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.
Table of Contents
Japanese Email Format
The format is very simple and it is exactly the same as English email.
- Recipient’s name
- Main message
- Closing line
- Your name
Let’s look at an example. This is an email to schedule a meeting.
If you literally translate it into English, it becomes like this:
Now that we know the format, let’s look at each section and learn the rules and sample phrases.
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.
Regarding next week’s meeting
Consultation on …
Consultation on career after graduation
Inquiry about …
Inquiry about summer assignments
I am sending …
|請求書 No.1234 をお送りします
I am sending the invoice No.1234
I am attaching …
I am attaching my resume
|* … と申します
My name is …
My name is xx from Osaka Inc.
Appreciation for …
Appreciation for last week’s seminar
Apology for …
Apology for the invoice mistake
* This phrase should only be used if you are emailing someone just to introduce yourself.
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 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|
|人事部||Human Resources Division|
|広報部||Public Relations Department|
The safest honorific title to put after the recipient’s name is 様, 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（president）or 部長（general manager）, it is a good idea to use that instead of 様.
On the other hand, if you are writing to a 社長 or 部長 outside of your company, you need to stick to 様.
- トウキョウ株式会社 営業部 部長 田中様
When you are emailing a teacher or a professor, they usually prefer to be addressed with their job title ー e.g. 教授（professor）, 先生（teacher）.
Remember, addressing people with their job title already shows respect, so don’t use his/her title and 様 together, because that would be redundant.
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:
- Main message
- Closing line
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,
I am sorry to suddenly email you. My name is ×× from Osaka Inc.
If you haven’t talked to them for a while,
I am sorry it’s been a while. This is ×× from Osaka Inc.
If you have been in business with them for a while,
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,
Thank you for your reply.
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,
I am sorry to bother you during this busy time,
I understand this is a big ask,
If you are actually causing troubles ー e.g. changing schedule or asking to resend something,
I am sorry for causing you troubles,
After these phrases, put that magical Japanese phrase:
Thank you for your cooperation.
You are almost done! To finish up, just write your company name and your name. Of course, there is no need to worry about 様 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.
* 弊社 = a humble way to say “my company”
* 当校 = our school
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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