Column : The basics of writing emails in Japanese

Here’s a series of articles about tips for foreigners to learn Japanese by a Japanese language teacher at TCJ (Tokyo Central Japanese Language School) in Shinjuku Ward.

*There’s a special 22,000 yen reward just for Expat’s readers. Check the bottom.

Hello, I’m Minami, a Japanese language teacher working at a Japanese language school in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

I know it’s a sudden question, but isn’t it difficult to understand Japanese email manners?
When I asked my husband, a foreigner, “What do you want to know about Japanese culture? I asked him, “Japanese e-mail manners are troublesome…” He gave me his valuable opinion!

Indeed, as a Japanese person myself, I sometimes wonder how to write an email, and I am often asked for advice by my students.
Therefore, in this article, I would like to introduce the basics of how to write emails in Japan.

Check the basic structure of emails.

I’m sure you know this, but let’s go over the general structure of an email.

Subject  
Addressee (◯◯様)

Greetings (いつもお世話になっております。△△のAと申します。)
Requirements
Conclusion (どうぞよろしくお願いいたします。)

Signature  

In often cases, people forget to fill in the subject line, so please be careful.
Also, some students add “,” or “;” after the name of addressee, but it is not necessary in Japanese emails.

How do you start an email?

I like to start with a pleasant “おはようございます” (Good morning) or “こんにちは” (Good afternoon) just as I do when greeting people at school, but that is not the case with email.

1) A good safe writing style to keep in mind
If you search the web, you’ll probably find various examples, but I dare you!
In the beginning, it’s enough to remember the two safe starters!

● いつもお世話になっております。(I’m always grateful for your help.)
● 平素より大変お世話になっております。(I’m very grateful for your continued support.)

You’ve seen the two sentences above, right? We encourage you to try these.

2)How to start an email to a colleague.
If you like to learn some more, let me show you how to write to your colleagues.
There is just one greeting.

● お疲れ様です。(Thank you for your hard work.)

If you want to be more polite, please write “お疲れ様でございます”.

3)When you received a reply from the recipient
There’s only one greeting to start with so hope you remember this!

● ご返信ありがとうございます。(Thank you for your reply.)

What do you think? It’s not that difficult, is it?

Why say “I’m always grateful for your help” even when we have never met …?

While living in Japan, have you ever heard someone you met for the first time say, “お世話になっております(I’m always grateful for your help)” ? Some people even write it that way in their emails.

You may think “No, no, I haven’t taken care of her yet…”, but just think of it as a standard Japanese greeting sentence.
However, for those who want to use more accurate Japanese, here are some expressions.

Difficulty in sending a request email

The other day, I received an email from a colleague of mine with this sentence.

● アンケート調査にご協力いただけましたら、幸甚(koujin)に存じます。(I would be very grateful if you could cooperate with the survey.)

You may understand that it’s a request to cooperate with the survey, but what do you think “幸甚(koujin)” means?

To be honest, I didn’t know how to read the kanji for “幸甚(koujin)” until I started working.
You need to be careful with this word since it is not used every day.

● ~(て)いただければと存じます。(I hope you can…)
● ~(て)いただければ大変幸いです。(I would be very grateful if you could…)
● ~(て)いただければ幸甚(こうじん)です。(I would be grateful if you could…)

You may think that this expression is too complicated, so wouldn’t “~してください” be good enough? I know, but don’t you think it’s rather a good deal to make a better impression just by changing a few expressions?

金曜日17:00までに、〇〇までお知らせください。(Please notify 〇〇 by 17:00 on Friday.)

金曜日17:00までに、〇〇までお知らせいただければと存じます。(I hope you would notify 〇〇 by 17:00 on Friday.)

What do you think? It’s not that hard!

So What does “よろしくお願いいたします(Please take care of me)” Mean?

Why is it that Japanese emails always end with the phrase “よろしくお願いいたします” ?

For example・・・

ミナミさん(Ms. Minami)

お疲れ様です。
(Thank you for your hard work.)

本日の授業は、予定通り終わりました。
(Today’s class ended as scheduled.)
問題等も特にありませんでした。
(There were no problems.)

よろしくお願いいたします。

There are times when I wonder what they are asking me to do, but please think of this as another standard Japanese style when closing email.

Of course, if you are confident in your Japanese language skills, I recommend changing around the sentences to match with “よろしくお願いいたします” at the end.

However, since this column is about the basics of Japanese email, please keep in mind to write just these two expressions at the end of an email.

● よろしくお願いいたします。
● よろしくお願い申し上げます。
(I look forward to working with you.)

As I’m sure many of you know, “どうぞ” and “何卒 (nanitozo)” are often added before “よろしく”. Why don’t you give it a try to use them?

Side Story :The “Addressee” and “Greeting” Issues in Social Media

These days, I think in many cases people use chat tools instead of email to keep in touch. In fact, we have started using Slack in my school.

I think it’s better than email in ways that I can respond with one action and use emoji, but at the same time, I sometimes wonder how much I should be careful with my email manners.
For example, we do not start our messages with names of addressee and standard greetings in Social Media. If you’re writing personal messages, just writing “Class is over!” is not a problem.
Well, in Japanese communication where people prefer to be safe, I would recommend using email manners in Social Media and chat tools when in doubt.

Last but not Least

What did you think? In this article, I have briefly introduced some particularly important points as “the basics of how to write email in Japanese.
I’m sure there are still a lot of areas where you are confused about how to write in Japanese, but I hope that you feel a little more comfortable now when writing Japanese emails.
See you next time!

More about TCJ (Article in Expat’s Guide Website)

How to apply for the rewards

1. Access the TCJ website
2. Go to the “CONTACT/INQUILY” page
3. Select the one that first your needs.
(Valid for “Japanese for residence in Japan” or “Online lesson”)
4. Input your contact information and the referral code “EXP-001”

When you officially apply for the lessons after the counseling session, you will receive a discount on the admission fee of 22,000 yen.

Click here to Apply


info@tcj-nihongo.com (General Inquiries)
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03-3354-5001
4F Shinanomachi-Toshin Bld.,34 Shinanomachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
0 min from Shinanomachi Station on JR Chuo-Sobu Line
7 min on foot from Kokuritsu-Kyogijo Station on Toei Oedo Line
9:00am – 18:00pm
Holidays: Saturday, Sunday, National Holidays
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Website: Tokyo Central Japanese Language School (TCJ)
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