11 Ways to Say Thank You in Japanese: Say More Than Arigatou

Showing gratitude is possibly one of the most universal ways of acknowledging an act of kindness or general appreciation towards someone else, so we are going to teach you how to say thank you in Japanese in the article. In English, saying “Thank you”, is the most universal way of expressing gratitude. Japanese on the other hand takes it to an even greater extent due to its many variations which can be confusing; and showing gratitude is one of the most important things in Japanese culture, which makes learning how to say thank you in Japanese even more important.

Saying “Thank you” in Japanese isn’t as simple as one might think. There are a lot of gray areas because the context determines how a particular phrase is used. For example, kansha (感謝) also means thank you or gratitude in Japanese and is mostly used in formal settings such as an email to express deep appreciation towards something. On the other hand, “Arigato” (有り難う) in itself is the informal form of saying thank you but its alternative “Arigato gozaimasu” (ありがと ございます) is the very formal form of the saying thank you and is mostly applicable to elders.

From the above example, we learn that the variations in which the word “Thank you” is used in Japanese depend on the formal/informal context and whom we’re addressing. As we observe the Japanese tradition, the act of bowing one’s head can be a sign of respect, apology, recognition, or humbling; these acts exemplify the significance of customs in Japanese culture which translate to their mannerism or etiquettes through dialogue.


11 Ways to say “Thank you”

Source: freepik

Expanding on the various forms of saying thank you in Japanese, let’s unpack both the informal forms and formal forms of giving thanks. To make learning easier, each phrase is accompanied by an audio recording to assist with the pronunciation of each word.

Five informal ways to say “Thank you”

Let’s start with the five informal forms of “Thank you” along with audio recording and short examples for each new vocabulary. It is important to pay attention to the syllables in each word to pronounce each vocabulary as correctly as possible (especially if you plan on ticking Japan off your bucket list).

1. Arigatou (ありがとう)

As discussed above, arigato is the casual way of saying thank you whether in the presence of friends, close family, thanking a stranger, etc. The use of the “Arigato” in this form keeps the conversation laid back.

Arigato is the most generic, most popularly taught phrase in Japanese textbooks. If you pay attention to the pronunciation in the audio note, you will notice that the Japanese pronunciation drags the end into an “oo” sound, and because of this, the Romanized word “Arigato” is often written as “Arigatou” to illustrate the “ou” sound at the end. Both forms however are acceptable.

2. Domo (どうも)

Domo or “Domou” is a very informal form of Arigatou; it is short and sweet and can be used in passing to say thank you. Generally, you can use either Arigatou or Domo in the informal context but “Domo” simply means “very”.

The interesting fact about this is that the combination of “Domo” and “Arigato” gives a whole new meaning to this word. Domo Arigatou (どうもありがとう) means “Thank you very much”. This is a great illustration of how “Domo” can be used to give a whole new meaning to a phrase.

3. Sankyu (サンキュ)

If you’re looking for a word that is the direct English translation, here it is Sankyu (サンキュ) which literally means thank you, informally. This word is not an original Japanese word and is in fact borrowed—it is written in Katakana and not Higarana

4. Azasu (あざす)

Now we touch base on some slang words—words that are used in informal settings, mostly by the younger generation, and are generally exclusively understood by people of the same group such as teenagers. Azasu is the slang for “Thank ya” not thank you and is the slang version of the formal phrase “Arigatou gozaimasu” (ありがとうごeざいます). An important thing to remember Azasu should never be used among elders, teachers, or any person of high power

5. Sumanai (すまない)

Another cool slang word taken from a formal phrase is Sumanai (すまない) which is derived from sumimasen (すみません). Sumanai is mostly used by boys towards girls not because it is a gendered phrase but because of the harsh tone of the word. Generally, it is used among peers.


Six formal ways to say “Thank you”

Source: freepik

The formal ways of saying “Thank you” aren’t normally used in everyday life. Some of these phrases are best applied in office or formal settings when addressing elders, teachers, or anyone of greater authority as a sign of respect. Here are some formal ways to say “Thank you”

1. Sumimasen (すみません)

The direct English definition of Sumimasen (すみません) is “I’m sorry” or “I’m sorry to have troubled you”. It is usually used as a consequence of someone doing something for you. You can learn a lot of different ways how to say sorry in Japanese. One of the core teachings of Japanese culture is the importance of acknowledging someone’s effort or inconvenience on someone else’s behalf. Talking about Japanese culture, one thing you might want to know is that there are cultural tips when you want to say I love you in Japanese.

2. Osoreirimasu (恐れ入ります)

I present to you the holy grail of all formal Japanese phrases: Osoreirimasu (恐れ入ります). It is what I call a “formally formal” phrase i.e., very formal, and is used when expressing deep sorrow or remorse. It would be best to use the words when something impactful has happened and a person wishes to express apologies for the trouble they’ve caused you.

3.  Arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうごeざいます)

When thanking a stranger, elder, or anyone in a high position, you would most likely use “Arigatou gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます). It is a popular and polite way of saying thank you.

4. Domo arigatou gozaimasu (どうもありがとうございます)

As you recall, “Domo” can have different meanings for a phrase depending on what follows after it. Domo means “very” and in this phrase, “Domo arigatou gozaimasu” (どうもありがとうございます) means thank you very much.

“Domo” adds another level of politeness which makes the phrase formal. Just like every other formal word, context is important so if you’re addressing elders remember to respond appropriately.

5. Haisha Moushiagemasu (拝謝申し上げます)

This “Thank you” phrase is best used to show respect towards another person. It can be a parent or older figure.

6. Osore Irimasu (おそれいります)

Many of these formal phrases discusses can be applied to normal settings. It could also be that Osore Irimasu (おそれいります) is a super formal “Thank you” like Osoreirimasu (恐れ入ります). I would recommend using this phrase in a business setting or special occasion.

Here is the compilation of different anime characters saying thank you in Japanese!

Arigatou For Reading!

I would like to leave you with two tips if you’re looking to learn Japanese. The first is to develop the habit of learning the contexts of how phrases are used as a whole and from it drawing inferences on what they translate to in your native tongue. As we’ve learned in this article, for example, there are many ways to say “Thank you” but each has its own set of rules for how they are used—so keep this in mind. When you learn some phrases, don’t forget to learn how to say good morning in Japanese and hello in Japanese. Secondly, a great rule of thumb when deciding whether a phrase is formal or not is by looking at the length of the expression. The Longer forms of expression are the most formal. Learning how to write Japanese characters is the first step of learning Japanese!

Let me leave you with this fun fact; Japanese has past and present forms of saying “Thank you”. Crazy, I know! So if you’re thanking someone for something that has happened in the past formally, you’d say “Arigatou gozaimashita” (ありがとう ございました). The present tense formal is “Arigatou gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます).

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