Word of the Week: いってきます & いってらっしゃい

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘a’ (あ), and focussed on the phrase 足元にご注意下さい, which is basically the Japanese equivalent of London’s “mind the gap”. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘i’ (い). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:

UK Seikatsu suggested ‘itterasshai’ ( いってらっしゃい), said to someone leaving the house; ‘ittekimasu’ (いってきます), said when leaving the house; ‘itadakimasu’ (いただきます), said before eating; ‘inoichiban’ (いの一番 / いちばん), meaning ‘first of all’; and ‘imishin’ (意味深 / いみしん), meaning ‘with profound (often hidden) meaning’; Celia Knox suggested ‘irasshaimase’ (いらっしゃいませ), a welcoming phrase said to customers upon entering a shop or restaurant; Japan Australia suggested ‘ikga desu ka’ (いかがですか), meaning ‘how about this?’; ‘ii yo’ ( いいよ) meaning ‘it’s OK’; ‘ikura desu ka’ ( いくらですか) meaning ‘how much is it?’; and ‘ichiban suki na’ (一番好きな) meaning ‘favourite’; lovelycomplex22 also suggested ‘irasshaimase’ (いらっしゃいませ); and ‘isshoukenmei’  (一生懸命) which means ‘very hard; with utmost effort’; and Jay Dee suggested ‘iranai’ (いらない), ‘I don’t want/need it’; isshoni’ (いっしょに), ‘together’; ‘imi wakanai’ (意味わかんあい / いみわかない), meaning ‘I don’t understand’; and ‘ii ne’ (いいね), meaning ‘sounds good’, or ‘that would be nice’.

There were so many good suggestions this week and I wish I had time to write about them all! I was really tempted to write about ‘irasshaimase’ (いらっしゃいませ) because I love hearing it said when I walk into a shop or restaurant in Japan, and it’s such a very Japanese sound. But, in the end, I chose a pair of phrases to write about…

いってきます & いってらっしゃい

(ittekimasu & itterasshai)

Whenever I watch a Studio Ghibli movie (or in fact any Japanese movie) I find myself waiting for these phrases, which crop up in almost every film. It always makes me smile to hear them, and think about my time in Japan. Even though they’re such plain everyday phrases to the Japanese ear (and are probably usually said automatically without any conscious thought), they are a lovely example of something quite unique about the Japanese language. Phrases such as these exist, and they can’t easily be translated. Part of the reason they don’t work in English, I think, is that they are so deeply connected to Japanese culture.

‘Ittekimasu’ (いってきます) is a phrase said by a person leaving a place (usually a house, but also if you were to pop out of the office at lunchtime, for example) to the people remaining inside. Literally translated, it means ‘I’ll go and come back’. The natural response from the people remaining inside would be ‘itterasshai’ ( いってらっしゃい), which literally translates as ‘please go and come back’.

I suppose the English equivalent for ‘Ittekimasu’ (いってきます) would be ‘I’m off’ or ‘see you later’, and ‘itterasshai’ ( いってらっしゃい) would be ‘have a good day’, ‘take care’, ‘see you later’. But these translations don’t really do justice to the feeling behind the phrases. It’s hard to explain these phrases if you’ve not lived or worked in a Japanese environment, but these phrases are so deeply ingrained in Japanese life, and I imagine most Japanese people couldn’t imagine not saying them.

If you’d like to hear the phrases, check out this video:

You don’t have to use such a squeaky voice when you say them though! 😉

Here’s a clip from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time where you can also hear the phrases being said:

So far in this post I’ve only used romaji and hiragana to write this week’s phrases. ‘Ittekimasu’ (いってきます) and ‘itterasshai’ ( いってらっしゃい) can be written using kanji too, but usually they are just written in kana. If you were to write them with kanji, they would be written like this:

行って来ます (ittekimasu) and 行ってらっしゃい (itterashai)

You can see they both begin with 行 which is the kanji from 行く (iku), meaning ‘to go’. ‘Ittekimasu’ also contains the kanji 来, from 来る (kuru), meaning ‘to come’.

If you find yourself in Japan, do listen out for these phrases. If you should be lucky enough to do a homestay or live in a Japanese house you’ll hear them every day for sure!

'ittekimasu', 'itterashai' (from the textbook 'Genki')

‘ittekimasu’, ‘itterashai’ (from the textbook ‘Genki’)


Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘u’ (う), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘umai’ (行く) meaning ‘skillful’ or ‘delicious’ would be acceptable, but ‘uma’ (うま), meaning ‘horse’, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

8 thoughts on “Word of the Week: いってきます & いってらっしゃい

  1. Here are my suggestions:

    うるさい (noisy, be quiet, shut up)
    うきうき (cheerful)
    うんち出た/うんこ出た (I peed, I pooped)

    Sorry about the last one. It’s just that I hear those words all the time now that my daughter is 2 years old.


  2. NIce post, I agree that many everyday Japanese expressions are very to translate and maintain their emotional content. Two more ones that are good to know for living in Japan(ese) are おかえり and ただいま (“welcome home” and “I’m home”).


  3. Hi, I’m afraid I missed the first two but great idea for a new series of posts. Can I suggest the following:

    うそ - a lie/fib but also used as an expression of disbelief.
    うれしい (嬉しい)- happy/I’m pleased
    うち (家)- lit. means “house” or “home” but used as “we”, “us” and “our…”
    ううん and うん – more conversational noises than words but as the first means “no” and the second means “yes” they can lead to misunderstanding!


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