Monday, 21 March 2011

What does "otsukaresama desu" really mean?

Today I would like to shed some light on one of the most mysterious but versatile Japanese phrases around.  In doing so I will attempt to give a general outline of how the phrase is used in everyday life.

In the work-place:

Otsukaresama desu is most often used in work places and loosely translated (although somewhat unnatural in English) it's a simple greeting that means that you acknowledge a fellow worker or person who is within in the same (or often loosely related) working environment.  Strictly speaking Ostsukaresama desu is used to show appreciation for hard work, but in reality the usage is really broad.  It is most commonly used and easy to understand when fellow workers use the phrase at the end of a working day, in the past tense otsukaresama deshita to show appreciation or acknowledgement of others who have put in a hard days work.  

In many casual settings it is just like saying "hi" or "how are you?" or "how's it going?" or whatever you use as a greeting when you walk by someone in the hall.   

However, the phrase can be found in a myriad of different situations where there seems to be little or no implied acknowledgement or appreciation of work taken place.  It's merely a simple way of starting or ending a conversation between working people.

Outside the work place.

Infact, you could use it outside the work-place with people who you are familiar with, that you know are fellow working people, as a general greeting when beginning or ending interactions.  In these occasions it does not hold the same connotations as the above explanation and doesn't necessarily mean that you are trying to show any appreciation of their work.  

I suppose it is like English speakers when we ask "How are you?" but care little about the answer, as it is merely a way of greeting someone or beginning a conversation.

Remember, Japanese people are big on greetings and they use them all the time.  Otsukaresama desu can be used both at the start or end of the conversation.

Well, I hope this helps.  Ask me if you have any questions.

If you want to start studying Japanese yourself, here's where to go.

Learn Japanese Today



  1. commong thing to say at the end of a party in final fantasy xi or other japanese rpgs after a party ends to acknowledge others hard work and a sign of respect for contributing to a good party

  2. Hellevator - the elevator woman says it at the end, I was confused.

  3. Could I say this at the end of an interview with Japanese speaking interviewer?

    1. Better to say お時間を割いて頂いてありがとうございます。Although I`d check with a Japanese person about that.

  4. Otsukare sama desu/deshita literally means "You must be tired" post work/exertion. It is a respectful term said to equals or people higher in status. Whereas "Gokuro sama desu/deshita" is said by a higher status person to someone of lesser status and means/acknowledges effort or toil. This is my understanding of the two phrases. Dewa Mata, (see you next time)