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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Japanese Language: Saying sorry over and over

Remember your first impression of the Japanese, packed in tourist buses and racing through Europe in a cloud of 'Sorry, sorry, so sorry!'?

Now that you've come to Japan, you can observe first-hand the national pastime of making constant apologies for no reason at all. You might find it strange to apologize in situations where fault is not an issue.

Japanese Language: Saying sorry over and over。


Smooth interaction in Japan, however, requires constant affirmation of indebtedness and appreciation of kindness or favors. In this society 'Thanks' is sometimes more conveniently expressed as 'I'm sorry for having troubled you', but the meaning is the same.

Sumimasen ('I'm sorry') is used in every situation imaginable, even in every day greetings and interactions, where it can mean 'Excuse me', 'Thank you', or 'Here you are'. You can use it to get a shop clerk's attention, when passing in front of someone, or when giving thanks for a favor, in which case you would use the past tense, Sumimasen deshita. Another form of apology is gomen nasai.

More informal than Sumimasen, it is used less in business situations and more among friends, when it's sometimes shortened to just Gomen.

When you really have something to be sorry for, then you can use Moshiwake arimasen (or the past tense, Moshiwake arimasen deshita). It means 'There's no excuse for what I did!'

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