How to say goodbye in Japanese: is Sayonara outdated?

How to say goodbye in Japanese: is Sayonara outdated?

How to say goodbye in Japanese: is Sayonara outdated? 1140 585 Michaël da Silva Paternoster

You believe “Sayonara” is the only term to use to say “Goodbye” in Japanese. Well this article is here to show you that the truth is far more complex than that.

Just a few weeks ago we published our first article about the Japanese language in which we explained the different ways to say “Hello” in Japanese. As you might expect, this second article will discuss the different ways of saying “Goodbye” to your Japanese friends.

“Sayonara” this cold and outdated term

The article has not really started yet, and I am sure you are saying “Goodbye in Japanese? But everyone know how to say it. It’s like sushi, samurai or kamikaze. These words are part of pop culture. You just have to say”:


And by saying that you are not wrong. “Sayonara” literally means “Goodbye” in Japanese. The problem is that a recent study led by Livedoor News has shown that this word is not really used by the Japanese, and even less with the youngest of them.

Indeed, when the Japanese website asked if they were using “Sayonara” to say “Goodbye”, 70% of those surveyed responded that they employed only rarely or even not at all that word.

Why the Japanese no longer use Sayonara to say goodbye?

The gradual abandonment of a term that has existed for hundreds of years is explained by the fact that Sayonara has a two meanings. If it means goodbye, it can also be used to say “Farewell”.

"Sayonara" the perfect word to say after killing someone.

“Sayonara” the perfect word to say after killing someone.

Indeed, “Sayonara” implies that you will never see the person again. It’s a bit sad, and it sounds odd in some situations. For example, imagine yourself saying “Farewell” to your co-workers at the end of your working day?

Fortunately, many alternatives exist to say “Goodbye” to your relatives in a less solemn way than “Sayonara”.

Other ways to say goodbye in Japanese

Are you ready to learn a plenty of expressions? If you are not, I say “Sayonara” to you. Otherwise, you can continue reading this article serenely.

“See you later”: the most common Japanese phrases

The Japanese often say “Thereupon, see you later” in this way:

Dewa, mata.

Or simply “See you later”:

Mata ne.

There is no notion of fatality when using these two phrases. The social bond between you and your partner is not broken by the harshness of the words. It is for these reasons that these phrases are very popular in Japan.

You can combine the term “Mata” with words that express periods when you know when you will see again the person you leave, just like “See you tomorrow” in English (“Mata Ashita” in Japanese):

Mata *Period*.
また *Period*。

If you do not know when you will see again your partner, you can say “See you next time”:

Mata kondo.

And if you really have a big doubt, you can specify it with a “See you next, but I do not know when …” :

Mata itsu ka.

“Baibai”, the cute English word

The Japanese have this ability to always use English terms. But they do not hesitate to slightly distort the pronunciation of the original words to make them pronounceable for them. Fortunately, “Bye-bye” is within their reach and is pronounced the same way as in English:




By using “baibai” to say goodbye, you agree to look cute as a teletubbie or a schoolgirl. So avoid using this term if you want to look badass or if you are in a professional environment. You would just look ridiculous. Fortunately, we will now show you more formal ways to say goodbye in Japanese.

The most professional forms to say goodbye in Japanese

When you end your working day and colleagues at almost zero productivity remain at work just to be zealous, you can tell them “I’m sorry to leave before you” this way:

Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.

Then, your colleagues, who are secretly watching lolcats videos, answer “Thank you for all your efforts” without caring about you:

Otsukaresama desu.

If the counterpart is your customer, you can say, “Well, sorry for the inconvenience”, although in fact it is him who bothered you:

Dewa, shitsurei shimasu.

Saying goodbye when you’re at home

When someone is about to leave the family property (with the idea to return in less than 24 hours without abandoning his spouse and children), he shouts:


Then, all family members answer with enthusiasm (as they feel secure):


Be aware that there are still many other ways to say goodbye in Japanese. But I think you can survive in Japan with the few phrases that we have discussed in this article.

So... "Sayonara"?

So… “Sayonara”?

Michaël da Silva Paternoster

I’m a French guy living in Tokyo, where I work as a digital marketing manager and consultant for several years now. I’ve decided to share my travel recommendations and various tips to help people settle in Japan.

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