‘Irasshaimase’ meaning explained as Larry David screams in Japanese

Bruno Cooke November 22, 2021
Photo by Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images

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In Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11 episode 5, titled IRASSHAIMASE!, which aired yesterday (November 21) on HBO, Larry David takes Gabby to Katsuya, a Japanese restaurant, and becomes embroiled in a hot mess over the meaning of the phrase “irasshaimase”. What does irasshaimase mean in Japanese?

Curb Your Enthusiasm: ‘Irasshaimase’ meaning explained

After season 11 episode 5 of Curb Your Enthusiasm aired last night, audiences were left wondering what the word “irasshaimase” actually means in Japanese.

Irasshaimase is a very common phrase many tourists hear in Japan, especially when entering restaurants or stores.

For those who know a thing or two about grammar: irasshaimase is a more polite version of the imperative form of the honorific verb irassharu, which is itself a contraction of iraseraru, an honorific conjugation of ira – the imperfective of the verb iru – plus some other grammatical bits. 

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“Iru” means “to come in, to go in; to arrive; to be in a place”.

So, in simple terms, and in contemporary parlance, “irasshaimase” means “welcome” or “come in”.

When a restaurateur or shop owner greets you with the phrase, they are welcoming you into their establishment. Over time it has become so common that shop employees, writes Lingua Lift, “yell it from outside stores, inside stores, at checkouts, gas stations, sale stands, and anywhere else the opportunity presents itself”.

What does ‘irasshaimase’ mean for Curb’s Larry David?

But there’s an amusing way in which the sardonic irreverence of Curb Your Enthusiasm and the intrinsic hospitality of the phrase irasshaimase coalesce and interact, causing the latter’s meaning to disintegrate and mutate.

In contemporary Japan, Lingua Lift continues, the “repetitiveness and robotic application” of irasshaimase has rendered it “obsolete”. 

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Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images

Late-night employees issue it “woefully” “as if to communicate ‘I hate my job, I want to go home now’”.

This chimes with the disregard for, and/or ignorance of, well-established social conventions and expectations demonstrated by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s primary protagonist Larry David, whose social ineptitude and unrelenting unenthusiasm is the series’ main plot point.

What happens when Larry visits Katsuya?

In season 11 episode 5 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David and Gabby visit Katsuya, a Japanese restaurant. 

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The chefs and host, played respectively by Yaz Takahashi, Shigeru Mitani and Sonny Saito, greet them by saying irasshaimase. So far, so ordinary. But Larry takes it for a general greeting, so he returns it.

When his hosts explain to him that he needn’t say “irasshaimase” in return, it rankles him. You wouldn’t say “bienvenidos” as you entered a Spanish-speaking restaurant. But he is obstinate. He is Larry.

And so, what unfolds is a shouting match in which Larry and the Japanese restaurateurs bark “irasshaimase” at each other with increasing intensity.

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Bruno is a postgraduate student studying global journalism, with research interests in the intersection of the media, storytelling, culture and politics. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Packs Light and Forge Press, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com. He is a Student Ambassador for Tortoise Media, a big fan of Freddie Mercury and a novelist – his debut novel, Reveries, is available on Amazon.