Yoroshiku onegaishimasu is phrase that is used to indicate the speakers intention to carry out a healthy and positive relationship with the listener. From a cultural and linguistic standpoint yoroshiku ongeishimasu is a function used to build strong relationships.
Yoroshiku onegaishimasu (宜しくお願いします) is a Japanese phrase commonly used in greetings, and is often translated into English as something like “please be kind to me forever.” It is typically said at the end of new interactions, or at the end of interactions in which the context of the conversation suggests that there will future interactions between the speaker and listener in the future. It essentially is a tool that is used to show your good will. One of the most common things you will hear at the end of a business meeting in Japan would be yoroshiku onegaishimasu, or even yoroshiku onegaiITASHIMASU, which would be the more polite version of the phrase. This is because these companies are planning to work together, and they are both depending on the success and good will of the other person. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu reflects the importance that Japanese people place culturally on long-term relationships in Japanese society. This is perhaps why some people have choosen to translate yoroshiku onegaishimasu into English as “please be kind to me forever.” But, is this really the appropriate translation for the phrase?
Does yoroshiku onegaishimasu mean “please be kind to me forever?”
While this isn’t blatantly incorrect, it’s a little bit overdramatic. Japanese people say this phrase so often they barely think about it. In fact, in modern Japanese people use yoroshiku onegaishimasu so often, that the way the phrase is used reminds me a bit of how English speakers often ask “how are you?” Many Japanese people comment on this, since Japanese speakers use the equivalent ogenki desu ka (お元気ですか) far less often than an English speaker may use “how are you?”. How many times have you heard somebody ask “How are you?”, only for someone to respond “good”, and then vent all of the problems that are going on in their life. It’s become a formality for people to use this in Japan. While it is expected of you to use yoroshiku onegaishimasu to show your good will, I don’t think it is quite as serious of a phrase as many people would depict it as when translating it into English.
Instead of “please be kind to me forever” perhaps a more correct translation would be something like “I hope any future interactions we have will be smooth and without issues. The key is that the nuance of yoroshiku ongeishimasu suggests that there is future work to be done. For example, if you were to meet some stranger in a bar while backpacking through Japan, and you were going to be leaving the next day with very little chance of every seeing them again, it would be strange to use yoroshiku onegaishimasu. In this scenario, if the stranger has given you a lot of advice, or maybe even bought you a drink, a more appropriate thing to say would be osewa ni narimashita (お世話になりました). This is a strong example of how one’s surroundings may dictate the style of communication their adopt while speaking in Japanese, and is a cornerstone for understand both Japanese culture, and the Japanese language.
Do you only say yoroshiku onegaishimasu the first time you meet somebody?
No, people will still continue to say yoroshiku onegaishimasu when the situation calls for it. As I had stated above, any situation that suggests a continued interaction towards a mutually beneficial goal, or a goal that will help to maintain harmony within a group, will call for people to use yoroshiku onegaishimasu .You can think of it as being similar to a promise. “I promise to do a great job on this assignment” for the person taking on an assignment and, “Good luck. I hope that your success on this assignment will continue to strengthen our relationship.” for the person who is depending on the outcome of that assignment. This requires some understanding of the dependency people hold for each other in Japanese society. Dependency is a very important concept in Japanese society, which is one of the reasons why intrinsic mutual benefit is seen as such an important pillar of Japanese community and culture.
The next step to learn Japanese
If you are learning the proper usage of yoroshiku onegaishimasu, you are probably dabbling in the idea of studying Japanese. Well, great news for you! I have gone through this process myself, and know first hand how confusing and difficult it can be to get started, particularly when it comes to learning the three alphabets used in Japanese. So, I wrote as detailed a guide to help with this as I possibly could, which you can read by clicking the link below. I hope you will find this helpful on your journey to getting started learning Japanese.