A blog on working, living in Japan.

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What to do when you're late for an appointment


Punctuality is a big thing in Japan. It signifies trust and credibility. Trains are on time for the most part, though buses has a little bit of randomness to them. But sometimes even with the best preparations, you might run late for an appointment. Be it late trains or buses, sudden stoppage because of an earthquake, or the ambiguous "human accident" (人身事故).

Stay calm and don't fret! As long as you don't make a habit out of it (see #19 in this list), just follow these steps and you'll be fine.

1. Send an email or call

Here's the email template to send:
- If you are sending an email to your boss (or someone in your company):

[Your boss' name]さん。

お疲れ様です。[Your name]です。

[Cause of lateness] 、[Number of minutes you'll be late] 分ほど遅れます。




事故でバスが遅れて 、15分ほど遅れます。


- If you are sending a client/customer, simply change the intro:

[Your client's company name]
[Your client's name] 様

[Your company name] の [Your name] です。

[Cause of lateness] で [mode of transportation] が遅れて 、[Number of minutes you'll be late] 分ほど遅れます。


[Your name]



地震で電車が遅れて 、30分ほど遅れます。



Different from other types of email, you don't need to worry about politeness too much. You're presumably in a hurry and are not expected to put a proper long form email, so you can keep it succinct and simple.

It is also common courtesy to explain your excuse for lateness, and give an honest estimate on how long it would take. If you're uncertain, for example you're waiting in line in a hospital, you can put this instead: 「終わり次第早速向かいます。/ おわり しだい さっそく むかいます」"I'll be on my way as soon as I'm finished"

Here's a short list of common excuses:

地震 - earthquake
通院 - went to the hospital
事故 - accident
先約が伸びてしまいます - previous appointment was unexpectedly late

2. Hurry up (or at least put an effort)

Bonus points if you come into the room panting. On a serious note, if you're late because of a train delay, the station manager usually gives out late passes. Make sure to grab one on your way out, if you need it.

3. Apologize in person

It's good manners to follow up with a sincere apology.


さきほど まことに もうしわけございません。

If you're apologizing to your boss, you may also add an "This won't happen again" statement:


にどと おこらないように ちゅういします」

Interested in learning different level of politeness, how to make the phone call, and other variations of this email? Sign up for BizJapanese and learn more.

Photo credit: chrisjongkind