Apology in Japanese: How to apologize in the way you mean it (2023)

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If you've been watching an anime or a Japanese drama, you might have noticed that the characters often apologize.A few familiar words for sorry in Japanese might begomen nasai(excuse me) orSumimasen(Forgiveness).

While the words for "sorry" vary in pronunciation in Japanese, there are also physical ways to express your sincere apologies, such as: B. a bow.

We generally apologize when we have caused an inconvenience to someone. Sometimes our apologies aren't complete without excuses. In Japan, there are other situations where people apologize.

Sometimes instead of saying "Thanks', Japanese people apologize when someone does them a favor. Why? Since we have caused someone 'inconvenience', it is considered polite to apologize for the trouble he/she went through to help.

This way we not only apologize for the inconvenience but also thank you for it! Apologizing can be a deep and sincere way of showing appreciation for someone in Japanese culture.

Read on to discover words, phrases, and actions you can use to apologize in Japanese!

Table of contents

  1. Gomen Nasai
  2. Sumimasen
  3. Moushiwake gozaimasen
  4. Shitsurei Shimasu
  5. Shazai itashimasu
  6. Yurushit-Kudasai
  7. Owabi Moushi Agemasu
  8. Ojama Shimasu
  9. Kanben Shite Kudasai
  10. Warui
  11. mou shimasen
  12. Actions speak louder than words
    • bow
    • Dogeza

Gomen Nasai


I'm sorry

One of the first words we encounter when learning Japanese isgomen nasai(You might also see it written asforgiveness). It's the standard phrase for sorry in Japanese that can be used in almost any situation.

Some shorter, more casual shapes areGummi(sorry) which is more masculine, andgomen ne(sorry), that sounds more feminine. To add more sincerity, you can appendhontou ni(really / really) beforegomen nasai.

However, this is not the idiom when it comes to a workplace context! You can use the next words in the list to apologize to your bosses.


(Video) 5 ways to say "I'm sorry" in Japanese (It's not only "Sumimasen"!)

Watashi ni ke-ki wo taberareta, gomenasai.
I'm sorry I ate your cake.
I'm sorry I ate your cake.
I'm sorry I ate your cake (without permission).



I am sorry. Excuse me

This is one of the most common ways to say sorry in Japanese!Sumimasencan be used in any situation where you need to apologize easily, e.g. B. if you accidentally bump into someone. The past tenseSumimasen-Deshita(I'm sorry) makes this sentence more formal.

To emphasize your apology you can addcollapse(Thanks).

Sumimasennot only used to apologize. It also means "sorry" that I get people's attention.


Konban oai dekinakute sumimasen.
I'm sorry I can't meet you tonight.
Good evening. I'm sorry I can't meet you.
I'm sorry I can't meet you tonight.

Sumimasen, eki wa doko desu ka?
Excuse me, where is the train station?
Excuse me, where is the train station?
Excuse me, where is the train station?

Anata wo konna ni nagai aida matasete, doumo sumimasen.
I am very sorry that you had to wait so long.
I'm sorry that I made you wait so long.
I'm really sorry that I made you wait so long.

Moushiwake gozaimasen

I'm sorry

I'm very sorry

Moushiwake gozaimasenis one of the best ways to apologize for something you did wrong at work. When you need to apologize to someone in authority—your boss, a traffic cop, a supervisor—this phrase works best.

Another shape you might come across ismoushi arimasen(I'm sorry / I'm sorry), but use with caution as this is less formal.

A much more formal form that focuses more on apologizing for the inconvenience you have caused would begomei okakeshite moushiwake gozaimasen(I apologize for the inconvenience caused.) This translates directly to "Sorry for the inconvenience."Gomei(sorry/sorry) is a noun meaning "trouble" or "inconvenience."

Moushiwake(Excuse me / I'm sorry) means "excuse me" or "sorry" whilegozaimasenis the negative polite form ofaru(ある), meaning "to be." That would mean translated: "There is no excuse".


Kono tabi wa watashi no fuchuui ni yori gomeiwaku okakeshita koto moushiwake gozaimasen.
I apologize for the inconvenience caused by my carelessness.
I'm sorry I caused you trouble this time.
I deeply apologize for the inconvenience caused by my negligence.

Shitsurei Shimasu


Please excuse me

This is another practical term for the workplace. The wordshitmeans "rudeness" or "rudeness". To make this more formal, you can opt to useShitsurei Itshimashita(Sorry/Sorry for the inconvenience.) It can also be a way of expressing gratitude, like "Thank you for helping me".

Shitsurei shimasuis a way of saying "Excuse me" when you have to leave in front of another colleague. In Japan, it's usually considered rude to leave work before your boss or supervisor does, which is why working overtime is a popular (but unhealthy) practice in the workplace.

(Video) Top 10 Ways to Apologize

Here's an example of a conversation you might have after work:

Shitsurei Shimasu.
Please excuse (my rudeness), I will leave earlier.

Otsukaresama deshita!
Good work for today!
Thanks for your hard work!
Good work today!

Shazai itashimasu

my apologies

my apologies

Shazai itashimasuis not heard very often in normal conversation because it is a very sincere apology. Politicians or celebrities use this when they have to publicly apologize for a scandal.

The wordshazai(sorry/shame) means “sorry”.Itashimasuis a humble form used when referring to one's actions. This sentence is translated as "I'm sorry for my actions".


please forgive me

Please forgive me

From the meaning alone, we can say that this is another intense way to say sorry in Japanese! If you've done something really bad, you can use itYurushit-Kudasaiask the person for forgiveness. This can be used in less formal situations.

Yurushitis the -te form ofYurusu(forgive), a verb meaning "to forgive," "to forgive," or "to excuse."

Apology in Japanese: How to apologize in the way you mean it (1)


Anata no pātī ni ikenai koto dou ka yurushite kudasai.
Please excuse me for not being able to go to your party.
Please forgive me for not being at your party.
Please forgive me for not being able to go to youbirthday party.

Owabi Moushi Agemasu

I apologize

I offer my deepest apologies

Similar toShazai Itashimasu, this expression is used in formal situations, usually business. This is what you may hear from companies in situations where their reputation has been damaged and they need to apologize for their shortcomings.Owabi Moushi Agemasuis also used in trains or airports when bad weather causes accidents or delays.

This phrase is rarely used in speech, but is more common in formal written apologies.

Owabi(excuse me/excuse me) is another word for "excuse me", andmoushi agemasu(Thank you / I will do it again) is a humble expression meaning "to express" or "to offer".


Kono tabi wa tousha no furaito ga chien itashimashite fukaku owabi moushi agemasu.
We sincerely apologize for the delay in our flight.
I would like to sincerely apologize for the delay in my flight to China.
We deeply apologize for the delay in our flight.

Ojama Shimasu


Excuse me for disturbing you

(Video) 3 WAYS you need to know when apologizing in Japan!

This is an expression used when we are disturbing or interrupting someone, especially at work. This can be used in both formal and informal situations.

It's also polite to use this phrase before entering someone's home.

Jama(disturbing) means "obstructing" or "invading."honorary prefix'o' (お) makes it more polite.


Ojama shimasu Kono bunsho wa dareka ni agemasu ka?
Excuse me, give this document to someone?
Excuse me for disturbing you. Who are you giving this bunsho to?
Sorry to bother you, but who should I give this document to?

Kanben Shite Kudasai

please let me go

Please have mercy

That may sound a bit strange. You might hear this in an anime or drama instead of in real life. Butkanben scheiße kudasaican be used in really dire situations! For example, if you injure your significant other or cause an accident at work that puts your company's reputation in trouble - oh no!

Kanben(Kanben / Kanben) means "forgiveness" or "forgiveness".



my mistake

This is a very informal way of saying "my bad, my bad."Waruican be repeated twice in a conversation, but it's considered rude to use with your boss or supervisors! Only use this among your closest friends.

In this context,waruitranslates as "unforgivable" or "guilt".


bad! I forgot the party!
bad! I forgot the party!
My mistake! I forgot the party!

mou shimasen

No longer

I won't do it again

After apologizing, you can promise not to make the same mistake by sayingmou shimasen. However, in most situations, only children and people in intimate relationships use this.

Apology in Japanese: How to apologize in the way you mean it (2)

For example, a young child hides his sister's favorite toy for fun, causing her to cry. When the parents get them to apologize, the guilty child can say:

Omocha wo kakushita gomen ne Mou shimasen.
I'm sorry I hid my toy. No longer.
I'm sorry I hid your toy. No longer.
I'm sorry I hid your toy. I won't do it again.

Actions speak louder than words

Despite the many words and phrases we can use to say sorry in Japanese, our body language is still the most powerful way to express our sincerity.

In Japanese culturebowis a common action you may see on a daily basis - to greet, thank and apologize. There are alsoDogeza (Dogeza / Dogeza), the most extreme way to apologize. To help you understand the nuances behind different types of Japanese bows, thisVideoby That Japanese Man Yuta Can Help!

(Video) Japanese I, Lesson 3 - Apologizing | Irasshai!


A little nod of the head works for light apologies, e.g. B. after hitting someone, dropping some papers or accidentally taking the same product as someone else at the supermarket. Of course, it can be accompanied by the handy phraseSumimasenand eye contact with the person.

Deeper bows can range from 15 degrees to a 90 degree angular bend of the body, whether seated or standing. The bigger the mistake or the more formal the situation, the lower you have to bow; and the deeper you bow, the more sincere your apology will be.

Instead of bowing, some people choose to place their palms together (as if praying) while apologizing. However, this action is more acceptable among close friends.


You may know this funny video by the name"Extreme Japanese Apology"that went viral around 2014. These are some hilarious ways to brush up on the deepest form of apology in Japan:Dogeza.

TheDogeza(土下座 / どげざ) is the deepest form of bow to say sorry in Japan. It is reserved for serious situations that have great consequences.

In the past, it was more common for people of lower status to plead before nobles or even samurai when faced with life-or-death situations. It's rarely done these days, except in forms of public apology and media (like anime or manga).

ListDogeza, someone must get down on their hands and knees and lower their forehead into the space between their hands.

It is the most shameful position in Japanese culture because the soil is considered unclean. Getting down to earth in this way means lowering your pride and getting as dirty as the floor to ask for forgiveness.

The you kanji that defines youDogeza(Dogeza) are quite straightforward.Onyomireadings,Again(土) means "ground" or "soil",ge(下) means "below" or "inferior" andfor(座) means "squat" or "sit".

How to say sorry in Japanese

Are you ready to take the next step in your Japanese language journey? Our recommended online course isJapanesePod101.

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Other important Japanese phrases:

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  • How to say goodbye in Japanese: 16 useful ways
  • How to Say Yes in Japanese: "Hai" and More!
  • How to Say No in Japanese: 11 Ways
Apology in Japanese: How to apologize in the way you mean it (3)
Apology in Japanese: How to apologize in the way you mean it (4)

Thea Ongchua

Thea is a freelance copywriter and is currently studying Japanese Studies. She enjoys making art and is inspired by film and music. Thea was inspired to study Japanese language and culture by reading the literary works of Haruki Murakami and Edogawa Ranpo.


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