How Are You in Japanese – Different Ways of Greetings

There are several ways to ask someone “how are you” in Japanese. こんにちは (Konnichiwa | Hello) and おげんきですか? (O genki desu ka? | How are you?) are one of the first expressions when you start learning Japanese.

Two women talking to each other while holding a white mug.

However, did you know that these are not exactly what you hear in everyday conversations in Japan? In this lesson, we’re learning about true-to-life Japanese greetings!

Things to Know Before Learning “How Are You” in Japanese

Before we start learning how to say “how are you in Japanese today, let’s focus on the あいさつ (Aisatsu | 挨拶 | greeting) in Japan.


Aisatsu has two かんじ (Kanji  | 漢字). The first あい (Ai | 挨) signifies “to open” or “to get closer,” and the following さつ (Satsu | 拶) means “to approach” or “to advance.”

The word Aisatsu conveyed the meaning of “to push each other” earlier, but it has developed into the “greeting” gradually via ぜん (Zen | 禅 | a school of Mahayana Buddhism).

Hugging and kissing aren’t typical in Japanese culture. People use more vocal communication than non-verbal communication when they say hello and how are you to each other. You can see people shaking hands, raising or waving their hands, patting someone’s shoulder, and bowing or nodding as a series of familiar gestures.

Here is some vocabulary related to greeting in Japan.

 gestures身振り手振りみぶりてぶりMiburi Teburi
 light bow, nod会釈えしゃくEshaku
 courtesy, manners礼儀れいぎReigi
 social platitude, flattery社交辞令しゃこうじれいShakou Jirei

“How Are You” in Japanese

Today’s theme, How are you, is one of the most common salutations in any language, and using this phrase is pretty natural in day-to-day life in the West.

Yet, “how are you” in Japanese, “おげんきですか? (O genki desu ka?)” is too mannerly to greet friends and family members. This is typically seen in letters, commonly used in business situations, and regularly heard on official occasions.

For example, when you want to ask how you are doing with your friends in Japanese, use the phrase げんき? (Genki?) instead of O genki desu ka?. Feel free to use some variations with your close friend and on casual occasions.

  • おげんきですか? (O genki desu ka? | お元気ですか?)
  • げんき? (Genki? | 元気?)

We’ve added more of these variations below, which you can use depending on who you are speaking with.

Formal “How Are You” in Japanese

Japanese people don’t say O genki desu ka? as frequently as the textbooks teach you. They use different ways and expressions instead. For instance, it’s common to emphasize the period they didn’t see each other by using past tense such as O genki deshita ka?.

O genki desu ka? and O genki deshita ka? are called けいご (Keigo | 敬語 | polite languages) in the Japanese language. When native speakers speak Japanese, they use the Keigo and act courteously in certain circumstances.

For example, Keigo is preferred on occasions when people meet the elderly, someone with higher status, someone you want to show your respect to, and someone they haven’t seen before.

Formal Expressions and Other Phrases

Using non-formal phrases in inappropriate situations is considered rude in Japan, so use polite expressions if you’re not so sure. Let’s take a look at the variations in a formal way!

How are you?元気 です か? げんきですか? Genki desu ka?
How are you?お 元気 です か? おげんきですか? O genki desu ka?
How have you been?お元気でしたか? おげんきでしたか? O genki deshita ka? 
How have you been? *お変わりありませんか? おかわりありませんか? Okawari arimasen ka?
It's a pleasure to see you again.お久し振りです おひさしぶりです Ohisashiburi desu
I haven't seen you for a long time.ご無沙汰しています ごぶさたしています Gobusata shiteimasu 
Thank you for your assistance always. **お世話になっております おせわになっております Osewa ni natte orimasu
How are you? / Have a nice day. ***御機嫌好う ごきげんよう Gokigenyou

*This literally means, “Were there any changes?”

**It’s a common phrase in Japanese business situations but not easy to get translated into English.

***It’s an old-fashioned and feminine phrase.

Related Vocabulary (Formal)

Here are some additional vocabulary in the formal version.

 vigorous, cheerful 元気げんきGenki
 health 健康けんこうKenkou
 to change, to be different 変わるかわるKawaru
 long, long-continued 久しいひさしいHisashii
 news, rumor, decision 沙汰さたSata
 care, help, trouble 世話せわSewa
 mood, humor, temper 機嫌きげんKigen

Informal Expressions Related to “How Are You” in Japanese

Have you experienced that a Japanese person answered your how are you question a little awkwardly? Some people who speak fluent English would reply naturally, but people at the beginner level would say so-so. The reason isn’t only their language skills and lack of experience.

Japanese people skip rigidly orthodox Konnichiwa and Genki? in casual meetings since they’re considered unnatural among close friends.

Informal Expressions and Other Phrases

The amicable conversations often begin with the phrase おまたせ (Omatase | Sorry for the wait) or just raising their hand, and friendly chats follow. Here are more of these expressions.

 How are you? 元気?げんき?Genki?
 How have you been? 元気だった?げんきだった?Genki datta?
 How’s going recently? 最近どう?さいきんどう?Saikin dou?
 What have you been up to? 最近何してた?さいきんなにしてた?Saikin nani shiteta?
 How’s it going? 調子はどう?ちょうしはどうChoushi wa dou?
 Long time no see. 久し振りひさしぶりHisashiburi 
 Hi, how are you? / Good work. お疲れおつかれOtsukare
 Hey, what’s up? やあYaa
 Hello, what’s up? どうもDoumo
 Hey, what’s up? おっすOssu
 Did you wait long? 待った?まったMatta?
 Sorry for the wait. お待たせおまたせOmatase
 Sorry for being late. 遅れてご免おくれてごめんOkurete gomen
 What are you up to? / What are you doing? *何してるの?なにしてるの?Nani shiteru no?
 What are you up to? / What are you doing? *どうしたの?Dou shita no?

*When you meet someone unexpectedly.

Related Vocabulary (Informal)

Below are other related vocabulary in the informal version.

 vigorous, cheerful 元気げんきGenki
 recently, nowadays 最近さいきんSaikin
 get tired 疲れるつかれるTsukareru
to wait まつ待つMatsu
 meeting, appointment 待ち合わせまちあわせMachiawase
 being late, tardiness 遅刻ちこくChikoku
 to fall behind schedule, to be late 遅れるおくれるOkureru

Asking About Someone’s Health or Physical Condition

When you’re concerned about someone’s health or physical conditions, you can use the following phrase to ask how they are feeling and doing. They all mean, “how is it?” in English and are almost equally exchangeable.

Polite Expressions and Common Questions

Here are some examples of questions that you can ask to check if someone is okay in the polite version.

 What’s wrong? / Are you alright?どうしましたか?Dou shimashita ka?
 How is it going? / How are you doing?調子 は どう です か?ちょうしはどうですか?Choushi wa dou desu ka?
 Is everything OK? / Are you alright? *大丈夫ですか?だいじょうぶですか?Daijoubu desu ka?
 How are you feeling right now? / Are you feeling fine?気分 は どう です か?きぶんはどうですか?Kibun wa dou desu ka?
 Are you feeling alright? / How is your health condition?お体は大丈夫ですか?おからだはだいじょうぶですか?O karada wa daijoubu desu ka?
 How are you? **お加減如何ですか?おかげんいかがですか?O kaken ikaga desu ka?
 How is your injury?お怪我の具合は如何でしょうか?おけがのぐあいはいかがでしょうか?O kega no guai wa ikaga desshou ka?

*No distinctions between mental and physical conditions

**This literally means How is your health condition?

Casual Expressions and Common Questions

Below are the questions that you can ask someone in a casual version.

Are you alright?どうしたの?Dou shita no?
What’s wrong?/  How is it going?/ How are you doing?調子 は どう?ちょうしはどう?Choushi wa dou?
Is everything OK? Are you alright? *no distinctions between mental and physical conditions 大丈夫?だいじょうぶ?Daijoubu?
How are you feeling right now? / Are you feeling fine?気分 は どう?きぶんはどう?Kibun wa dou?
Are you feeling alright? / How is your health condition?具合 は どう?ぐあいはどう?Guai wa dou?
How is your injury?怪我 は どう?けがはどう?Kega wa dou?

Words of Encouragement for Health and Physical Conditions

By skipping ですか? (desu ka? ) or ください (kudasai ), you can ask someone the same thing more casually.

 Wishing you a speedy recovery. *お大事におだいじにOdaijini
 Wishing you a speedy recovery.お大事になさって下さいおだいじになさってくださいOdaijini nasatte kudasai
 Get well soon.早く良くなって下さいはやくよくなってくださいHayaku yoku natte kudasai
 I hope you feel better soon.すぐに良くなると良いですねすぐによくなるといいですねSugu ni yokunaru to ii desu ne
 Please take good care of yourself.ご養生して下さいごようじょうしてくださいGoyoujou kudasai

*the most common expression

Related Vocabulary

 condition, tune調子ちょうしChoushi
 fine, safe, all right大丈夫だいじょうぶDaijoubu
 mood, feeling気分きぶんKibun
 mood, degree, adjustment加減かげんKagen
 injury, harm, hurt怪我けがKega
 condition, state, health具合ぐあいGuai
 to take good care of oneself大事にするだいじにするDaiji ni suru
 cure, health care養生ようじょうYoujou

How to Answer “How Are You” in Japanese

Like English, there are various ways to answer O genki desu ka? in Japanese. Here, we’ll show you some suggestions. They are all written formally, but you can make them more easy-going by simply omitting です (desu) and ます (masu) words.


For a positive response, you can answer the person asking with the sentences below.

 I’m good.元気ですげんきですGenki desu
 I’m fine now.もう元気になりましたもうげんきになりましたMou genki ni narimashita
 I’m healthy again.健康になりましたけんこうになりましたKenkou ni narimashita
 I’m good now.もう大丈夫ですもうだいじょうぶですMou daijoubu desu
 I feel a lot better now. *随分良くなりましたずいぶんよくなりましたZuibun yoku narimashita
 I’ve gotten a lot better now.やっと調子が戻って来ましたやっとちょうしがもどってきましたYatto Choushi ga modotte kimashita

*This is for both mental and physical conditions.


Here are the sentences that you can use to answer someone how you are but you’re unsure if you’re feeling good or not.

 so-soまあまあですMaamaa desu
 so-soそこそこですSokosoko desu
Could be better could be worse.まずまずと言った所ですまずまずといったところですMazumazu to itta tokoro desu
Neither good nor bad.良くも悪くもありませんよくもわるくもありませんYoku mo waruku mo arimasen

Not Good

If you’re certain that you’re not okay, here are the sentences that you can use in response.

I’m not in good shape yet.まだ本調子ではありませんまだほんちょうしではありませんMada honchoushi dewa arimasen
I’m a little tired.少し疲れていますすこしつかれていますSukoshi tsukareteimasu
I don’t feel good. / I feel bad.気分が優れませんきぶんがすぐれませんKibun ga suguremasen
I may have caught a cold.風邪を引いたかもしれませんかぜをひいたかもしれませんKaze wo hiita kamo shiremasen

Thank You for Your Concern

Lastly, it’s always polite to say “thank you” to the person for their concern. Here are the sentences that you can use.

Thank you for your concern.お気遣いいただき有難うございますおきづかいいただきありがとうございますO kizukai itadaki arigatou gozaimasu
I’m sorry for worrying you.ご心配をお掛けしましたごしんぱいをおかけしましたGoshinpai wo okake shimashita
Thanks to you.お陰様で全快しましたおかげさまでぜんかいしましたOkagesama wo okake shimashita
I was discharged from the hospital safely.無事に退院しましたぶじにたいいんしましたBuji ni taiin shimashita

We also have an article dedicated to saying “thank you” in Japanese.

Other Basic Greetings in the Japanese Language

Apart from asking someone how they are, there are also other ways to greet people in Japan. We’ve listed some of them below.

Standard Form

Here are the standard greetings in Japanese that you can use.

Good morning. お早う御座いますおはようございますOhayou gozaimasu
Hello, good afternoon.今日はこんにちはKonnichiwa
Good evening.今晩はこんばんはKonbanwa
How are you?お元気ですか?おげんきですか?Ogenkidesuka?
Good night.お休みなさいおやすみなさいOyasumi nasai

Informal and Abbreviated Form

If you’re speaking to a friend, family, or someone close to you, you can use the greetings below.

 Good morning.お早うおはようOhayou
 Good evening今晩はこんばんはKonbanwa
 How are you?元気?げんき?Genki?
 Good night.お休みおやすみOyasumi
 See youまたMata

Casual and Easy-Going Form

Here are more ways to speak with someone casually. These shouldn’t be used with someone older or of higher status.

How are you? 元気?げんき?Genki?
 Hello, thanks.どうもDoumo
 Long time no see. 久しぶりひさしぶりHisashiburi
 Hi, have a good day. / Good work. お疲れおつかれOtsukare
 Bye. バイバイばいばいBaibai
 See you. またねMata ne
 Take care on your way back. 気を付けて帰ってねきをつけてかえってねKi wo tsukete kaette ne

“How Are You” in Japanese and The Gifting Customs

Japan has a unique gift-giving custom apart from someone’s birthdays or during the Christmas holidays.

Japanese people have hello and how are you visit with a small gift to their new neighbors when they move into new houses and apartments. It’s also common to bring a gift when visiting the hospital to see how their friend, a family member, and a co-worker are doing.

These how-are-you visits and gifts exist upon the wishes with “Best Regards” or “No disaster will remain,” so comforting chats and gifts that disappear after use and eat are preferred.

Related Vocabulary

 a visit to someone in hospital, a visiting gift御見舞おみまいOmimai
 a gift showing thanks for the support from the complete recovery *快気祝いかいきいわいKaiki iwai
 a discharge celebration gift **退院祝いたいいんいわいTaiin iwai
 housewarming gift ***引っ越し祝いひっこしいわいHikkoshi iwai
 moving greeting, moving gift ****引っ越し挨拶ひっこしあいさつHikkoshi aisatsu

*A gift from the patient.

**A gift to the patient.

***A gift to the people who moved in.

****A gift from the people who moved in.

What Aisatsu Means in Japanese Society

Presumably, one could say that Japanese people put importance on あいさつ (Aisatsu | greeting) way more than in the West. Japanese people suppose it’s a way to show their consideration, good manners, and cooperative attitudes in society. The importance of Aisatsu has been imprinted in practice for a long time.

Basic Rules for Bowing and Hello/How Are You in Japanese

Bowing is probably one of the most prominent Asian cultures. There are occasions that Japanese people habitually lower their torso and greet, but many are not familiar with the explicit rules of bowing. おじぎ (Ojigi | お辞儀 | bow) is the universal term in the Japanese language, but it has three different ways and invisible intentions.

Three Types of Ojigi

It’s said that “verbal greeting first and bowing second” is the proper way.

  1. えしゃく (Eshaku | 会釈) — A light bow roughly 15 degrees. It could be a nod in casual greetings.
  2. けいれい (Keirei | 敬礼) — A standard bow about 30 degrees. Common in the first meetings and when seeing someone off.
  3. さいけいれい (Sai Keirei | 最敬礼) — A deep bow between 45 degrees to 90 degrees. The most formal way originates in a ritual bow. It shows one’s sincere apologies or deep appreciation.

However, it’s more than enough to say hello with a smile and give the company a small nod as an extra.

In addition to that, no need to bow or nod when you ask someone, “how are you” in Japanese. Don’t forget that the idea of Ojigi is similar to Keigo in the Japanese language. Try adding a nod or bow whenever you speak in a formal way.

“How Are You” in Japanese from the Heart and the World

Greetings are one of the essentials in learning Japanese and other languages. Probably, its styles and people’s perspectives vary from place to place and from time to time, but the fundamental idea remains the same everywhere.

The expression how are you shows your good intentions towards others and society, even though it sometimes is a form of social platitude. Start a casual talk with Genki? or another phrase next time to have more meaningful and fun interactions!

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