Three expressions in Japanese for “by the way”

By | June 29, 2015

The casual English expression “by the way” is used to transition from one conversation topic into another. In this post, I’ll go over three different ways to express this type of feeling in Japanese, each with it’s own unique nuance.

そういえば 「Sou ieba」

This phrase does not contain a subject and literally means something like “if you say that” or “if I say that”. It is a great way to transition to a new topic in a casual conversation.

  • P1: 今日、仕事どうだった?
  • P1: Today, how was work?
  • P2: まあまあ。そういえば君、テストなかったっけ?
  • P2: So so. By the way, didn’t you have a test today?

Strictly speaking, this expression is supposed to be used in the middle of a conversation. However, I think it’s ok to use it to start one, in the sense that “I just remembered something”.

If you want to add an extra causal flair you can drop in a “さ” after そういえば。

「そういや」is a shortened form of そういえば and has the same meaning.

A related phrase is 「そう言われてみれば」which means literally “If that is said to me”, but can be naturally translated to “Now that you mention it”.

ところで「tokoro de 」

This expression also means “by the way”, but is typically used before asking a question.

  • ところで、お手洗いはどこですか?
  • By the way, where is the bathroom?

It literally means something like “at this point”, and has a much more formal feel than “そういえば”, so I would not recommend using it for casual everyday conversation.

Be careful to not confuse「ところで」 with 「ところが」, because the latter means “But” or “However”.

ちなみに「chinami ni」

This phrase literally means something like “in a related matter”, though could be translated as “by the way”. It can be used when you thought of something related to the current conversation and want to discuss that topic.

  • ちなみに、 僕はアメリカ人ですよ。
  • By the way, I am an American.

This also has a somewhat formal ring to it, and I have seen it much more often in written Japanese than spoken.

This phrase can also be written 因みに and the verb 因む (chinamu) means “to be related”. Another expression with similar meaning is “それに因んで”, though it feels even more formal to me and I have rarely seen that in common use.

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