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How to write an Email in Japanese: the complete guide

Letter writing has long been seen as an art form in Japan. In this day and age, however, lengthy personal letters are quickly dying out in favor of email. Email is widely used in Japan for business and personal communications and is an essential skill to master.

Due to the strict hierarchal nature of written Japanese and business culture, there are many cultural phrases and strict formats that you must learn in order to avoid any written faux pas.

Sound intimidating? It’s not so bad! With our guide, you'll be on your way to communicating in written Japanese seamlessly and writing emails and letters like a pro!

If you need additional resources on the path towards fluency in Japanese, have a look at this course or consider getting a tutor.

How to title the subject of an email in Japanese

While writing an email in Japanese may sound difficult, titling your email properly is one of the easiest parts. String together a few nouns that are the main topics of your email, and then add « について » or « の件けんについて » afterwards. Here are some easy examples:

Although « について » is the most common phrase to follow the subject of a Japanese email, there a number of others to convey a wide application of usages.

If you have multiple things you wish to address, you can add « 等 » at the end of a list of general topics to mean “etc.”

How do you start an email in Japanese?

In Japanese culture, one’s appearance is everything. This is why the concept of formality and structure are so ingrained in Japanese society and first impressions are so important.

Therefore, when starting a written correspondence in Japanese, introducing yourself can set the tone for the entire interaction. Here is an example of how to formally start a Japanese email if it is your first time writing one another.



Mr. Tanaka,

Nice to meet you. This is Mr. Komatsu from ABC Company.

If it is someone you know or work with, you can also keep it simple with something along the lines of:


I appreciate your help as always. This is Mr. Komatsu.

Just remember that keeping the social hierarchy in mind when writing emails is important. Before writing, some helpful questions to ask yourself are

Much of Japanese business etiquette is built on the concept of respect and so if you are unsure, it’s better to be more respectful, than less respectful.

How do you Address the Recipient in a Japanese Email?

Notice how in the example, both the writer and the recipient are only referred to by their last names? This is because in Japanese, using someone’s first name is considered very personal. Hence, in formal written communications, only the last name is used.

The other important element of the introduction is the suffix following the recipient’s name. In this example, Mr. Tanaka is referred to as Tanaka « 様 » (Sama). This indicates a very high level of respect. A slightly more casual suffix is « さん » (San) for someone you have a rapport with.

If you are writing to someone within your own company who is above you, use their position in the company as a suffix. Something along the lines of

However, you are writing someone who has similar seniority ranking to you, « さん » is usually sufficient. Note however that just because someone in a high position writes casually to you, it doesn’t mean that you can write casually back.

If the email has multiple recipients, you can address them as “*Company name*の皆さん/様.” This translates to “Everyone at *Company name*” and is all-inclusive.

« 各位 » (Dear all) or « 関係者各位 » (Dear all involved) can also be used and are more formal.

What are some Common Greetings used in Japanese Emails?

After the initial introduction, it is also important to properly greet the recipient with a formal phrase to express your gratitude for the interaction.

Here are some common phrases you can use to start out your written Japanese communications.

One thing that you might notice is that all of these phrases sound a bit apologetic in nature.

That is because culturally speaking, you are taking up someone else’s time and space with your email suddenly. Think of the greeting as an apology for the intrusion.

How do you reply to an email in Japanese?

When making first contact, a greeting apologizing for intruding in the recipient’s space is considered proper. Likewise, when you receive a reply, you must then thank the other person for taking the time of their day to respond to you.

The following are some good Japanese follow-up replies:

If you are looking to emphasize the degree of gratitude you can use 誠に (Makoto ni), 本当に (Honto ni) or 大変 (Taihen) before ありがとうございます to make it more formal as well.

There may also come times when you need to apologize for your late reply as none of us are perfect. It may then be necessary to preface your email with a phase of apology before diving into the main text of your email.

One thing to note is that culturally, in a business setting Japanese people don’t typically like to give or hear excuses. Therefore unless your reason for responding late has something directly to do with the contents of the email, simply apologizing is best.

How to write the body of an email in Japanese

While the contents of your email will depend greatly on the topic you are writing about, one thing to keep in mind is the formality of your email.

When considering the degree of formality that you are writing your email in, keep the concept of « 内-外 » or “in-out” firmly in mind.

In Japanese culture, « 内 » refers to your home and those in your “inner circle.” People that would be considered part of your “inner circle” would be your family, your friends, and your company. Any group that you are a part of is part of this circle.

« 外 » on the other hand is someone who is outside of this circle. Examples of people who exist outside of this circle are members of another company, a customer, or at times, a higher ranking member of your own company.

When writing emails in Japanese, we acknowledge this social hierarchy by lowering ourselves with Humble speech (謙譲語) and elevating others with Honorific speech (尊敬語).

There is also the neutral Polite speech (丁寧語) for when you want to remain professional and polite, but don’t need to go overboard with the honorifics. If you have an established rapport with someone perhaps at your company, this is fine.

For many, this is one of the hardest parts of communicating in written Japanese as many of the words themselves actually are completely different from colloquial Japanese. You can use our Keigo chart for quick reference.

Plain Form Polite Form Humble Form Honorific Form
To be
To go
To eat
To do
To see
To listen
To think
To say
To meet
To be

While these are just some of the most common words to be careful when writing an email in Japanese, there are many others as well. Many nouns such as family (家族) and water (水) will have the prefixes ご or お added on to make them an honorific.

Note that whether a word is an お or a ご depends on its origin and must be learned through practice. Since these are honorific words as well, one’s own family cannot be referred to as ご家族 as that would be using honorific speech to describe yourself.

What are some key phrases for writing an Email in Japanese?

While paying attention to formality is a key component in writing a good email in Japanese, using additional set phrases can be one way to tie everything all together.

Often when writing emails in Japanese, you will need to ask for a favor or a follow-up. Culturally speaking, since you are “burdening” someone with a task and using your time, you need to be extra polite and perhaps use one of the following phrases.

What should I write in the conclusion of a Japanese Email?

Despite the lengthy and verbose nature of Japanese emails, conclusions are surprisingly quick and right to the point. You can often end on a question or set an intention for what you plan to do yourself.

If you are going to do something or perform an action yourself, you need to write it as a direct statement announcing what you plan on doing.

When you are sharing your opinion, even if you are resolute, it is considered good etiquette to ask what the other person thinks of your idea. For example, if you intend on contacting President Tanaka, you still should ask for the other person’s opinion.


I am thinking of contacting President Tanaka, what do you think?

Although your intention is very clear already, running it by someone else shows that you are still considering how your actions affect the entire company or everyone involved.

After asking a question or saying what you intend to do next, a simple thank you or acknowledgment of appreciation will do just fine.

And then at the bottom all that’s left is to sign your name! Don’t forget however that in Japanese, the last name comes first, before the first name.

And there you have it. That wasn’t so hard! While writing emails in Japanese can be very difficult at first, just know that the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Soon, you’ll be writing emails in Japanese comfortable in no time and communicating flawlessly like a pro!