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Complete Guide to Writing Japanese Emails (Etiquette, Format, Samples)

Whether you are writing to your Japanese teacher, applying for a job at a Japanese company or corresponding with your Japanese clients, you came to the right place.

I have worked in a Japanese company and a non-Japanese company for 6 years collectively. I have sent and received thousands of emails in both Japanese and English.

This article will give you a clear idea for writing professional Japanese emails.

  • How to start and end the email
  • The format and useful phrases
  • Etiquette rules to follow

And ultimately, you can start writing Japanese emails on your computer as if you were Japanese! Let’s get started.

Japanese Email Format

The format is very simple and it is exactly the same as English email.

    1. Subject
    2. Recipient’s name
    3. Body
      1. Greeting
      2. Main message
      3. Closing line
    4. Your name

Let’s look at an example. This is an email to schedule a meeting.

Japanese Emails

If you literally translate it into English, it becomes like this:

Japanese Emails

Now that we know the format, let’s look at each section and learn the rules and sample phrases.

Subject

There is only one thing to keep in mind here. Be precise and to the point. This is for the recipient to know the following:

  • What the email is about
  • Whether it requires immediate action

For the title, you only need to know these 8 most common phrases. Trust me, it will cover 95% of the cases.

Subject Example
… について
Regarding …
来週らいしゅうあわせについて
Regarding next week’s meeting
… についての相談そうだん
Consultation on …
卒業後そつぎょうご進路しんろについての相談そうだん
Consultation on career after graduation
… についての質問しつもん
Inquiry about …
夏休なつやすみの課題かだいについての質問しつもん
Inquiry about summer assignments
… をおおくりします
I am sending …
請求書せいきゅうしょ No.1234 をおおくりします
I am sending the invoice No.1234
… を添付てんぷします
I am attaching …
履歴書りれきしょ添付てんぷします
I am attaching my resume
* … ともうします
My name is …
オオサカ株式会社かぶしきがいしゃの××ともうします
My name is xx from Osaka Inc.
… のおれい
Appreciation for …
先週せんしゅうのセミナーのおれい
Appreciation for last week’s seminar
… のお
Apology for …
請求書せいきゅうしょあやまりについてのお
Apology for the invoice mistake

* This phrase should only be used if you are emailing someone just to introduce yourself.

Recipient’s Name

We normally write two things here:

  • Recipient’s company name
  • Recipient’s name

Recipient’s Company Name

Like in English, it is more preferred to put 株式会社かぶしきがいしゃ which is equivalent to “Inc.” or “Ltd.” If you are emailing a big company, it is also better to put the name of the department the recipient belongs to.

Name of Department
営業部えいぎょうぶ Sales Department
人事部じんじぶ Human Resources Division
経理部けいりぶ Accounting Department
広報部こうほうぶ Public Relations Department

Recipient’s Name

The safest honorific title to put after the recipient’s name is さま, which is a gender neutral title. 

Some may wonder if さん is accepted in emails. In business situations, I would say it is not unless you are writing to your colleague who you are having lunch with every day.

If you are writing to your boss and he/she has a position such as 社長しゃちょう(president)or 部長ぶちょう(general manager), it is a good idea to use that instead of さま.

  • 田中社長 たなかしゃちょう
  • 田中部長たなかぶちょう

On the other hand, if you are writing to a  社長しゃちょう or 部長ぶちょう outside of your company, you need to stick to さま.

  • トウキョウ株式会社かぶしきがいしゃ 営業部えいぎょうぶ 部長ぶちょう 田中様たなかさま

When you are emailing a teacher or a professor, they usually prefer to be addressed with their job title ー e.g. 教授きょうじゅ(professor), 先生せんせい(teacher).

  • 田中教授たなかきょうじゅ
  • 田中先生たなかせんせい

Remember, addressing people with their job title already shows respect, so don’t use his/her title and さま together, because that would be redundant.

incorrect
田中社長様たなかしゃちょうさま
田中先生様たなかせんせいさま

  Click here to read more about how to address people in Japanese emails.

Body

Japanese Emails

I am sure that the body of the email tears your hair out the most. Don’t worry. I have prepared a lot of samples for you to choose from.

Usually, email’s body has three parts:

  1. Greeting
  2. Main message
  3. Closing line

Greeting

As funny as it may sound, our emails start with either appreciation or apology. Here are the 4 most common greetings to start your email. Honestly, 90% of emails I have received so far started with one of these phrases or their variations.

If you are emailing someone for the first time,

  • 突然とつぜんのメール失礼しつれいします。オオサカ株式会社かぶしきがいしゃの××ともうします。
    I am sorry to suddenly email you. My name is ×× from Osaka Inc.

If you haven’t talked to them for a while,

  • 無沙汰ぶさたしております。オオサカ株式会社かぶしきがいしゃの××です。
    I am sorry it’s been a while. This is ×× from Osaka Inc.

If you have been in business with them for a while,

  • いつもお世話せわになっております。オオサカ株式会社かぶしきがいしゃの××です。
    Thank you for your continued support. This is ×× from Osaka Inc.

If you want to specifically thank them for replying, you can add the following,

  • 返事へんじありがとうございます。
    Thank you for your reply.
  Click here to see how to continue from here (50+ sample phrases.)

Closing Line

I mentioned that Japanese emails start with either appreciation or apology. This applies to the closing line as well.

If you are expecting some kind of actions or replies,

  • いそがしいところ恐縮きょうしゅくですが、
    I am sorry to bother you during this busy time,
  • 手数てすうをおかけしますが、
    I understand this is a big ask,

If you are actually causing troubles ー e.g. changing schedule or asking to resend something,

  • 迷惑めいわくをおかけしてもうわけございませんが、
    I am sorry for causing you troubles,

After these phrases, put that magical Japanese phrase:

  • どうぞよろしくおねがいいたします。
    Thank you for your cooperation.

Your Name

You are almost done! To finish up, just write your company name and your name. Of course, there is no need to worry about さま or anything because it is your name.

Just make sure you include your email address and phone number if necessary, like you would in your country.

Etiquette Rules in Japanese Emails

Choosing the most polite phrase possible is the key to success in Japanese emails. However, there are some rules that you should know beforehand.

  • Avoid texting unless urgent
  • Reply in 24 hours
  • Don’t refer to your boss with a title

Avoid Texting Unless Urgent

Well this is not an email etiquette per se, but it is something you should keep in mind when doing business in Japan. I was actually surprised when I first moved to Singapore and saw people texting to reach their clients, i.e., using WhatsApp or SMS.

In Japan, emails are still the most common and favored way of communication. Many of us feel it is rude to text for business matters.

Of course it depends on the industry and the company’s culture. But again, let’s go with the safer route and email them unless it is urgent.

Reply in 24 Hours

There is a survey conducted by Mynavi Corporation in 2017 that shows 73% of Japanese people expect a reply within 24 hours, 92% within 48 hours. Even if you don’t have the answer for them right away, let them know that their email is well received.

Don’t Refer to Your Boss with a Title 

I know this line needs clarification. When you are communicating with your clients or anyone outside of your company, it is a big no-no to refer to any of your colleagues and bosses with a title after their name. In fact, even Japanese native speakers sometimes get confused with this.

correct
弊社へいしゃ社長しゃちょうである田中たなか
当校とうこう教授きょうじゅ田中たなか

incorrect
弊社へいしゃ田中社長たなかしゃちょう
弊社へいしゃ田中たなかさんが

* 弊社へいしゃ = a humble way to say “my company”
* 当校とうこう = our school

  Click here to know more etiquette rules for writing Japanese Emails.

Let’s Start Writing Emails in Japanese!

Though most Japanese people understand basic English, it is without a question that they prefer receiving emails in Japanese. For you to write emails in Japanese is a great idea, because it will result in giving a good impression – which means more business!

If you have any questions or thoughts about this subject, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Complete Guide to Writing Japanese Emails (Etiquette, Format, Samples)

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