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8 Japanese Cushion Words that Will Impress Your Clients

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

Do you realize there is a business Japanese and regular Japanese language course? The differentiation implies that the Japanese language used in the work setting is not like a daily conversation. Using appropriate terms and phrases will make you look more professional and keep you out of trouble.

In this article, you will learn some phrases of business Japanese. These phrases are also known as cushion words (クッション言葉). Japanese people tend to be polite and avoid inconveniencing others. So, when they have to do something considered rude or causing inconvenience, they will use these cushion words to soften the blow.

Cushion words are useful in various situations, such as asking a favor, apologizing, delivering disappointing news, and suggesting. Let's learn one by one!

When asking a question or making a request

Being considerate (心遣い) and aware of the others' circumstances (気遣い) is a prominent cultural concept in Japanese society. People will try not to cause any inconvenience towards each other.

The application of these concepts is increasing in the workplace. They are very careful to avoid offending their coworkers, clients, or customers. Therefore, you should make a request or ask a question in a respectful way.

There are multiple ways to soften your sentence when asking a favor or request. Here are four of them!

Shitshurei desu ga (失礼ですが)

You might be familiar with this phrase because it can be used in daily conversations outside the office. It means excuse me or I am sorry.

In the office setting, you can use this sentence when you want to avoid offending your interlocutor. Use it when you want to ask a personal question or request something easy, like repeating words. Do not use this phrase to apologize for your mistake.



Excuse me for my rudeness, could you tell me your full name?


I am sorry, what is on the agenda for today?


I am sorry, but are you married?

Otesu desu ga (お手数ですが)

Otesu desu literally means it is a bother. Otesu desu ga translates to I am sorry to bother you, but… or I am sorry for the inconvenience, but….

You can add this phrase before saying your request for apologizing in advance to increase your coworkers' workload. You also acknowledge that you may bother them a little bit by this. It makes you appear polite and mindful of others.



I am sorry to bother you, but could you copy the documents for me?


I am sorry to bother you, but please confirm this.


I am sorry for the inconvenience, but can you call me back?

Osore irimasu ga (恐れ入りますが)

This phrase has a similar meaning to shitsurei desu ga. It translates into I am sorry, but…, I am very sorry, but…, or sorry to impose. Use this phrase to ask someone to do something for you. It is usually used by someone in a lower position when talking to their superiors, such as the boss, clients, or customers.

Using this phrase shows respect and consideration for others. However, this phrase can contain force, so the other party cannot deny the request.


Sorry to impose, but would you check these documents for me?

恐れ入りますが/恐縮ですが お電話番号をもう一度おっしゃっていただけますか?

I am very sorry, but could you tell me your phone number once more?


I am sorry, could you please sign here?

Oisogashii tokoro kyoushuku desu ga (お忙しいところ恐縮ですが)

Another way of being considerate when asking a favor is by acknowledging their busy time and apologizing in advance. Oisogashii tokoro kyoushuku desu ga means I’m sorry to bother you while you are busy or I’m sorry to bother you during busy time. Because of the politeness of this phrase, the other party may find it difficult to deny your request.



I am sorry to bother you when you are so busy but could you possibly send me the instructions?

Osashitsukae nakereba (お差し支えなければ)

Literally, sashitsukae means hindrance. Osashitsukae nakereba translates into if it’s not inconvenient for you or if you don’t mind. By using this phrase, you give options to the other party if they want to reject. It also conveys your intent to not hinder their activities.



If it’s not inconvenient for you, could I have some of your time later?


If you don’t mind, I will visit tonight

When delivering bad or disappointing news

In a situation where you cannot give the expected answer, you can add cushion words to ease your interlocutor’s feelings. Use ainiku desu ga (あいにくですが) to show you are sorry for them. It means unfortunately….


When someone asks to meet your coworker, but they are not available at the moment, you can answer like these examples.


Unfortunately, Mr. Tanaka is out of the office right now.


Unfortunately, he is in a meeting right now.

When apologizing

Making mistakes in the workplace is normal, especially when you are a new employee. However, it is important to apologize and reflect on your faults earnestly.

In workplace settings, Japanese people usually do not use gomennasai when apologizing. The more suitable phrase is moushiwake gozaimasen (申し訳ございません). It literally means I have no excuse.

This phrase is a polite and formal way to apologize. It means you regret the inconvenience you created. It also shows you will take full responsibility for the problem. You can use this phrase to your superiors, subordinates, clients--basically anyone.



I am sorry for this inconvenience.


I am deeply sorry to have kept you waiting.

When suggesting

If you want to give a suggestion or recommendation, the cushion words you can use is moshi yoroshii kereba (もしよろしければ). It literally means if it is good for you…. This phrase is polite and formal, yet it also has a friendly tone.



If you don’t mind, how about using this chair?


If you would like, we will send you our catalog.

Now, you’ve learned eight business Japanese phrases in four situations. Try to use these phrases. Not only impress your coworkers, but it also saves you from awkward or rude conversations.


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