The Japanese culture gives a lot of importance on greetings. It is considered appropriate behavior to greet someone when you meet them, when you are introduced to someone or while leaving and even if you see a neighbour from a window or even from a distance. Neighbours driving past you in their cars nod their heads in greeting and it is considered polite to reciprocate with similar gesture. As a matter of fact, not greeting someone whom you know when you see them is considered an insult.
Shaking hands is not common among Japanese. Touching members of the other sex is also not common. As such greetings are generally accompanied by bows befitting the situation and level of formality. However these days, it is common to see Japanese offering their hands for a handshake especially when interacting with foreigners.
People are expected to display a certain level of politeness, vigor and energy when greeting others. A lazy or casual attitude does not convey the emotion intended by the greeting.
Some common greetings which are used in daily life are:
Ohayo Gozaimasu: Good morning. This greeting is used from early morning till about midday or at most noon.
Konnichiwa: This popular Japanese greeting is the equivalent of Hello or good day. It is used at any time of the day especially from mid day to evening.
Konbanwa: This means Good Evening and is used from evening to night.
Oyasumi Nasai: This means Good night and literally translates as “have a Good rest”.
Omedeto Gozaimasu: Congratulations. This is also used with addition of few related words for wishes on occasions like birthdays, weddings, promotions etc.
Arigato Gozaimasu: Thank you.
Ganbatte Kudasai: Good luck or All the Best. This literally translates to “Please Do your best”
Dou ita Shimashte – “You are welcome” as in when responding to someone thanking you.
Irasshai or Irasshaimase: This is used to welcome visitors to your home or some place where you are the host. Irrashaimase is usually restricted to use in business environments, restaurants and stores. It is the most common greeting which store employees use when they see customers. When welcoming guests home the term changes to “Yokoso Irrashaimashta”.