We've already covered everything you need to know to avoid common Japanese food faux-pas when dining in Japan in our Guide to Japanese Table Manners and Dining Etiquette. Now, we bring you these basic Japanese phrases for dining out.
Dining out in Japan is one of the key attractions of this great country, but alas, the language can sometimes present a challenge. Even if the restaurant has an English menu, pictures of the dishes and so on, there can still be miscommunication. So to help you avoid these kinds of situations, here are some must-know basic Japanese phrases for dining out.
Here are some of the most basic Japanese phrases for dining out that you should learn as part of simple dining etiquette in Japan:
Upon entering the restaurant, the staff should greet you and ask you if you have made a reservation.
If you have a reservation, simply tell them the name it is booked under.
If you didn’t make a reservation out can simply say:
There a few restaurants that do not take reservations, instead they will simply ask you how many people in your group.
Some example responses:
In a lot of cafes and family restaurants, there are separate areas for smoking and non-smoking seating. Thus, they may also ask you for your preference.
Once this has all been confirmed, they should then take you to your seat.
It is quite common for popular restaurants to be fully booked, or have no seating available. Particularly, during the holiday periods or on weekends. In this instance, they will say something like:
If this is the case, you will, unfortunately, need to find another restaurant.
It may seem awkward at first, but getting a waiter's attention is totally natural in Japan. A simple "すみません" (Sumimasen) with your hand raised in the air, at a decent volume, should be enough to get some service. Alternatively, the staff may already by circling your table and just waiting for you to finalize your choices.
Initially, you might like to ask if they have an English menu available, this will no doubt save you a lot of hassle and time.
Generally, they should be able to accommodate you, especially in the touristy areas or popular sightseeing spots of Tokyo. If there is no English menu available, you will see them apologize or gesture to indicate that they do not have one.
In the absence of an English menu, you may want to inquire about something that you see. Specifically, pictures of dishes that look appealing. In this case, you can simply ask:
You may also want to try the waiter or waitress’s recommendation. It is quite simple to get their suggestion:
Hopefully, everyone in your group has made a decision, so its time to order. You can use "すみません" (Sumimasen) again to get the staff’s attention, followed by:
When you order food or drink, the expressions are very similar, so this should be a little easier to master. As an example, to order a beer you can say:
Similarly, if you would like to order fried chicken at an izakaya:
It is also simple to request a refill of the same drink by using:
Of course, there will be times when you need to order more than one of something. In this situation, you would usually insert the number after the name of the drink or dish, for example:
It is also easy to combine multiple requests, by using the following:
The above phrase can also be used for ordering meals, by substituting the name of the drink with the dish instead.
Finally, we hope you were able to successfully order your meals and drinks. The waitstaff will usually confirm the order with you, thank you for the order, and then tell you to wait. Something similar to:
You’ve finished your meals and hopefully everyone is feeling full and satisfied, so its time to finish up by paying. You can simply get the staff’s attention by saying:
In this phrase, "お会計" (おかいけい or O kaikei) means the check, but you can also use "チェック" (ちぇっく or Chekku), which is another way to say bill.
As mentioned before, you can also use the expression "ごちそうさま (でした)" (Gochisousama(deshita)) indicating you are finished eating, and you are showing appreciation for the food. The staff should understand this to mean you are ready to pay and will bring the bill to you. The expression is also a good way to show appreciation as you exit the restaurant.
Please note that in some restaurants, they will leave the bill on your table, and others will request you to bring a number to the register. It really depends on the eatery as to how their system works.
There may be times when you need to make special requests, so we have provided the following additional phrases to help you:
If you have a particular allergy or prefer a meal without a certain ingredient, you can use the following phrase too:
For further Japanese lessons and info about Japan, be sure to check out FAQ Japan.