Here’s How You Should Answer the Phone in the Office in Japan

It is a task that even Japanese people have to master themselves.

Photo Pakutaso


A common thing that Japanese learners and foreign workers need to master is the art of making and taking phone calls in Japan in the business setting. It is a task that even Japanese people have to master themselves. Although it might be daunting at first as there are many things to consider when you are in a phone call, this article will help you by introducing basic patterns in Japanese to overcome the hurdles of
receiving a phone call in Japan in the business setting.


Things to remember:


Before we get into memorizing the appropriate lines when you pick up a phone call, we must first understand the basics of receiving a phone call. 


1. Always have a pen and paper in hand.
2. For business calls, do not answer with moshi moshi. You answer with hai. However, be careful not to say hai twice (hai hai) because it is deemed rude. The casual un should also be avoided.
3. Given that it is harder to get names right in Japanese, make sure to double-check your information.
4. Do not let the caller wait. As much as possible, answer the phone within three rings. 
5. Short answers like imasen or wakarimasen is considered rude. Always follow up with questions or phrases to keep the conversation rolling. 
6. Answer the phone with a cheerful voice.
7. Lastly, you should hang up quietly.


To keep things short, one must remember that phone calls must be done with a heart for customer service. It should be done precisely and politely. In the business setting, remember that phone calls are done in a respectful way in order to build rapport with the other party. 


This would also mean that phone calls are done in
keigo (polite form of Japanese). Conversations between vendors and clients cannot be done in a casual way, for it is improper and goes against business etiquette. For this, you must have an understanding of sonkeigo and kenjougo (respectful and humble forms of keigo) to be able to properly hold a conversation over the phone. Here are common phrases to remember when receiving a phone call. 


1. When answering the phone: 

O denwa arigato gozaimasu. (Company name) degozaimasu.

This is (company name). Thank you for calling.

(Company name) degozaimasu.

This is (company name).

Omatase shimashita. (Company name) degozaimasu.

*when the phone rang more than three times.

Sorry to keep you waiting. This is (company name).

O sewa ni natte orimasu.

*after they convey their name and company name, or if they say osewa ni natte orimasu, you answer them by saying this phrase.

Thank you for taking good care of us.

Odenwa kawarimashita. (Your name) desu.

Your call has been transferred, this is (your name) speaking. 


2. When transferring the phone call:

Kashikomarimashita or

Shouchishimashita

I understand. 

Shosho omachi kudasai.

Please wait for a moment. 

Omatase shimashita. Otsunagi itashimasu.

Sorry to keep you waiting. I will transfer your call. 

Tantou sha ni otsunagi itashimasu.

I will transfer you to the person in charge.


Make sure to take note of the person’s company and name. If you are in doubt, it’s always okay to
double-check:

Sumimasen ga, okoe ga sukoshi tooi no desuga, ….

I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you properly. 

Sumimasen ga, mou sukoshi yukkuri onegai dekimasu deshouka?

I’m sorry, but can you please speak slowly? 

Sumimasen ga, mou ichido o namae to onshamei wo oukagai dekimasu deshouka? 

I’m sorry, but can you please repeat your name and company name? 


3. When the person in charge is unavailable:

Osore irimasuga… (Person in charge) ga seki wo hazushite orimasu.

I’m sorry, but (person in charge) is not at his/her seat right now. 

Osore irimasuga...(Person in charge) ga oyasumi ni haitte orimasu.

I’m sorry, but (person in charge) is on holiday right now. 

Osore irimasuga...(Person in charge) ga uchiawase ni haitte orimasu.

I’m sorry, but (person in charge) is in a meeting right now. 

Osore irimasuga...(Person in charge) ga gaishutsu shite orimasu.

I’m sorry, but (person in charge) is out of the office right now. 

Osore irimasuga…(Person in charge) ga fuzai shite orimasu.

I’m sorry, but (person in charge) is not here at the moment. 

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Note: You do not add -san after the name of a person from the same company during phone calls, even if it's your manager or the president. It might be hard to say at first, especially when they are in the same room, but don’t worry because this is the correct way. 

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Follow up with:

(Time) ni modoru yotei desuga, 

orikaeshi gorenraku sashiagemashouka?

They will return at around (time), would you want us to call you back? 

Kochira kara orikaeshi gorenraku sashiagemashouka?

Would you want us to call you back? 

Otsutae subeki koto wa gozaimasuka?

Would you want me to leave a message? 

Dengon wo o-ukeshimasuka, orikaeshi gorenraku sashiagemasuka, dochira ga yoroshii deshouka? 

Do you want me to leave a message or would you want us to call you back? 


4. When receiving a message:

Ouke shimasu.

I will receive [your message].

(Message summary) no ken de, (person on the phone) sama kara o denwa ga atta koto, otsutae itashimasu. 

I will tell him/her that (the person on the phone) called about (message summary). 


5. When receiving the contact’s information:

Nen no tame, odenwa bango wo ukagattemo yoroshiideshouka? 

Just in case, would it be okay to ask for your phone number? 

*Repeat the number to check,

Fukushou shimasu, odenwa bango wa, ○○-○○○-○○○○ desune? 

I will repeat, your number is, ○○-○○○-○○○○, right?

Mou ichido, onamae to onshamei wo ukagattemo yoroshiideshouka? 

May I ask for your name and company name once more? 


6. When closing the conversation: 

Arigatou gozaimashita. Kochira wa (company name) no (your name) deshita. 

Thank you very much. This was (your name) from (your company). 

Arigatou gozaimashita. Yoroshiku onegaitashimasu. 

Thank you very much. Please take care of us. 

Shitsurei itashimasu. 

(Formal) Goodbye. 


Make sure that the caller hangs up before you.


Learning how to speak a language is one thing, but being able to answer phone calls in that language is a different kind of skill that even native speakers have to master. Japanese office workers usually learn the art of answering and receiving phone calls during their first year, and because a phone call in Japan is not just conversational Japanese, even the Japanese themselves would make mistakes on their first try. So there is no need to worry! Mastering phone calls take time and effort, so we recommend to ask around for help and just learn it as you go.


Note: There are countless ways to express and convey things over the phone, this list serves as a basic guide only for phone calls.  


 (28 August 2019)

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