozaimasu is comprised of two words: ohayō and gozaimasu.

Ohayō comes from the word “hayō,” which is written in Japanese like this:

早う

The kanji”—or more the more familiar “hayai”—is composed of two radicals, one at the top and one at the bottom. The one at the top is 日 (nichi), which means “day” or “sun.” The one at the bottom is 十 (juu), which means the number “ten.” Put them together, and we have the kanji for hayō, which means “quickly” or “early.”

日 + 十 = 早 (quickly, early)

Putting an o- at the beginning of hayō is a way of denoting respect, which is why we say, “Ohayō

The next word in our phrase is “gozaimasu,” which means “to be” or “to exist.” It is a more polite version of the word desu and is used sparingly for only the most formal situations. In this case it is reserved for the set phrase for greeting people in the morning.

Therefore, Ohayō gozaimasu translates literally to, “It’s early.”  

Ohayō gozaimasu is usually written in hiragana like this:

おはようございます

However, you may also come across it written using the kanji we learned above:

お早うございます

And just for your own information, it is also possible (albeit less likely) to find it written like this!:

お早う御座います 

Now that we understand the etymology a bit better, let’s take a look at how to use Ohayō gozaimasu when greeting people.

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Ohayō gozaimasu: A Greeting

Ohayō gozaimasu is used most commonly as a morning greeting before 10:00am. This takes some getting used to, considering we’re not constantly looking down at our watch to see whether Ohayō gozaimasu time has already passed. It’s actually considered a humorous mistake if you say Ohayō gozaimasu around, say, lunch time.

Ohayō gozaimasu?” the person you’re greeting may respond. “But it’s lunch time! Haha!”

However, there is an exception to the before 10:00am rule, and this involves school and work situations.

If you’re a student and you arrive at school in the morning along with everyone else, of course you greet everyone with Ohayō gozaimasu. However, if you’re late to school for some reason and arrive around lunch time, or even past lunch time, you can still greet everyone with Ohayō gozaimasu since it’s the first time you’re greeting them that day.

Use Ohayougozaimasu in lunch time

The same goes for working at an office. If you arrive later than the normal start of the workday for some reason or other, you can still greet everyone with Ohayō gozaimasu. The same goes if you work the late shift. It’s not unheard of for someone to show up for their regularly scheduled work at midnight and greet everyone with an “Ohayō gozaimasu!”   

As far as formality goes, if you’re a student and greeting friends, people the same age as you, or people younger than you, it’s common to just clip the “gozaimasu” part and leave it as “Ohayō.” This is the more casual way of saying it. The same goes for more casual work environments (e.g. part-time jobs) where you have a close relationship with your fellow co-workers of the same rank. 

However, if you work at an office or in a more formal environment, it’s best to greet everyone with an Ohayō gozaimasu even if they’re younger or have a lower position than you. When greeting co-workers with higher authority or those more senior than you, it is customary to stop and bow before them as you are saying Ohayō gozaimasu. Of course, all work environments have their own peculiar culture, so it’s best to err on the side of formality in the beginning until you get a good feel for how everyone else greets each other and how you should as well.

Mornings are the most important time of the day. If we greet everyone with an Ohayō gozaimasu we are taking the right step to brightening everyone’s day and helping the people around you get off on the right foot. Have you said your good mornings yet today? 

Ohayō gozaimasu!

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