Sakura Mentor

What is Your Favorite Japanese Word?
Ha Hoang Updated in January 2021

As foreigners living in Japan, we study Japanese to easily communicate with local people. I think perhaps everyone has their own favorite Japanese word. Hence, I want to share with you a story that made me fancy the word “okaerinasai” おかえりなさい (welcome home) so much.

illust AC: Kotori

As you might know, when a person comes home, he/she would say “tadaima” ただいま (I’m home), and other members in that family would reply おかえりなさい (welcome home). It is such a warm greeting that I cannot find in my mother language. I still remember a movie scene that I watched by accident. In that movie, a middle-aged man had to join the military and stay away from home several years due to war. One time, he got a permission to visit home and he was so happy for that. When he came home, he said ただいま loudly though he had not seen anyone at home yet. When he was still wondering where his family members were, his wife came close to him from behind and said おかえりなさい while she was crying. I think I could never forget that scene.

However, おかえりなさい is not only used when you come home, Japanese people use it in a wide range of situations, and that really blew me out. Back in 2017 when I was still a master’s student, it was winter holiday season that many Japanese lab mates took their vacation, so that morning, there was only one Japanese student and myself at the lab. Suddenly, a lab member called Shimizu, who went to Taiwan for travel, came to school directly from the airport without relaxing at home. I thought he would be better to rest at home, but I was very glad to see him. And as usual, I greeted him “ohayo” おはよう (good morning). When I heard the other Japanese member in the lab say おかえりなさい to Shimizu, I was so surprised. I did not understand why, but it felt so warm even though I was not the one receiving that greeting. I felt that the lab was also our home. When someone returns to the lab, it means returning home, too. That interesting experience made me like the word おかえりなさい even more.

Now, I work for a Japanese company. The other day, a coworker came in to work after a long business trip in the US. I saw others greeting him おかえりなさい, and I also greeted him the same: おかえりなさい. It was really a good feeling that could not be described by words.

So, what is your favorite Japanese word?

P.S. The program for learning Japanese from NHK was very helpful.
Please check link below: