Thank You in Japanese: How To Say “Thanks” In Any Situation

shutterstock_139511234If you’re planning a visit to Japan or just want to expand your portfolio of “Languages I Know How To Say Thank You In,” then you’ve come to the right place. As is the case in many languages, there are several ways to say “Thank you” in Japanese depending on the situation and degree of emphasis you would like to place on the phrase.

For example, in English, we have everything from “Thanks” to “Thank you very much (with some humility thrown in when you are truly indebted to someone).” And Japanese is quite similar. Below we’ll look at the different phrases and what they mean (with their Japanese symbols, as well), and you can learn how to use them in context with this great elementary Japanese course.

“Thank You”

The most common form of thank you in Japanese is the semi-casual Arigatou. There are several variations of this theme, but first let’s look at the Japanese expression: Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 11.48.13 AM Arigatou simply means “Thank you.” It is neither too casual nor too formal. You can use Arigatou for a variety of semi-casual occasions, but you wouldn’t employ it in truly formal settings or when you want to place special emphasis on being grateful.


If someone holds the door for you or gives you some friendly assistance, you would use Doumo (pronounced “Domo”), which means simply “Thanks” or “Much.” Doumo is written: Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 11.56.51 AM Learning a language can take time, but it doesn’t have to take forever. Get on the fast track with this Japanese mastery method for an accelerated Japanese language learning curve.


There are several variations that use both arigatou and doumo (and some others, as well). These are just different ways to say thank you depending on the situation. First, we have Doumo arigatou. This means “Thanks a lot.” It’s still casual, but it’s also stronger than just Doumo. You might use this expression is you dropped some papers and someone helped you pick them up. Doumo arigatou is written as follows:

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If you are in a situation where you would like to be more polite (perhaps an older person offered their assistance), you would want to use the slightly more formal Arigatou gozaimasu. This is a step up from just Arigatou and means “Thank you” in a more sincere and personal sense. Arigatou gozaimasu is written as follows:

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Finally, there is the most formal and sincere expression, Doumo arigatou gozaimasu. As you can see, it includes all three of our “Thank you” words. This means “Thank you very much” and this is the proper notation:

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Looking for more free lessons? Read this fantastic post on Japanese conversation and learn all of the basic phrases you’ll need.

Advanced Situations

Anyone who has studied Japanese at all (namely, on the internet) has probably come across the term Sumimasen. This is another essential Japanese phrase that means “I’m sorry” or, more commonly, “Excuse me.” A Westerner in Japan would probably end up using this phrase more than Doumo. Interestingly, Sumimasen can also mean “Thank you” in the right circumstances and is written as follows:

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When Someone Goes Out Of Their Way:  For example, if someone goes out of their way to help you, then Sumimasen is the correct term to use. If someone pays you a random act of kindness, such as holding the door, you would say Duomo. But if you got sick and someone cooked you dinner or drove you to the hospital, you would say Sumimasen, because you would in effect be “apologizing” for the inconvenience. It is a very polite term and expresses deep thanks, as well. When Doing Business: In business or in other similarly formal settings, the term Osoreirimasu is preferred. It is similar to Sumimasen because it also undermines the fact that someone “went out of their way”; in this case, it seems, to spend money or engage in business. Osoreirimasu uses the following notation:

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It’s important to note that Osoreirimasu should not be used in every-day conversation. It’s just not a casual term. But, because it is generally the more polite version of Sumimasen, it’s good to know and no doubt someone would be pleased and impressed by its usage. You should also note that you should only use Sumimasen to “apologize” if someone goes out of their way for you. Osoreirimasu cannot be used this way. It is only appropriate when thanking someone for their service or loyalty, such as customers, colleagues, superiors, etc.

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