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Writing to Associates and Friends in Japan

If you are looking for words to communicate your feelings of concern, sadness, and condolence to friends and associates in Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, I offer the examples below.

To communicate most effectively across the language barrier, I have primarily used short sentences and literal language. (The grade level of the messages ranges from 6.7 to 8.9.) To match the Japanese focus on the group rather than the individual, I have frequently mentioned the community and the country. I have left out any references to contributing money to Japanese relief efforts, which could come across as boastful. I have tried to use restraint and dignity rather than flamboyance and familiarity.

Elena M. Rodriguez, writer and editor at Pacific Press International, offered suggestions on my draft messages, based on her experience writing for Japanese professionals for 20 years. You may reach Elena at emrodATolympusDOTnet. Thank you, Elena, for your perceptive feedback.


Dear Shinichi,

As I watch my television and see the snow falling in northern Japan, I think deeply of you and the struggles your country is facing. I am touched by the bravery, collaboration, and patience of the Japanese people of all ages in the face of huge disasters.

It is very sad that the earthquake destroyed your school. I understand how important your school is to the members of your community. I look forward to supporting you in your efforts to rebuild the school in the future.

I hope that you and the people in your community will be able to obtain food, water, and all necessities and that your spirits will remain positive as you work to reconstruct your society.

I will continue to hold you in my heart and my thoughts. 

With all good wishes,


Dear Mr. Tanaka,

We are thinking of you, your coworkers, your families, and your community as you work to recover from the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami. We are grateful that your office building in Tokyo was not affected. Yet we recognize that everyone in Japan has been affected profoundly by the recent events.

You are in our thoughts as you strive to recover and rebuild your beautiful country. We wish you strength, peace, and safety in the days and months ahead.



Dear Hiroko, 

Greetings to you and your family. We are very pleased to know that you are safe! Being reunited with all your family members must have been a great joy. Thank you for telling us about it.   

Mary and I have been studying what is happening in your country by reading the news and watching TV. We are continually moved by the cooperation, kindness, and courage shown by the Japanese people in response to such overwhelming natural disasters. 

We will be thinking of you, your family, and your country as you continue to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. You are in our thoughts and prayers. 

Warm regards,


Dear Mr. Yamamoto, 

We are very pleased to know that you, your family, and your friends are all safe and secure. Thank you for writing to us. 

We wish you, your family, and your community continued hope, courage, safety, and well-being as you work to rebuild your lives and your country.

Sincere best wishes,


Dear Keiko,

Thank you for letting us know that you and your mother are safe. We are saddened to learn that your brother Nori is missing. We can only imagine how worried you and your mother must feel.

We hope and pray for Nori’s safe return home. We will continue to be concerned for you, and we will appreciate any information you wish to share with us regarding Nori, your family, and your community.

With sincere best wishes to all,


Dear Mrs. Eto,

Please accept our sincere condolences to you and your family on the death of your daughter Hitomi. We are very sad that she died because of the devastating tsunami like so many others in Japan. From what you have told us, we know Hitomi was a lovely young woman who brought a smile to the face of everyone she knew. 

All of us wish you peace and healing as you grieve the loss of your beloved daughter. We are thinking of you and your family in your sorrow, along with others in your country who are suffering.

With deep sympathy,


Dear Reader,

If you have ideas to share with those who want to communicate concerns and condolences to people in Japan, please share them.

Syntax Training


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

4 comments on “Writing to Associates and Friends in Japan”

  • Hi Lynn,nice set of mails but if you would have provided before that would be helpful to us touse this content… 🙂

  • Imran, I believe there is still a need for this kind of message. Although the situation in Japan is not the latest news, the country’s huge crisis continues.

    But you are right. It would have been nice if I had had written these sooner.


  • Lynn,

    Thank you so much for posting this information. I am preparing to compose a condolence message to a Japanese colleague. The situation is not related to the tsunami events. However, I was really struggling with how to compose this message. Specifically in regards to the Japanese way of communicating, I’m well aware that Westerners run the risk of saying things that could inadvertently offend or convey a different sentiment than was intended.

    Many times these communication differences can be laughed about and are easily forgotten. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times. Your examples have been very helpful.

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