How to use the Japanese useful phrase: Otsukaresama お疲れ様(おつかれさま) : If you have just got yourself a Job in Japan, it is absolutely essential you learn the phrase “Otsukaresama”. This phrase is really hard to translate into English directly so today we will try to decipher this wonderful word and teach you how to use it in the business world of Japan.

The Meaning of Otsukaresama お疲れ様(おつかれさま)

The Japanese phrase “Otsukaresama” is a business phrase used often in the workplace. You may recognise one of the more common Japanese with this word “Tsukareru” which means “to become tired” or “to get tired”. This makes sense, right? After a long day at work you are feeling tired so maybe that has something to do with it? Wrong!

The true meaning of “Otsukaresama” is to show your gratitude towards your colleagues. Let’s say Keiko san is about to leave the office after a long hard day of work together. This is the perfect time to show your appreciation for her hard work today.

In English we would more than likely say, great work or good job today, but this doesn’t have the same feel as “Otsukaresama”. Otsukaresama has a deeper feeling of respect towards your colleague in comparison to an off the cuff compliment at the end of the day.

When should I use Otsukaresama?

So there are actually situations where Otsukaresama could be used, BOTH inside and out of the workplace. You will hear it so many times, day to day, in the workplace it’s unbelievable. Now we are going to look at how and when to use Otsukaresama so you can start blending in seamlessly to your new workplace culture.

Otsukaresama –Usage 1: After work

The first situation, and the most straightforward to understand, is at the end of the working day. When the working day is come you can say “Otsukaresama Deshita” to everyone who was working with you that day as a sign of gratitude for their efforts. It is also great for team bonding and boosts morale within the team. It’s very common In Japan to go out for a drink afterwork too as a reward for a solid effort and as a great way to unwind.

Otsukaresama – Usage 2: In the workplace 

From bumping into a colleague at the water cooler, to crossing paths in the IT room, it’s never a bad time to throw out an Otsukaresama. People may feel that it is too much sometimes but it’s a really great way to make people feel valued and motivated.

It is very common after the close of a meeting or presentation to use Otsukaresama to thank everyone for taking part.

If a colleague has completed a project or hit a goal, then Otsukaresama can be used! It’s all about feeling valued along with a sense of recognition. Wouldn’t you like to hear this from all of your colleagues at work? The world would be a much nicer place to live in, that’s for sure.

Otsukaresama – Usage 3: Arriving at work.

Now this seems like a strange place to use Otsukaresama as you’ve just arrived at work and haven’t really done anything yet? Why would you be thanked for your work for just arriving? Sounds pretty nice though.

Well actually it’s very common place to use Otsukaresama at the beginning of the day to greet your colleagues. In this scenario it’s more commonly associated as a “Hi” and is seen as the perfect conversation starter for the Japanese workday.

Otsukaresama – Usage 4: Outside of work

Now you can also use Otsukaresama when you meet up with your friends, family or other people you know. If you know that they are also fellow workers just like you and would like to compliment and recognize their efforts of the day you can use Otsukaresama in that situation. However, using Otsukaresama with your work colleagues has a much deeper meaning than with people who you know work like you but not within the same organisation.

So that was a nice summary of all the different situations to use Otsukaresama, let’s now look finally at Desu and Deshita. 


OtsukaresamaDesu Vs OtsukaresamaDeshita

“Otsukaresama Desu” and “Otukaresama Deshita” are both commonly used, but what is the difference?

Otuskuaresama Deshita can mean that the work is over and done with, however the differences are really tricky and are used in many different contexts. Our best advice is to stick with Otsukaresama Desu as a safe option. This will ensure you are always using the phrase correctly and keep you in high regard with your co workers and colleagues.

So guys we hope you have enjoyed this article on the use of the phrase, “Otsukaresama” in the workplace and beyond. Go ahead and apply it in your workplace and spread the recognition and motivation to as many people as you can. 

Otsukaresama お疲れ様(おつかれさま)!

Learn Japanese with BondLingo


Study in Japan?


Essential Japanese slang スラング that everyone should know!
Use and Meaning of Ganbaru(がんばる)