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Expressions Used in Letters

Seasonal Greetings in Japanese Letters

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The difference between written language and conversational language in Japanese is much greater than in English. Japanese letters often use classical grammar patterns which are seldom used in conversation. Although there are no particular rules when writing to close friends, there are many set expressions and honorific expressions (keigo) used in formal letters. A conversational style is not usually used when writing formal letters.

Opening and Closing Words

The opening and closing words in letters, which are similar to English's "Dear" and "Sincerely" etc., come in pairs.

  • Haikei (拝啓) - Keigu (敬具)
    The most common pair used in formal letters. Women sometimes use "Kashiko(かしこ)" as a closing word instead of "Keigu."
  • Zenryaku (前略) - Sousou (草々)
    This pair is less formal. It is usually used when you don't have time to write a long letter, so that the preliminary greetings are omitted. "Zenryaku" literally means, "omitting the preliminary remarks."

Preliminary Greetings

Ogenki de irasshaimasu ka. (very formal)
お元気でいらっしゃいますか。
Have you been doing well?

Ogenki desu ka.
お元気ですか。
Have you been doing well?

Ikaga osugoshi de irasshaimasu ka. (very formal)
いかがお過ごしでいらっしゃいますか。
How have you been?

Ikaga osugoshi desu ka.
いかがお過ごしですか。
How have you been?

Okagesama de genki ni shite orimasu. (very formal)
おかげさまで元気にしております。
Fortunately I'm doing well.

Kazoku ichidou genki ni shite orimasu.
家族一同元気にしております。
The whole family is doing well.

Otegami arigatou gozaimashita.
お手紙ありがとうございました。
Thank you for your letter.

Nagai aida gobusata shite orimashite moushiwake gozaimasen. (very formal)
長い間ご無沙汰しておりまして申し訳ございません。
I apologize for neglecting to write for such a long time.

Gobusata shite orimasu.
ご無沙汰しております。
I'm sorry I haven't written for a long time.

These expressions or seasonal greetings can be combined in a variety of ways to form the preliminary greeting. The Japanese have long admired the seasonal changes, therefore it seems too abrupt to start a letter without the proper seasonal greeting. Here are some examples.

Gobusata shite orimasu ga, ogenki de irasshaimasu ka.
ご無沙汰しておりますが、お元気でいらっしゃいますか。
I'm sorry I haven't written for a long time, but have you been doing well?

Sukkari aki rashiku natte mairimashita ga, ikaga osugoshi de irasshaimasu ka.
すっかり秋らしくなってまいりましたが、いかがお過ごしでいらっしゃいますか。
It has become very autumn like; how have you been?

Samui hi ga tsuzuite orimasu ga, ikaga osugoshi desu ka.
寒い日が続いておりますが、いかがお過ごしですか。
Cold days continue; how have you been?

Final Greetings

Douka yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.
どうかよろしくお願いします。
Kindly look after this matter for me.

~ ni yoroshiku otsutae kudasai.
~によろしくお伝えください。
Please give my regards to ~.

Minasama ni douzo yoroshiku.
皆様にどうぞよろしく。
Please give my regards to everyone.

Okarada o taisetsu ni.
お体を大切に。
Please take care of yourself.

Douzo ogenki de.
どうぞお元気で。
Take care of yourself.

Ohenji omachi shite orimasu.
お返事お待ちしております。
I look forward to hearing from you.

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