There are many ways to say thank you in Japanese. This is due to the complexity of the concept of politeness in Japan. For this reason, you can’t use the same expression of gratitude in all contexts and with everyone.
In this article, we will see about twenty ways to express gratitude, to respond to thank you or to say “no thanks” in Japanese.
The different ways to say thank you in Japanese
At first, we will see the most classic ways of saying thank you in Japanese. They are quite simple to learn because they combine only three words.
As a bonus, I will teach you how to say thank you in Kansai-ben, the dialect spoken in the Kyoto and Osaka region.
Arigato, a simple thank you
Arigato (often transcribed in “Arigatou”) is the easiest way to say thank you in Japanese. I advise you to use this term only with people you already know. Avoid saying it to people who have a higher professional or social status than yours.
Domo, a friendly thanks
Domo (sometimes transcribed in “Doumo”) is the shortest way to say thank you in Japanese. It is even less formal than “Arigato”. For this reason, you should only use it with close friends.
Domo arigato: a thank you very much
Thank you very much.
Domo arigato (sometimes transcribed in “Doumo arigatou”) is a way of saying “Thank you very much” in Japanese. The combination of Domo with Arigato has the effect of reinforcing the power of your thanks.
Arigato gozaimasu, a formal thank you
Arigato gozaimasu (sometimes transcribed in “Arigatou gozaimasu”) is a more polite way of saying “Arigato”. This is the most common form of politeness when you talk to someone who has a higher professional or social status than yours.
Domo arigato gozaimasu, a formal thank you very much
Domo arigato gozaimasu.
Thank you very much.
Yes! The combination of all the words we have learned before creates the term Domo arigato gozaimasu (sometimes transcribed in “Doumo arigatou gozaimasu”). This expression is the formal version of Domo arigato.
Ookini, thank you in Osaka
“Ookini” is an expression only used in the Kansai area, especially in Osaka. Japan also has many dialects. The best known of these is the Kansai-ben.
In the past, Ookini was an adverb that was used with Arigato. Thus, “Ookini arigatou” had the same meaning as “Domo arigatou”. Over time, “Ookini arigatou” has been shortened to “Ookini”.
Ookini does not just want to say thanks, but can also be used to say please in Japanese. In addition, this word can also be used with other common expressions:
- Ookini gochisosan, an equivalent of “Gochisousama deshita”.
- Ookini sumahen, which allows to deeply apologize.
Arigato gozaimashita, thank you to the past
Thank you for what you’ve done.
Gozaimasu is a verb. The verbs are conjugated in the past in Japanese. But Gozaimasu becomes Gozaimashita in the past. So it is better to use “Arigato gozaimashita” instead of “Arigato gozaimasu” when you thank someone who has just done an action.
For example, you are at the checkout of a store. The cashier takes your money and gives you your bags. There, you can tell him “Arigato gozaimashita” for all the actions that the cashier has performed before handing you the bags.
This rule also applies to “Domo arigato gozaimasu”. You can say “Domo arigato gozaimashita” when you want to thank someone for what he did.
How to say “Thank you for…” in Japanese
We have just seen the most common ways to express gratitude to someone in Japanese. Now is the time to do some grammar. In this part, we will quickly see how you can thank someone for something specific.
Noun + ありがとう
Thank you for your message.
All you have to do is add the name of the thing for which you want to thank your interlocutor in front of Arigato.
Verbe + ～くれてありがとう
Tetsudatte kurete arigato (gozaimasu).
Thank you for helping me.
This way of thanking someone is less accessible, but it allows to use verbs. In this case, you must conjugate the verb to the て form, then add kurete arigato gozaimasu. As in the previous examples, Gozaimasu can be omitted if you talk to a friend.
Thank you in Japanese slang
Sankyu, the Engrish way
Sankyu is the phonetic transcription of “Thank you” in Japanese. This expression is used by younger people.
This transformation comes from the Japanese alphabet used to transcribe foreign words. The name of this writing system is Katakana. It is a syllabary that cannot transcribe all the sounds of the English language. That’s why the Japanese pronounce it Sankyu.
Say thanks on Internet
There are many ways to say thank you in Japanese on forums or communication apps, like LINE. Here is a selection of the most common forms you can find on the Japanese web:
As you can see, these are mostly shortened versions of Arigatou.
How to say thank you at work in Japan
The world of work has its own language in Japan. Many words and phrases are used only in this very specific context. The same goes for the thanks.
Otsukaresama, thank you for your work
Thank you for your work.
Otsukaresama is an unavoidable expression in Japan’s work culture. The Japanese use it to thank their colleagues for their efforts.
Osore irimasu, thanking customers
Thank you dear customer.
Osore irimasu is rarely used in everyday Japanese. However, it is an expression that you can say at work. It is often used when individuals want to thank their customers.
This expression is often considered a very polite version of “Sumimasen”. However, it does not allow to apologize. Osore irimasu can only be used to highlight your incompetence and at the same time thank someone who has taught you something.
Expressions to use in specific circumstances
Gochisousama deshita, thank you for the meal
Thank you for this meal.
Gochisousama deshita (pronounced “Gochisosama deshita”) allows you to thank someone who has prepared a meal for you. This expression can be used in restaurants. You will have to pronounce it after eating. Ideally, say it when you leave the place, just after paying.
Sumimasen, to someone who fixes your mistakes
Thank you and sorry.
The Japanese rarely say “Arigatou gozaimasu” to thank someone who has fixed their mistakes. They prefer to say “Sumimasen” instead. Which literally means “Forgive me” in Japanese. Thus, your interlocutor will understand that you are sorry and that you thank him for his diligence.
How to answer to “Arigato gozaimasu”?
There are several ways to respond to a thank you in Japanese. Here are two that can be used in different contexts.
Douitashimashite, you are welcome
You are welcome.
The simplest way to say “You’re welcome” in Japanese is Douitashimashite (pronounced “Doitashimashite”). Indeed, it’s a very long, but very popular expression in the Japanese language.
Kochira koso, return a thank you
No, you are welcome. I should say “thank you”.
You can thank someone who just said “Thank you” by saying “Kochira koso”. By using this expression, you let your interlocutor know that you are indebted to him, and not the opposite.
How to say no thanks in Japanese
There are many ways to say “No thanks” in Japanese. You will find four in this part. They are ranked from the most formal to the most friendly.
Kekko desu, the polite way
Iie, kekkou desu.
No, that’s enough.
Kekkou (pronounced “Kekko”) is an adjective that means “sufficient”. By saying “Iie, kekkou desu” you literally say that what you have is already enough. This is typically the kind of expression you can use when ordering at a restaurant or bar in Japanese.
Iie literally means “No”. This part can be omitted because saying “no” in Japanese is often considered as rude. So prefer to use “Kekkou desu” alone if you do not want to appear haughty or mean.
Daijoubu, when all is well
I am good.
You can say that everything is fine using Daijoubu (pronounced “Daijobu”). This expression is much less polite than Kekkou desu. My advice would be to use Daijobu only with your close friends.
Ii, the short version
I am OK.
Ii literally means “good”. This expression is less polite than Daijoubu. It’s the kind of thing you say to someone you do not really like when you’re upset. For example, you will tell that to someone who is hustling you in the street and who tries to apologize.
Ookini kangaetokimasu, the Kansaiben version
This expression using Ookini allows saying “no thank you” in the Kansai region, especially in Osaka. Do not try to use it outside of Kyoto, Osaka and their surrounding cities. People could make fun of you.