Japanese Common Phrases: Hajimemashite VS Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu : When you meet people for the first time in Japan, what do you say? In English, we say, “Nice to meet you,” but in Japanese, there are a few options. In today’s lesson, we’re going to focus on the phrases “Hajimemashite” and “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.” By the end of this lesson, you will know what these two phrases mean and in what situation to use them.

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Hajimemashite

Before we get into the meaning of “Hajimemashite,” let’s take a look at the way it’s written in Japanese to get a better understanding of where it comes from.

初めまして

This word includes the kanji 初 (sho) followed by hiragana characters. 初 is made up of two radicals 礻  (shi) and 刀 (). 礻 on its own means “showing,” and 刀 means “sword; blade.” (刀 is also pronounced “katana” when referring to the martial arts weapon.) Put 礻 and 刀 together, and you get 初, which means “first time; beginning.”

礻 + 刀 = 初

Hajimemashite” is used in Japanese the same way “Nice to meet you” is used in English. The only difference is that “Hajimemashite” is used in casual situations. For example, if you’re in Japan and you go to a party to make new friends, you would introduce yourself and say, “Hajimemashite.” If you’re a student or a member of a club, you can also greet new people in this way.

Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu

In Japan, there is always a clear understanding whether you’re in a formal situation or a casual one. While “Hajimemashite” is reserved for casual situations, “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is of the formal variety. Before we get into the meaning of the phrase, let’s take a look at how it’s written in Japanese.

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宜しくお願いします

The first character is 宜 (gi), which is made up of the two radicals 宀 (ben) and 且(sho). 宀 means “shaped crown,” and 且 means “moreover; also; furthermore.” Put them together, and you get 宜, which means “best regards; good.”

宀 + 且 =  宜    

The fifth character in “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is the kanji 願 (gan). This kanji is comprised of four radicals: 厂 (kan), 白 (haku), 小 (shou), and 頁 (ketsu). 厂 means “trailing cliff,” 白 means “white,” 小 means “little; small,” and 頁 means “page; leaf.” Put them together and you get 願, which means “petition; request; vow; wish; hope.”

厂 + 白 + 小 + 頁 =  願

The tricky thing about “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is that there is no clear-cut English translation for it. It can be used to mean “Nice to meet you,” or “Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” but the Japanese use it more as a blanket term for a variety of situations. Sometimes there is no English translation because in English we just wouldn’t say anything in that situation. When looking up “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” in the dictionary, you’re likely to get a definition like this: 

please remember me; please help me; please treat me well; I look forward to working with you

please do; please take care of

Really, “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is a way to express to people that you wish to have a long-lasting good relationship with them. Here are a few different situations where it is common to use the phrase.

Your first day at school

If you’ve just moved to Japan and it’s your first day in the classroom, the teacher will probably have you stand up and introduce yourself, or they will do it for you. After you’re finished, it is customary to bow and say, “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” which implies something along the lines of, “Please welcome me into your school with open arms, be nice to me, and I’ll do the same for you in return. Also, be my friend!”

Your first day at work

If you’re beginning a new job, the boss will have you give a self-introductory speech on your first day in front of everyone. At the end of this speech, you would bow and say, “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” which would communicate something like, “Please welcome me like a member of the family into this company, and let’s do some great work together and make some money!”

Basically any time you’re speaking in front of a group of people

Remember, the Japanese always have a clear-cut line between formal situations and casual ones. Any time you’re speaking to a group of people it’s considered formal. Japanese people will even say “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” before they sing a song at karaoke!   

When you want someone to do a favor for you

Employees at Japanese companies usually share work, so if someone is helping you out with something, or if you want them to do something for you, you say “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” at the end of your request. This translates to something like, “I trust that you will help me with this and complete the task to the best of your ability. Thank you!”

In a way, because “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is so vague and applies to so many different situations, I think that makes it easier! When in doubt, just throw in a “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” and you can’t go wrong! 

Now that you’ve got two new phrases “Hajimemashite” and “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” in your arsenal, it’s time to get out there and practice them! Always remember the importance of practice, practice, practice!

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