What does “Sayonara” mean? Meaning, definition, explanation


The japanese greeting “sayonara” is often equated with “good bye”. But this is not true.

What does “Sayonara” mean? Meaning, definition, explanation

Although it is a farewell greeting, it is basically the opposite of “goodbye”. The japanese use this greeting only when they will not see the other person again. In addition to final goodbyes, the greeting is used in cases of prolonged absence, with which a certain tragedy accompanies.

Thus, “sayonara” is much more like the farewell greeting “farewell”.

So a Japanese person would never say “sayonara” when saying goodbye to a meeting with good friends. Unless he is leaving on a ten-year expedition and does not know when or if he will return.

Business people would only say goodbye with “sayonara” when a long-standing partnership breaks up and is not resumed.

Sayonara: Meaning, History

In 1957, the U.S. feature film “Sayonara” was made. The leading role was played by the superstar of the time, Marlon Brando. The film tells the story of members of the U.S. Army who are stationed in Japan during the Korean War.
It deals with cultural differences and forbidden affairs between Americans and Japanese.

Major Lloyd Gruver (Brando) can’t do anything with the Japanese at first. He is a soldier through and through. Eventually, however, he falls for the charm of a Japanese actress. Slowly he understands the futility of the war and his previous military-oriented values.

The film ends with Gruver’s wedding plans with the dancer Hana-Ogi – although this means Gruver’s expulsion from the army. When asked by a report if Gruver has anything to say to the military, Gruver replies “sayonara”.

Surprisingly, sayonara has for the most part become perfectly naturalized in our country. Many people instinctively use the greeting correctly. Among young people, it was fashionable for a while to say “sayonara” when they didn’t want to see someone again.

Since then, use of the term has continued to flare up.

Occasionally, however, sayonara is used in the wrong way. When someone says goodbye to the after-work beer with colleagues, the saying is not actually correct. It can be meant wittily or ironically in this context.

If a Japanese person heard the saying, he would automatically think of a sad farewell party.

We don’t have that many Japanese living here who could correct the misunderstanding. In the USA, things are quite different. There, sayonara has now established itself as a normal greeting. US Japanese sometimes criticize this usage.


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This is how you say “bye” or “goodbye” in Japanese

The Japanese language has at least as many greetings as the German. The differences are even more subtle and the limits of appropriate usage stricter.

“Itte kimasu” means “I am leaving now.” Japanese use this greeting when they are leaving a place and intend to return soon. “I’m going to get some buns. Itte kimasu!”

“Jaa nee” is equivalent to the informal “bye.”

The Japanese use “Genki de ne” to wish each other “All the best”.

An international greeting that is also understood and used at all times in large parts of Asia is “Bye bye”. The Japanese, however, write it “Bai bai”.

In private, they most often use the phrase “Mata ne” to say goodbye to friends, family members or good acquaintances.

If someone leaves first, it is a bigger deal in Japan. In official circles, this removal requires a more complicated formula. “Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu” expresses the desire and apology for the need to be the first to leave and is very Japanese.

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