Entering and Leaving Someone's Home

In Japan, the entryway of anyone's home, the genkan, is considered public space. Vegetable sellers, religious fanatics, and campaigning politicians, as well as family and friends, can open your front door and come right in. Most people call out a greeting upon opening the door and then wait for the owner of the place to come before actually stepping inside.

Friendly neighbors, and even people you have just met (especially in a festival situation) are sure to invite you in:

Doozo, agatte kudasai.

Please, come in.

Likewise, if you are entertaining people in your home, it is important to welcome them appropriately:

Doozo, agarimasen ka.

Won't you come in, please?

The verb agaru literally means “to come up.” The design of most Japanese entryways is such that you must actually step up in order to enter. Note the command form of agaru with a double consonant is used in the first example: agatte. It is softened by the kudasai that follows. Agarimasen is the ultrapolite, nonassuming negative form of the verb.

Don't Mind if I Do

Once you have been invited into someone's home, the polite response is ojama shimasu. This phrase exudes humility in that you are literally calling yourself a hindrance. The o is honorific.

The word jama refers to something that is in the way, so jama o suru means “to create a disturbance or inconvenience.” Japanese people tend to go all out for guests, so maybe, in a way, you really are creating a disturbance, but if you are a polite and respectful guest, your hosts will feel their efforts were not in vain.

This saying is also used when setting up a time to visit someone. You may call up a friend or someone may call you and say:

Ashita no asa o-jama shite mo ii desu ka.

Is it okay if I come over tomorrow morning?

When It Is Time to Go

After thanking your hosts and saying a parting gochisoo-sama deshita, you must once again call yourself a hindrance. Upon leaving someone's home, it is proper to say ojama shimashita. Changing suru to shimashita turns it into the past-tense form of the original greeting.

If you were the one doing the entertaining, you might end with the following:

Mata asobi ni kite ne.

Please come and play again.

If your guests brought a gift, it is appropriate for you to mention the present and say o-miyage arigatoo (“Thanks for the gift”) or kudamono gochisoo sama (“Thanks for the fruit”). You may be seeing these people again at work the next day; in this case, Mata ashita, ne (“See you tomorrow”) is a common parting phrase.

Of course, there are just plain goodbyes, too. If it is going to be awhile before you meet again, it is best to say Sayoonara. Jaa ne and Mata ne are casual “See you later”-type farewells. Bai-bai is mostly reserved for children and babies.

Ano Ne

The particle ne has several different uses. It can be utilized to emphasize an opinion, seek confirmation from the listener, elicit agreement, express emphasis, or as a way to get someone's attention.

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Arigatoo, ne.

Thanks!

Ne, kore o mimashita ka.

Hey, have you seen this?

Kore o taberu, ne.

I'm going to eat this, okay?

Motteta hoo ga ii desu ne.

You had better hold onto it.

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