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How to Ask for Time Off Work in Japanese

It can be a tricky business asking for time off in a Japanese workplace. Try these useful phrases.

By 3 min read

Japan has 16 public holidays a year. Of the 16 holidays, the most consecutive “streaks” happen during Golden Week, Silver Week and the end-of-year holidays. Make the most out of these holidays by planning accordingly, knowing when to use your paid leave and how to ask your boss. If you’ve just started working in Japan and work in a predominantly Japanese-speaking office, it might feel intimidating to ask your boss about taking some time off. So what’s the best way to ask for some vacation at work? Here are a few phrases to get you started.

Types of Time Off Work

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:

Kanji Romaji English
Houtei Kyuuka Legal Holiday (Based on labor laws ie. Weekends or rest days)

祝日

Shukujitsu

Public Holiday

年休ねんきゅ Nenkyuu Annual Leave
有休ゆうきゅう Yukyuu Paid Leave
振替休日ふりかえきゅうじつ/代休だいきゅう Furikaekyuujitsu/Daikyu Compensated work day/Substitute holiday
病休びょうきゅう Byoukyuu Sick Leave

産休

Sankyuu Maternal Leave (14-week leave)

育児休業

Ikuji Kyuugyou Childcare Leave

介護休業

Kaigo Kyuugyou Nursing Leave

介護休暇

Kaigo Kyuuka Family Care Leave

看護休暇/子の看護休暇

Ko no kango kyuuka Child Nursing Care Leave

Asking for Time Off

Photo:
Brush up on your desu and masu form!

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

First of all, you will need to find a polite way to start your request. Two very useful ones are ちょっとすみません (Excuse me) and ちょっとおきしたいんですが (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 今度こんど金曜日きんようびにおやす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 有給休暇ゆうきゅうきゅうか申請しんせいをしたいんですが (I would like to apply to use my paid leave).

Terms and conditions

Photo:
Timing is everything.

Sometimes, 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, taking the beginning to the end of Golden Week and leaving or coming back a day or two earlier/later can affect the cost of flights or accommodation, and also help you make the most of a break.

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日に変更へんこうしたいんです。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. できれば休暇きゅうか使つか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 holiday and get better at the tricky Japanese polite forms.

How do you plan out your paid leave requests? Got any tips or phrases? Let us know in the comments!

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