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Say sayonara to 'sayonara' – 70% of Japanese don’t use this word for goodbye anymore

39 Comments
By Scott Wilson, RocketNews24

If you were to ask people who have never studied Japanese before to name some Japanese words they know, chances are there’s a few that would come up again and again: sushi, samurai, ninja, konnichiwa, and of course, sayonara – “goodbye.”

But according to a recent survey conducted by Japan’s livedoor News, the average Japanese person doesn’t use the word “sayonara” at all. They asked 30 people of a variety of ages and genders if they used the word, and the results don’t look good for the “goodbye” word.

Twenty-one of the 30 people — 70% — said they “don’t use it” or “don’t use it all.” And when narrowed down to the younger crowd, 20- to 30-year-olds only, 11 out of 14, or 80%, said the same. The sampling size may not be the largest, admittedly, but chances are similar percentages would carry over into the population at large.

Here are some reasons for why people seem to be saying “goodbye” to sayonara:

“I don’t like ‘sayonara’ because it makes our meeting feel like the end.” “Saying ‘sayonara’ makes it seem like we won’t meet again, so I don’t use it. It feels like a cold word.” “At work or with family and friends, I always just say ‘see you later’ instead.”

“Sayonara” definitely has an air of finality to it. Just like most English speakers don’t say “farewell” unless it’s truly the end, most Japanese people would feel a little strange saying “sayonara” if they were just going to see the same person again tomorrow.

But then that brings up another question: if you’re not going to say goodbye to someone with “sayonara,” what do you say instead?

Luckily, Japanese is a veritable buffet when it comes to different ways of saying hello, goodbye, and everything in between. Here are just a few samples of all the different tasty expressions you can use to part ways with someone without sounding like a samurai departing for some distant land:

Ja ne. (See ya) Mata ne/kondo/ashita/raishuu. (See you later/next time/tomorrow/next week) Shitsurei shimasu. (I’m sorry for having been rude – on ending a phone call, leaving work, etc.) Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu. (I’m sorry for rudely leaving before you [at work]) Otsukaresama desu. (You must be tired, thank you for your work.) Gokigenyou. (Fare thee well – if you want to sound fancy) Bai bai. (If you want to sound cute)

So the next time you’re out with Japanese-speaking people, what will you do? Will you help resuscitate the dying “sayonara?” Or will you let it die its linguistic death and enjoy the rainbow of other “goodbye” flavors? Make your choice soon, before it’s too late to say “farewell!”

Source: livedoor News via My Game News Flash

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- 4 Japanese beauty fads that Westerners just don’t understand -- Fashion advice – Almost half of Japanese women say they don’t like guys wearing tank tops -- Don’t trust your eyes! Let these unique pieces of art challenge your perception of reality

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39 Comments
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またね。 じゃーねー。 それじゃ。 ほんじゃ。 おつかれーい。 おつ etc...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The sampling size may not be the largest, admittedly, but chances are similar percentages would carry over into the population at large.

Hell of an assumption, and I'll bet the people taking the so-called survey have never stood outside any ES or JHS as the kids leave to go home.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

kids say "sayonara" at school everyday

2 ( +3 / -1 )

30 people surveyed? I hear and use the phrase everyday as well as others... from young and old. I don't think it has an air of finality to it. What were the actual questions asked? No offence to the surveyor but the responses sound made up... I think the phrase is warm and sincere.. unless different areas of Japan have different views on the phrase. Perhaps my area is more traditional.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

different tasty expressions you can use

Huh?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"They asked 30 people of a variety of ages and genders" LOL Not a statistically large enough sample size. Not to mention people as close as Osaka and Tokyo have totally different language use characteristics.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Years ago on Okinawa, when "See you later, alligator" was still in vogue, I recall some goofy foreigners coming up with a Japanese equivalent that went さようなら、おなら (sayonara, onara). Haven't heard it in years, though, and am wondering if it's finally become a 死語 (shigo, dead word). Has anybody heard of this?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sayonara is the polite form (丁寧語 - teineigo) of goodbye. In and of itself, it does not mean 'bye for a long time', however due to the formality of it, outside of schools, it's generally only used when you won't be seeing someone for a period of time, if not ever again. I haven't heard anyone say it in years myself.

Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu. (I’m sorry for rudely leaving before you [at work])

I don't like this translation. I think "I'll be rude and leave first" is more accurate. Adding "I'm sorry" into the translation plays off on the stereotypical representation of Japanese language as pretty much every sentence inserting a 'sorry' into it.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

My high school daughter says "Sayonara" is only used for teachers as it has an air of formality and respect - a little old fashioned.

She said friends never use it with each other because of it's finality or "farewell" nuance.

But I do hear uni students use it with each other in the corridors some times, and I'm sure they will see their friends / classmates the next day.

Perhaps it's a regional thing.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Children still say 'Sayonara' to their teachers, and also, it is used in songs pretty often. But we don't use it in daily conversations any more.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu. (I’m sorry for rudely leaving before you [at work])

I think "I'll be rude and leave first" is more accurate.

I would tend to translate "shitsurei shimasu" as "excuse me" in most contexts, and usually not "I am sorry" (as @Strangerland wrote).

So I would translate the entire phrase as "Excuse me for leaving ahead of you," or in the spirit of the rule that translator's should "translate what is said, not how it is said," I would translate it as "Excuse me but I'm leaving (heading home) now."

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It is not only the Japanese who say it but what really grates on my nerves is "bai-bai" - maybe even more especially when native English speakers say it. It's an abbreviation of "God be with you" so "be with you, be with you" sounds really strange to me.

I usually use "gia né !" or "matta né" !

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So I would translate the entire phrase as "Excuse me for leaving ahead of you," or in the spirit of the rule that translator's should "translate what is said, not how it is said," I would translate it as "Excuse me but I'm leaving (heading home) now."

I would agree with that. "I'm sorry" gives a feeling of remorse and/or doing something wrong. Whereas 'osaki ni shitsurei shimasu' is more an announcement of leaving.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

It is not only the Japanese who say it but what really grates on my nerves is "bai-bai"

When said like that, the speaker sounds like a 5-year old.

I personally don't use sayonara that often either because it does have a sense of 'farewell, hope to see you again someday in the future'.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

F. Viking - interesting points.

However, regardless of the etymology of goodbye, modern usage conveys no such spirit ( for the majority I imagine) and bye bye as a contraction of goodbye is not so rare in the English speaking world.

My grandmother often used it to her grandchildren, my sister in Australia still uses it. No one ever thinks omg she said "Bye Bye" and wouldn't even register with most. The tone and stress of the utterance are the significant factors in determining intent and emphasis. For example she may use a long drawn out stronger "Bye--------, Bye---------!) when we are leaving to come back to Japan.

A strange one for me is the street-wise spiky haired 17yr old boys speaking in gruff mono-syllables to each other, and then on departure squeal out a high pitched "bai, bai" , destroying all the machismo points built up in one deft swoop.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

When in doubt about the proper term, just say "demo," or for emphasis, "demo, doom" --- you can use it in practically any situation. It's like "aloha."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

さようなら、おなら (sayonara, onara).

Actually it was さようーおなら (sayou-nara)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I like じゃね! Short and to the point. Things get more complicated at business meetings.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Few dialect variation as well: さよなら さいなら さえなら さいなあ へば...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To me Sayonara sounds very cold and rude and essentially means goodbye and good riddance and I do not expect to or want to see you again. As we would say in English, goodbye and have good life.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

To me Sayonara sounds very cold and rude and essentially means goodbye and good riddance and I do not expect to or want to see you again.

It doesn't have those nuances at all, except when said in that tone to someone to whom one has just been having a confrontation with.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Sayonara used also as "hope to not see you again".

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Bai bai. (If you want to sound cute)

I often hear teenage boys saying this to each other on the train. It doesn't sound cute in the least.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I feel funny using it to staff when I leave the gym. I usually just bow my head and mumble nothing in particular.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Maybe it is because people don't really feel like they are going anywhere.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

bai bai arigatou sayonara

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So the main question is, should it be taught to those first learning the language? It felt really weird to me when a Canadian high school exchange student used it with me. I ultimately answered back in kind, but it just didn't feel right.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I like to say ku-sayonara.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just say adios.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

No one uses "sayorana" at work unless your placing your shoes on the edge of the top of the building. Other than that, you cannot escape work. its only "otsukaresamadeshita". In fact, i think men hear "sayonara" from their wives.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No one uses "sayorana" at work unless your placing your shoes on the edge of the top of the building.

Haha! Not many will get that :)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Sayonara" does have a connotation of finality. At the end of the James Mitchner book, Sayonara, the American flier says "Sayonara" to his Japanese lover. But when they made the movie, they decided that such an ending would be too depressing, coming after the double suicide of Airman Kelly and his Japanese wife. So, Marlon Brando asked his Japanese lover to marry him and she said yes. But they already had the title. What to do? They had the press reporters asking Marlon Brando that both the Japanese and U.S. Air Force establishments wouldn't like their decision. "Do you have anything to say to them?" Brando replied, "Yes," looked up to his left to his cue card, and continued, "Tell them we said 'Sayonara.'"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Don't say goodbye. I hate goodbye. It sounds like we'll never meet again. At least with 'see you later', you know that we'll meet again, even if it takes a while." I don't remember where this quote was from, but it's stuck with me for a few years now. I'm sure a lot of people around the world feel similarly, which is why "sayonara" may be in decline.

The listed alternatives were... not what I was expecting. "Ja ne" was though. "Ja na" is a similar alternative. "Mata atode" is one I like to use as well. "Bai bai" only really works if you happen to be 8 years old though. Seeing an adult use it would be pretty creepy.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

My kids seems say Sayomara to their teachers.Usually they use gia-ne-! That's all! But I like this word that sound like trdditional.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Torasan in the movies often said "abayo." Is that Osaka regional substitute for sayonara.? Is abayo used today in daily speech. I loved the way torasan said it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's very informal, Danny and not limited to Osaka.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sayonara is a proper term to say good-bye. It has a ring of sincerity and empathy, but those qualities are no longer in vogue these days. It also is clearly more respectful than jia ne or mata ne (similar to see you) and for that reason those are more common with the young crowd. Young schoolchildren these days opt for endless bai-bais nowadays. It would sound strange if they kept shouting sayonara's. But I still hear that regularly from junior and senior high students. The word has not been forgotten yet and the connotation it has a final ring to it is mistaken.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Could not disagree more. EVERYONE uses "sayonara", but only in certain situations, and situations that rarely come up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't use Sayonara with people I know in Japan for precisely the reasons stated in the article - it does have an air of finality about it. Here at home I never say 'goodbye' for the same reason, it just sounds like that's the end. I'll say 'bye, see you, and any number of informal leaving work/home/etc phrases which show I'll be back.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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