Master the Etiquette: How to Say Excuse Me in Japanese

When traveling to Japan or interacting with Japanese culture, it’s important to be mindful of proper etiquette. One aspect of etiquette that may seem small but carries significant weight is knowing how to say “excuse me” in Japanese.

The Japanese language consists of various levels of formality and politeness, and using the appropriate phrases can make a positive impression on those around you. In this article, we’ll explore the different ways to say “excuse me” in Japanese and provide practical tips for incorporating them into your daily interactions.

Whether you’re a beginner or have some knowledge of the Japanese language, learning how to say “excuse me” in Japanese is a valuable skill to have. Let’s dive in!

Understanding Japanese Politeness

Politeness is highly valued in Japanese culture and is central to daily interactions. Whether you are greeting someone, making a request, or expressing gratitude, there are many polite phrases that you can use to show respect and consideration. In this section, we will discuss how to use polite expressions, apologize when necessary, and understand the cultural significance of these practices.

Polite Phrases in Japanese

Learning polite phrases in Japanese is crucial to show respect and avoid offending others. When saying “excuse me” in a polite manner, you can use the phrase “Sumimasen” (すみません). This phrase can be used in a variety of situations, such as when you need to ask for help, interrupt a conversation, or apologize for something. Additionally, when addressing someone, it is important to use polite titles such as “San” (さん) after their name to show respect. For example, you can say “Tanaka-san” instead of just “Tanaka” when addressing someone.

How to Apologize in Japanese

When you make a mistake or inconvenience someone, it’s important to apologize. In Japanese culture, apologizing is considered a sign of humility and respect. The phrase “Gomen nasai” (ごめんなさい) is a common way to apologize in Japanese. It can be used in casual or formal situations, but it’s usually more formal when addressing elders or other people of higher status. Another more formal way to apologize is to say “Moushi wake gozaimasen” (申し訳ございません) which translates to “I deeply apologize” or “I am sorry.”

Japanese Language Excuse Me

Understanding the correct usage of “excuse me” or “sumimasen” in Japanese is important. It is polite to say “sumimasen” when requesting or asking for something, for example, “sumimasen, kore o kudasai” (すみません、これを下さい) which translates to “excuse me, please give me this.” Similarly, when passing by someone, you can say “sumimasen” as a way of apologizing for interrupting them. Lastly, if you accidentally bump into someone or get in their way, you can apologize and say “sumimasen” as a gesture of politeness and respect.

Understanding Japanese politeness is key to successful interactions in Japanese society. By using the appropriate polite phrases and gestures, you can show respect and foster positive relationships. Remember to practice and use these expressions in your daily interactions to improve your Japanese language skills and communicate effectively.

Formal Expressions for Excuse Me

When it comes to formal expressions for saying “excuse me” in Japanese, it’s important to use the appropriate phrases and greetings depending on the context. In Japan, politeness is highly valued, particularly in formal settings such as business meetings or when interacting with elders.

Japanese Romaji Meaning
失礼します shitsurei shimasu Excuse me (formal, when entering or leaving a room)
すみません sumimasen I’m sorry; Excuse me (formal, when asking for assistance or interrupting someone)
お世話になります osewa ni narimasu Thank you for your help (formal, when expressing gratitude or requesting assistance)
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It’s important to use a polite tone and respectful body language when using these formal expressions. Making eye contact and bowing slightly can also demonstrate respect and politeness.

Japanese Greetings with “Excuse Me”

Another way to use “excuse me” in Japanese is through greetings. There are several common greetings that use the phrase “excuse me” to show respect and politeness. Here are a few examples:

Japanese Romaji Meaning
失礼いたします shitsurei itashimasu Excuse me (formal, when starting a speech or presentation)
お先に失礼いたします osaki ni shitsurei itashimasu Excuse me for leaving before you (formal, when leaving before others in a group)
お邪魔します ojama shimasu Excuse me for disturbing you (formal, when entering someone’s home or office)

Remember to use a polite tone and respectful body language when using these greetings. Making eye contact and bowing slightly can demonstrate respect and politeness.

Casual Expressions for Excuse Me

In more casual settings, such as when interacting with friends or peers, there are different expressions for saying “excuse me” in Japanese. These phrases have a less formal tone and are typically used in informal situations.

One common expression is sumimasen , which can be translated as “sorry” or “excuse me.” It is often used to get someone’s attention or to ask for something. For example, if you are trying to get your friend’s attention, you could say “sumimasen” to let them know you want to speak with them.

Another casual expression for “excuse me” is chotto matte , which means “wait a moment.” This phrase can be used when you need someone to wait for you or when you need to interrupt someone briefly. For example, if you need to grab something from your bag while your friend is talking to you, you could say “chotto matte” to ask them to wait for a moment.

Additional Casual Expressions

Here are a few more casual expressions for saying “excuse me” in Japanese:

Japanese Romaji English
ごめんね gomen ne I’m sorry
ちょっといい? chotto ii? Can I ask you something?
すみませんが sumimasen ga Excuse me, but

Remember, when using casual expressions, be mindful of the situation and the relationship between you and the person you are speaking with. It’s important to use the appropriate level of politeness to avoid offending anyone.

Apologizing in Japanese

Apologizing in Japanese is an essential aspect of the language and culture. The Japanese place a great emphasis on expressing remorse and seeking forgiveness.

There are various phrases and gestures used to apologize in Japanese. The most common phrase is sumimasen, which can be translated as “I’m sorry” or “excuse me.” It can be used in both formal and informal situations.

In more formal settings, it is appropriate to use phrases such as shazai wo mooshiagemasu or owabi moushiagemasu to express apologies. These phrases convey a deeper sense of remorse and are usually used in business or professional settings.

Formality Level Phrase Translation
Formal Shazai wo mooshiagemasu I offer my apologies
Formal Owabi moushiagemasu I express my regrets

When apologizing, it’s essential to use a humble tone and gesture of contrition. Bowing is a common gesture used to show remorse and respect. The depth of the bow varies depending on the severity of the offense and the person’s status.

In addition to using apologies, it’s important to accompany them with the appropriate phrases, such as sumimasen or gomen nasai, which can be used interchangeably in informal situations.

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By mastering the art of apologizing in Japanese, you can show your respect for the culture and build positive relationships with native speakers.

Practicing Everyday Japanese Manners

Now that you have learned how to say “excuse me” in Japanese and have an understanding of the importance of politeness in Japanese culture, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice. Here are some practical tips for incorporating these phrases and expressions into your daily interactions.

First, take the time to practice the correct pronunciation of Japanese phrases. Pay attention to the nuances in tone and intonation, as this can greatly impact the meaning of the phrase. You can use online resources, such as language learning apps and websites, to help improve your pronunciation.

Next, try to actively engage with the Japanese language in your daily life. This can include listening to Japanese music, watching Japanese movies or TV shows, or even practicing writing and reading the language. The more you engage with the language, the more comfortable you will become with using it in your everyday interactions.

Applying “Excuse Me” in Everyday Situations

Use “excuse me” in various situations, such as when you need to ask someone a question or when you accidentally bump into someone. For example:

  • If you need to ask someone for directions, you can say: Sumimasen, chizu o oshiete kudasai. (Excuse me, can you please tell me how to get there?)
  • If you accidentally bump into someone on the train, you can say: Gomen nasai, sumimasen. (I’m sorry, excuse me.)

Remember, using “excuse me” shows respect and politeness, which is highly valued in Japanese culture. By incorporating these phrases and expressions into your everyday interactions, you can demonstrate your understanding and appreciation of Japanese customs.

So go ahead, practice your Japanese manners and impress those around you with your cultural sensitivity and language proficiency.


Q: What is the significance of knowing how to say “excuse me” in Japanese?

A: Knowing how to say “excuse me” in Japanese is essential for demonstrating proper etiquette and respect in Japanese culture. It shows that you acknowledge the importance of politeness and are considerate of others.

Q: What are some polite phrases in Japanese that I can use?

A: Some commonly used polite phrases in Japanese include “sumimasen” (excuse me), “gomennasai” (I’m sorry), and “onegai shimasu” (please). These expressions can help you navigate various social situations and show respect to others.

Q: Are there different expressions for “excuse me” in formal and casual contexts?

A: Yes, there are different expressions for “excuse me” in formal and casual contexts. In formal settings, you can use phrases like “shitsurei shimasu” or “o-jama shimasu” to convey politeness. In casual settings, you can use phrases like “etto” or “chotto matte” to express informality.

Q: How do I apologize in Japanese?

A: To apologize in Japanese, you can use phrases like “gomen nasai” (I’m sorry) or “shitsurei shimashita” (I apologize for the rudeness). It’s important to use a sincere tone and accompany your words with appropriate gestures to convey genuine remorse.

Q: How can I practice everyday Japanese manners?

A: To practice everyday Japanese manners, try incorporating phrases like “sumimasen” (excuse me) and “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you) into your daily interactions. Pay attention to your pronunciation and actively engage with the language by listening to Japanese audio or conversing with native speakers.

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