Keigo at Work: Useful Japanese Phrases to Help You out at the Office : When it comes to working in Japan, nothing is more important than getting along well with your bosses and co-workers. One of the surest ways of doing so is mastering key phrases to use around the workplace. Today, we’re going to learn some useful phrases for Japanese work environments.    

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Keigo at Work: Useful Japanese Phrases to Help You out at the Office

Greeting People around the Office (Aisatsu):

Ohayō gozaimasu!

By now, you’re probably familiar with the standard phrase “Ohayō gozaimasu,” which means “Good morning.” This is the most important greeting of the entire day, so make it count! Once you arrive at the office, greet everyone you see with a bright and cheerful “Ohayō gozaimasu” to get you and everyone else started off on the right foot.

Otsukare-sama desu!

As the day progresses, you may get up and leave your desk every once in a while. At this time, if you see any of your co-workers or bosses, greet them with an “Ostukara-sama desu!” This is a polite phrase that encourages everyone to keep up the good work as the day goes on.


Likewise, if you see someone you don’t know personally, such as a customer or guest in the building, greet them with a simple hello: “Konnichiwa!” This will make the person happy that you acknowledged their presence and give them a positive first impression of you and your company.

Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu!

When you’re leaving to go home for the day, you may find that other people are still working with their heads down at their desks. “Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu” literally means, “Sorry to leave before you do,” but it functions more as a polite acknowledgement that your co-workers are working so diligently.

Asking Someone to Help You (O-negai no Hanashi):      

Sometimes, during the workday we need to ask someone a question or to help us out with something. In these cases, the phrases below will be very useful.  


Before you approach someone out of the blue, it’s important to get their attention by saying, “Sumimasen,” which means, “Excuse me.”

O-jikan o sukoshi itadaite mo yoroshii desu ka?

This is a polite way of approaching someone at their desk or if they’re up and about. The English translation is, “Excuse me, could I speak with you for a minute?”

Isogashii tokoro dōmo sumimasen ga, ima, o-jikan yoroshii desu ka? 

If someone looks busy, this phrase acknowledges that you understand that you’re interrupting their train of thought but you need to speak with them. The English equivalent of this phrase is, “Sorry to disturb you, but could I speak with you for a minute?”

O-hanashi-chuu shitsurei shimasu ga…

Sometimes you’re in a hurry and have something urgent to discuss with someone. If the person is already talking to someone else, and you need to interrupt their conversation, you can say, “O-hanashi-chuu shitsurei shimasu ga…,” which means, “Sorry to interrupt (your conversation), but…”

O-negai ga arimasu kedo…

“Favor” in Japanese is “o-negai.” If you have a favor to ask someone, start out by saying the above phrase, which means, “I have a favor to ask…”

Taking the Day off / Being Late:

Unfortunately, there may come a time where you need to call into work because you’re sick or will be late.

Taichō ga warukute, kyō wa oyasumi sasete itadakemasu ka?

If you’re sick and need to take the day off, call the office and use the above phrase, which means, “I don’t feel well. Could I please take the day off?” 

If you want to explain how long you’ve been feeling under the weather, you can say, for example, “Kinō no yoru kara taichō ga warukute…,” which means, “I haven’t been feeling well since last night, so…” 

If you want to explain your condition in more detail, you can say, for instance, “Infuruenza ni kakatta sou desukara…,” which means, “I think I’ve caught the flu, so…”

Kyō shigoto ni okurete tsuki-sou ni narimashita.

There are countless situations in which you would be late for work. You may oversleep or feel ill. The trains might be running late that day, or your child may fall and hurt themselves. Whatever the reason, you can use the phrase above, which means, “It looks like I’ll be arriving to work late today.”

If you want to say how long you’ll be late or approximately what time you’ll arrive, you can use these examples:

Densha ga okurete imashite, ichi-jikan hodo chikoku sou desu.

(The train was late, so I’ll be about an hour late.)

Watashi no kodomo o byōin ni tsurete ikanakereba narimasen kara, juu-ji hodo tsuki-sou desu.

(I have to take my child to the hospital, so I will arrive at about ten o’clock.)

Getting along with our bosses and co-workers is essential for a healthy work life, and it all starts with phrases like the above to start out with. Next time you’re at work, you can feel at ease knowing that you’ve got these helpful phrases under your belt.

Now, get out there and practice, practice, practice!    

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