How To Write Arigatou In Japanese
Japan has a long history of polite social group behavior. To show respect for others and say thank you is an integral part of the Japanese society.
Even long time ago before the Samurai age, the early ancient Japanese population formed holy rituals and proper respectful ways of behavior in front of other people.
So, how do you say thank you in Japanese? The informal way of saying it is Arigatou.
It means -”Thank you!”. You should pay attention to that it really is an informal way of saying it and not a proper formal way. Watch my illustration for the spelling in Hiragana.
Here in Japan you need to care about when to switch between being informal and formal. People may misunderstand your meaning of it if you say it the wrong way.
Another way of thanking is to say Arigatou Gozaimasu. It means thank you in a formal polite way. By now you may be wondering when to use which one? Is there a rule for it?
Let’s take my picture above as an example. I captured that photo in a cool prehistoric village in Saga prefecture here in Kyushu (located at the West side of main land Japan).
The man in the middle, represented by the mannequin doll in the center who has two women next to him waving fans to cool off the hot moist subtropical air, he is the local King of the heavily fortified village.
If you in the past were invited to his guarded home and offered a meal to eat then you would probably say arigatou gozaimas to the servants who provide you with the meal.
You don’t say only arigatou, because it would be rude by you to treat them as ordinary simple family members. Instead you use the polite formal way of saying thank you by using the arigatou gozaimasu sentence. Right now I typed them in Rōmaji for you.
As an alternative if you got something from the King in the middle, then it would not be enough to just say thank you in a polite way to him.
You probably should say thank you very much to show your respect for the person in higher status who provide you with a gift.
How do you say very much in Japanese? Doumo in Japanese means very much.
According to the Japanese Grammar rules, the doumo word has to be placed at the most beginning of the thank you very much sentence.
Imagine how Yoda in Star Wars would have said it. Like this: “Very much thank you!”.
In Japanese thank you very much is the following: Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.
What do you think the Japanese local village King would have said as thank you to you if you give him a humble gift as a visitor? He’d just say arigatou. Not arigatou gozaimasu.
Why doesn’t he say the polite way back to you? Well – he is the tribal superior, right?!
He has no reason to show you respect because he is the leader and you are just a simple visitor giving him something that he likely easy could have gotten by himself.
Your social status is not as high as his is. Therefore you say doumo arigatou gozaimasu in a respectful way to him, but he only says arigatou to you when he gets something.
The old age of local masters running heavily protected villages is over. Today’s Japan is a modern world where people live their individual lives and enjoy the shopping paradise.
Though the old hierarchical society system still exists. It’s seen in people’s conversation.
Instead of communicating with a village emperor – you talk with a company boss or somebody who is superior to your own career position or your achieved social status.
When somebody above your social status gets something from you, then you will most probably just get an arigatou back in return as a thank you.
That person shows his or her higher up status by not being as polite back to you, while you are expected to do the opposite. See it as a mechanism to preserve social stability.
It’s the same situation as with the village leader, but in today’s society that person can be a company boss, your doctor, a kind teacher who provides you with knowledge or just a person who is older than you and therefore is more experienced about life than you are.
If a leader or a higher up social status person says doumo arigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much) to a person who has a lower rank, then people around that leader may begin to question the authority of the superior who doesn’t accept his or her high up rank.
During communication in Japanese you need to constantly change your way of politeness levels depending of who you are speaking with. Adjust your expressions.
Is it a person higher up than you or is it a little child, young girl or boy, a well known family member or your superior at work? Adapt your Japanese words to fit the situation.
Keep that in mind. In Japan it’s more important than you as a foreigner may believe it is.
Filed under: Japanese In Hiragana
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