Japanese for work

The Japanese language is known for its complexity and the multiple levels of politeness that govern everyday interactions. In a professional context, mastering these nuances is crucial for effective communication and building strong working relationships. This article will provide an overview of how the Japanese language for work differs from other forms of Japanese.

Politeness Levels

Japanese for work often requires a higher level of politeness compared to casual conversations. In professional settings, it is essential to use the appropriate honorifics, verb forms, and sentence structures to show respect and maintain harmony.

Example: When asking a question, instead of the informal “どこですか” (doko desu ka) or “where is it,” you would use the more polite “どこにございますか” (doko ni gozaimasu ka) in a business setting.


Keigo is the honorific language used to show respect, humility, or politeness. It is divided into three categories: respectful language (sonkeigo), humble language (kenjougo), and polite language (teineigo). In business settings, the correct use of keigo is crucial for maintaining professional relationships and ensuring effective communication.

Example: Instead of saying “ありがとうございます” (arigatou gozaimasu) to express gratitude, you would use “お世話になりました” (osewa ni narimashita) when thanking a business partner.

Check out “Japanese Language: About Keigo” for more detailed information.

Business Vocabulary

Japanese language for work involves industry-specific terms and phrases that may not be commonly used in everyday conversations. Familiarity with this specialized vocabulary is necessary for understanding and participating in business discussions.

Example: The term “取引先” (torihikisaki) refers to a business partner or client in a professional context.

Indirect Communication

Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on harmony and avoiding confrontation. As a result, communication in professional settings is often more indirect and relies on context, implied meaning, and nonverbal cues.

Example: Instead of directly saying “no,” a Japanese person might say “それはちょっと難しいですね” (sore wa chotto muzukashii desu ne), which means “That’s a bit difficult.”

Formal Writing Style

Written communication in a professional setting requires a more formal style than casual or personal writing. This includes the use of formal expressions and proper sentence structure, as well as the appropriate use of kanji and kana characters.


Example: When writing an email to a business partner, the greeting “拝啓” (haikei) should be used at the beginning of the message, followed by the recipient’s name and a formal closing, such as “敬具” (keigu).


The Japanese language for work differs from other forms of the language in terms of politeness levels, use of keigo, specialized vocabulary, and indirect communication. Understanding and mastering these differences is essential for effectively communicating in professional settings and building strong working relationships. If you’re looking to improve your Japanese language skills for the work environment, don’t forget to check out “Useful phrases in Japanese for work” for helpful phrases and expressions.


AJALT (Association for Japanese-Language Teaching). (2006). Japanese for Busy People. Kodansha International.

Suzuki, R., Hajikano, A., & Kataoka, S. (2006). Business Japanese: Over 1,700 Essential Business Terms in Japanese. Tuttle Publishing.

Maynard, S. K. (2005). Expressive Japanese: A Reference Guide for Sharing Emotion and Empathy. University of Hawai’i Press.

Davies, R. J., & Ikeno, O. (2002). The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture. Tuttle Publishing.