Polite Japanese doesn’t always have to mean long sentences full of complicated vocabulary. Sometimes the shortest messages are also most enlightening. Take a look at this little email message.
田中 えりこ 様
たなか えりこ さま
こうざの けん かいけつ しました。
どうも ありがとう ございました。
きょうかい さとう ひとみ
First up, let’s get the sender and receiver out the way.
田中 えりこ 様
The receiver is marked at the top of the email. We know this because of the use of 様, which you’ll often see noted as something silly like ‘honourable person’. Of course, we would rarely translate the title in this way, but the literal translation here does give us insight into the feeling behind the word. The title shows more respect than its simple さん counterpart, more along the lines of a King or God. In this case, the person is most likely a guest or customer and so the organisation sending the email is showing that they hold the person in their highest esteem.
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