Long Time No See in Japanese – Various ways to say it

In this lesson, we will focus on how to say “Long time no see” in Japanese. Sometimes this phrase could be a perfect conversation starter or a courteous way to greet someone you haven’t seen after a long while. Let’s take a look closely!

A smiling girl waving her right hand

Different ways to say “Long Time No See” in Japanese

After graduating from school or leaving your previous residence, it sometimes happens that you won’t be able to see a certain person for a while. In English, “Long time no see” is the typical phrase for these occasions. Although the wording is slightly different, similar expressions are used in Japan.

“Long Time No See” in Japanese

In Japanese, this phrase translates to ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi | 久し振り), which literally means “to do something for the first time in a certain period.”

This word is called a noun adjective or an interjection in Japanese, and it’s related to an adjective ひさしい (Hisashii | 久しい | long, long-continued) and the adverb しばらく (Shibaraku | 暫く | for a while, little while).

  • ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi | 久し振り | Long time no see, Long time no hear)

Informal Phrases

The following Japanese expressions are the direct translations of “Long time no see” and “It’s been a long time” in English. Whether written or spoken, you can use them in day-to-day casual conversations among friends, schoolmates, and colleagues.

  • ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi | 久し振り)
  • ひさびさ (Hisabisa | 久々)
  • しばらくぶり (Shibarakuburi | 暫く振り)
  • ひさかたぶり (Hisakataburi | 久方ぶり) * a little old-fashioned expression

If you want to emphasize the time frame you haven’t seen or heard from each other, you can express that by adding adjectives or adjectival nouns. Also, sentences with a particle or an auxiliary verb like ね (ne), だね (dane), だ (da), だな (dana), and だよ (dayo) at the end of the sentence are common.

Examples:

  • すごいひさしぶり! (Sugoi hisashiburi! | すごい久しぶり!)
  • ほんとうにひさしぶりね (Hontou ni hisashiburi ne | 本当に久しぶりね) * a little womanly expression
  • ひさしぶりだね! (Hisashiburi dane! | 久し振りだね!)
  • しばらくだな (Shibarakuburi dana | 暫く振りだな) * a little manly expression

Formal Phrases

You can easily make ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi | 久し振り) and other words into けいご (Keigo | 敬語 | polite form, honorific form) by adding です (desu). Also, keep in mind that using polite words and expressions is more natural when you talk to an acquaintance, someone older, or someone superior to you in general in Japan.

  • ひさしぶりです (Hisashiburi desu | 久しぶりです)
  • しばらくぶりです (Shibarakuburi desu | 暫く振りです)
  • ごぶさたしています (Gobusatashite imasu | ご無沙汰しています)

However, some of them are only a ていねいご (Teinei go | 丁寧語 | polite language) and not a proper けんじょうご (Kenjou go | humble language) suitable for business and formal situations. See the examples below with honorific prefixes and conjugated verbs for a broader situation.

  • おひさしぶりです (Ohisashiburi desu | お 久しぶり です)
  • ごぶさたしております (Gobusatashite orimasu |ご無沙汰しております)

The following two sentences look different from the typical phrase with ひさしぶり(hisashiburi) but hold the same meaning. Probably, it sounds rather peculiar to people with different cultural backgrounds, but having empathy towards others and apologizing for that matter play an important role in Japanese aesthetics.

Sample sentences:

ふぎりでもうしわけございません (Fugiri de moushiwake gozaimasen | 不義理で申し訳ございません)

I’m sorry that I didn’t contact you for a while

ながいあいだ、ごあいさつできずにもうしわけありませんでした (Nagai aida, goaisatsu dekizu ni moushiwake arimasen deshita | 長い間、ご挨拶できずに申し訳ありませんでした)

I’m sorry for not being able to say hello for a long time

How to use “Long Time No See” in Conversations

Did you know that many Japanese people use ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi | 久し振り) as a replacement for “Hi,” “Hey,” or “Hello?” It’s also common to raise a hand while saying this one-word greeting, just like “Hi” and “Hey.”

Greetings like ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi) and げんき?(Genki | 元気? | How are you?) are more commonly used compared to こんにちは (Konnichiwa | Hello) or やあ (Yaa | Hi) as a conversation starter.

Here are some example sentences on how to use ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi) and similar expressions in a conversation.

ちょくせつあうのはすごくひさしぶりだよね。さいきんどうしてた? (Chokusetsu au no wa sugoku hisashiburi dayone. Saikin doushite ta? | 直接会うのはすごく久し振りだよね。最近どうしてた?)

It’s been a long time since we met face to face. How have you been lately?

ほんとうにひさしぶり。あえてよかったよ。 (Hontou ni hisashiburi. Aete yokatta yo | 本当に久しぶり。会えてよかったよ。)

It’s been too long, I’m happy to see you.

Tips for the Time Period

When you want to say “for the first time in…” or “since…” to a person you met;

  • ~ぶり (Buri | 振り | for the first time in…, after…)
  • いらい (Irai | 以来 | since)
  • いこう (Ikou| 以降 | since)

Example sentences:

さんかげつぶりだね!カナダりょこうはどうだった?(San ka getsu buri da ne! Kanada ryokou wa dou datta? | 3か月ぶりだね!カナダ旅行はどうだった?)

It’s been three months! How was your trip to Canada?

ごぶさた!じつは、よねんぶりにじっかにかえってきたんだ (Gobusata! Jitsu wa, yonen buri ni jikka ni kaette kitanda | ご無沙汰!実は、4年ぶりに実家に帰って来たんだ )

Long time no see! I came back to my parents’ house for the first time in four years.

ひさしぶり!そつぎょういらいだけど、げんきにしてた? (Hisashiburi! Sotsugyou irai dakedo, genki ni shiteta? | 久し振り!卒業以来だけど、元気にしてた? |

Long time no see! How have you been since we last saw each other at the graduation?

すっかりごぶさたしてしまいました。けっこんしきいこうおあいできませんでしたが、おかわりありませんか?(Sukkari gobusata shite shimaimashita. Kekkonshiki ikou oai dekimasen deshita ga, okawari arimasen ka? | すっかりご無沙汰してしまいました。結婚式以降お会いできませんでしたが、お変わりありませんか?)

It’s been a long time. I haven’t been able to see you since the wedding, but how have you been?

Tips for Conversation

To have a fun interaction in Japanese, you might wonder how to start a proper conversation after saying ひさしぶり. Take a look at some examples, and you’re ready to go!

げんきだった? (Genki datta? | 元気だった?)

How have you been?

おげんきでしたか?(Ogenki deshita ka? | お元気でしたか?)

How have you been?

げんきそうでよかった (Genki sou de yokatta | 元気そうでよかった)

I’m glad you’re doing well

おげんきそうでなによりです (Ogenki sou de naniyori desu | お元気そうで何よりです)

I’m glad you’re doing well

れんらくできなくてごめんね (Renraku dekinakute gomen ne | 連絡できなくてごめんね)

I’m sorry I couldn’t contact you

ごれんらくするきかいをのがしてしまっていました。もうしわけありません。 (Gorenraku suru kikai wo nogashite shimatte imashita. Moushiwake arimasen | ご連絡する機会を逃してしまっていました。申し訳ありません)

I missed the opportunity to contact you. I’m very sorry

ずっとあいたかった (Zutto aitakatta | ずっと会いたかった)

I’ve wanted to see you for a long time

ずっとおあいしたかったです (Zutto oai shitakatta desu | ずっとお会いしたかったです)

I’ve wanted to see you for a long time

どのくらいたったかな?(Dono kurai tatta kana? | どのくらい経ったかな?)

How long has it been?

どのくらいたったでしょうか?(Dono kurai tatta kana? | どのくらい経ったかな?)

How long has it been?

Wrap Up

Now you know how to say greet someone that you haven’t seen in a while. In summary, you can use the phrase ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi | 久し振り) for moments like this.

If you’re meeting up with a friend to eat, another phrase could come in handy. Here’s an article on how to say “Let’s eat” in Japanese to help you out!

がんばってください (Ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

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