How to Ask for Time Off in Japanese

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With Golden Week – when four national holidays occur within a seven-day period – just around the corner, workers in Japan are looking forward to taking a much needed break. Unfortunately, Golden Week has fallen on some awkward days again this year with many workers not having Monday May 1st and Tuesday May 2nd off, leaving them with only Wednesday to Sunday (3rd to 7th) to take holidays in.

50 Shades of Time Off

Many workers will of course want to take the Monday and Tuesday off. When you need to take some time off work, you will first need to know what type of time off you need. Japanese has a surprising number of different words for different types of time off, including:

  • 年休 nen kyuu (Annual leave – you’ll hear this a lot if you’re working as an ALT or language teacher)
  • 有休 yuu kyuu (A holiday with pay – the standard way to refer to paid leave)
  • 振替休日 furikae kyuujitsu (A holiday given to compensate for working outside one’s hours, also 代休 daikyuu is used )
  • 病休 biyoukyuu (Sick leave)

Begin politely

When you want to get time off work, you will need to use your polite Japanese.

First of all, you will need to find a polite way to start your request. Luckily Japanese has a huge number of these. Two very useful ones are ちょっとすみません (Excuse me) and ちょっとお kiきしたいんですが (I would like to ask something).

One of the easiest ways to ask for time off is to use the verb いただく which is a very polite verb for receiving things from the listener. A typical sentence using this verb is 今度 kondo金曜日 kinyobiにお yasuみをいただきたいんですが (I would like to ask for a holiday on the coming Friday) wherein you are literally asking to ‘receive’ a holiday from your boss!

There are two things to spot in this pattern. The 休み (holiday) has been changed to its polite form お休み. The ending ~んですが is used to soften the ending and give the listener the option of saying no, something that is usually accomplished using a descending tone in English.

A slightly more formal equivalent using the same ~んですが pattern is 有給休暇の申請 yuukyuu kyuuka no shinseiをしたいんですが (I would like to apply to use my paid leave).

Terms and conditions

Of course in order to take advantage of the cheap holidays, you may want to swap the day that you take your holiday with the nationally-designated one. After all the difference between taking the 28th to the 7th or the 3rd to 9th may be quite big.

In order to change the day you take your leave, you will need to learn the pattern できれば ~たい. This highly useful form is used to make conditional sentences and is roughly equivalent to ‘If possible, I would like to ~’ in English.

A useful phrase is できれば8日に変更 henkouしたいんです。よろしいでしょうか (If possible, I would like to change to the 8th, would this be possible?).

A similar phrase using the できれば ~たい phrase is the pattern. できれば休暇 kyuuka使 tsukaいたいんですけどどうすればいいんですか (If possible I would like to use my paid leave, how could I do that?).

When arranging for a vacation, it’s a great time to start practicing your polite Japanese and learning to use words to replace the tones that are often used in English polite forms. Using these patterns you will be able to plan a nice, long holiday and get better at the tricky Japanese polite forms. Let us know where you go this year and happy holidays all!

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