Here it is, the all-important moment your palms have been sweating about. Everyone wants to make a good first impression and a winning self-introduction is a good way to start.
The first sample self-introduction is formal and appropriate in a work situation, at school, in an office or business establishment, or with someone who is older than you.
It is nice to meet you.
Watashi wa Arekkusu Sumisu to mooshimasu.
My name is Alex Smith.
Amerika no Ohaio shuu kara kimashita.
I am from Ohio, in the United States of America.
Doozo yoroshiku onegaita shimasu.
Please regard me in your favor from now on.
Make a bow at the end of your introduction. You can time your bow so that it comes just after the final word, or you can start the bow at doozo and come back up around onegai shimasu.
The next sample self-introduction is more casual, but still polite, and would be appropriate when meeting people about the same age or younger than you.
Nice to meet you.
Watashi wa Arekkusu Sumisu desu.
My name is Alex Smith.
Amerika no shussin desu.
I'm from the States.
Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
It's a pleasure. (Literally, “Please look out for me.”)
When making your self-introduction in a formal setting, it is polite to stand, bow first, and then begin your speech. Among friends, it is not necessary to stand if everyone is sitting.
Hajimemashite is only used when you introduce yourself. In English, upon leaving someone you may have just met, it is common to say, “It was nice to have met you.” But, in Japan, you only say hajimemashite once, during your introduction.
Points of Consideration
During your self-introduction, it is not necessary to say watashi (“I”) more than once. There are several words for referring to oneself in Japanese, but due to the high value placed on humility in the culture, the reference to oneself is often only alluded to. In the example self-introduction, Alex Smith gives her name in the second sentence. In the third, she states where she is from, but does not repeat watashi wa.
There are many ways to give your background information. The phrase kara kimashita follows your place of origin, or hometown and literally means “came from.”
The final sentence in the two examples is a way of establishing ties with the people you are meeting. There is really no equivalent for doozo yoro-shiku onegai shimasu in English. It is an extremely polite and formal way of saying, “please take care of me, look out for me, and remember me favorably from now on.” The closest analogy in English is the phrase “It was nice to meet you,” although this should not be confused with hajimemashite, which is used at the beginning of an introduction. The less formal, but still polite, phrase yoroshiku is common even among old friends and neighbors. It often accompanies a request for a favor.
A Little Background
Hajimemashite comes from the verb hajimaru, to start or begin. The -te ending suggests the present perfect tense, an attitude suitable for a first meeting. Perhaps this is why it is only used once with each person you meet.
It is also common to find a variation of this verb, -hajimeru, as the second half of many compound verbs. For example: aruki hajimeru (“to start walking”), oshie hajimeru (“to start teaching”), and so on. The noun form, literally “the start” or “beginning,” is hajimari or hajime.
If can't remember whether you have already met somebody or not, you can gently ask: Hajimete desu ka. (“Is this our first meeting?”) Another way to save face is with the following: Kao o oboete imasu da kedo o-namae wa wakarimasen. (“You look familiar but I can't remember your name.”)