Ohanasi Kagawa

Are Japanese good at apologizing? 3 Words for Apologizing in Japanese

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Japanese apologizing

Do you know how many “words of apology” there are in Japanese?

The words you use depend on the situation: words for family and friends, words for people you are not close to, and words used in business situations.

Compared to foreigners, Japanese people tend to apologize immediately.

This is because many Japanese people think that when they bump into someone on the street, for example, it is not the other person’s fault. 

Of course, there are people who blame the other person and get angry.

In most cases, it is the Japanese who immediately say the words 「ごめんなさい」 “Gomennasai” or 「すみません」”Sumimasen.”

In Japan, it is not considered a loss if you apologize first.

Being able to apologize properly is also a form of politeness in Japan.

In this article, we will explain the types of words to use to apologize in Japanese and how to use them easily.

Words of apology 「ごめんなさい」”Gomennasai”




These are used to apologize to family members, friends, and those close to you.

They are commonly used in everyday life.

Words of apology 「すみません」 “Sumimasen”

「すみません」”Sumimasen” is used when you cause trouble for someone you don’t know or don’t know very well.

It is a slightly more polite apology.

For example: 

・When you bump into someone on the street

・When you step on someone’s foot on the train

Words of apology 「もうしわけございません」”Moushiwake gozaimasen”

「もうしわけございません」”Moushiwake gozaimasen” is an apologetic phrase used in business situations.

It is used in situations where you are apologizing politely.

For example:

When the cash register at a store is crowded,


“Omatasesite moushiwake gozaimasenn.”

When your order is taking a long time to arrive at a restaurant,


“Moushiwake gozaimasen. Mou shoushou omachikudasai.”

How to use the right words to apologize

Let me explains how to use different words to apologize when you are late for an appointment.

To a friend,



At a hair salon



To a clients at work


“Moushiwake gozaimasen.”

Movement when apologizing

There is also a gesture of apology.

When used in combination with words of apology, it is more effective in expressing the sense of apology.



Clasping hands



Bow your head


“Moushiwake gozaimasen”

Bow your head.

What is 土下座“Dogeza”?

Kneeling on the floor or ground and placing one’s hands on the ground to express an apology.

It can be seen in historical and TV dramas.

It is rarely used in everyday life.

Kneeling on the ground is the highest level of apology.


It’s better not to have too many opportunities to apologize.

But if you know these three apology words, you can use them when the time comes.

Are there opportunities to use words of apology at Ohanashi Kagawa?