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How to Make Restaurant Reservations in Japan Without Japanese

By The byFood Team
August 18, 2020
Updated: August 3, 2021
We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan’s food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.

If you’ve had difficulty making restaurant reservations in Japan, the country that boasts the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, you’re certainly not alone. Foreign travelers face multiple obstacles when making restaurant reservations in Japan, with the restaurant’s exclusivity and the language barrier being just a couple of examples.

Currently, only about 4.4% of the restaurants in Japan can be reserved online (based on data from Hotpepper and Tabelog), and most of them require Japanese language ability to do so. As for other restaurants, making a reservation over the phone is possible; however, many restaurants cannot accommodate English-speaking customers' phone calls.

Thankfully for foreign travelers in Japan who aren't able to use the Japanese-language options available, byFood has solved the language barrier with their restaurant reservation service.

Making Every Restaurant in Japan Accessible in English

Japanese restaurant interior with cushioned floor seating and a table set with chopsticks and plates

In August 2020, byFood launched a new restaurant reservation service, with the mission of making every restaurant in Japan accessible to foreign travelers. The platform has an easy-to-navigate directory of restaurants, which filters by location, type of cuisine, price range, dietary restrictions, and more! 

Wondering how it works? Here, we cover the following topics:

  • What types of restaurant reservations are available on byFood?
  • How to make a restaurant reservation in Japan without Japanese
  • FAQs

What if I can’t find the restaurant I’m looking for?

How do I book omakase in Tokyo?

How do you get a reservation at Den Tokyo?

What are some popular restaurant suggestions in Tokyo? 

How long does it take to verify the reservation?

What types of restaurant reservations are available on byFood?

ByFood offers three types of restaurant reservations: free, paid, and high-end. 

Free Reservations

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To place a free reservation using byFood, guests just need to fill out their reservation details in English and the automated robot call system will notify the restaurant of the request in Japanese, at no charge to either the restaurant or the guest.

After the restaurant responds to the call, the guest will be contacted with an email in English that confirms or rejects the reservation request. Once the reservation is secured, just show up at the restaurant at the reserved time and enjoy the meal!

Paid and High-End Reservations

A rectangular platter with a variety of tofu, seafood and vegetables, part of a kaiseki meal in Kyoto, Japan

While free reservations are for casual restaurants, paid reservations are also available for restaurants where a reservation is recommended, and high-end reservations are for restaurants that are very exclusive and difficult to book. 

For both of these types of reservations, the restaurants will be contacted directly by a byFood representative and the guest will be charged a fee for the service if the reservation is successfully made on their behalf. 

Payments for paid reservations are made when the reservation details are submitted, while payments for high-end reservations can only be made after the restaurant has accepted the reservation. The payment link will be sent by email after the confirmation.

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How to make a restaurant reservation in Japan without Japanese

No need to worry about making reservations in Japanese, here’s how to make a restaurant reservation in English at all types of restaurants -- from lunch reservations at casual eateries to omakase courses at Michelin-starred restaurants. 

Step 1: Find a restaurant

Go to the restaurant reservation listing page and choose filters such as areas, dates, cuisine, dietary restrictions, price range, and number of Michelin stars. There are also buttons for free reservations and nearby restaurants.

Step 2: Enter information

Once you have selected a restaurant, on the restaurant's listing page you will choose the number of guests, date, and time. For restaurants allowing free reservations, the button will say "Free Reservation," restaurants accepting paid reservations will have a button saying "Reserve Now," and the button for high-end restaurants will read "Contact for Availability."

Step 3: Check out

On the checkout page, you will confirm your personal information, agree to the terms and conditions, and make your free reservation.

For paid reservations, you will also submit payment info for the restaurant reservation service at this time, using a credit card like Amex, Visa, or Mastercard. Note that this does not include the bill which will be paid normally at the restaurant after the meal.

For high-end reservations, you will not need to submit your payment info until you have received the reservation confirmation email, at which point you will follow the payment link in the email and enter your details to finalize the reservation.

Step 4: Enjoy!

When you arrive at the restaurant for your reservation, let the staff know that you have placed a reservation through byFood. Then, sit back and enjoy your meal!

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FAQs

What if I can’t find the restaurant I’m looking for?

If you don’t see the restaurant you are looking for on the restaurant listing page, byFood's concierge service is here to help. Just fill out the VIP Gourmet Concierge form and a byFood representative will be happy to inquire into the restaurant’s availability for you. It's one of the best things you can do to make the reservation process a breeze!

How do I book omakase in Tokyo?

Browse these Tokyo restaurants with omakase courses. Once you've selected a restaurant, fill out your reservation details and submit them. See the section "How to make a restaurant reservation in Japan without Japanese" above for details.

How do you get a reservation at Den Tokyo?

Michelin-starred restaurant Den, run by Chef Hasegawa, is possible to reserve using byFood's restaurant reservation service. Just go to the Den restaurant page, select the number of guests and the desired date/time, and click "Contact for Availability." After the restaurant has accepted the reservation, the payment link will be sent to you by email.

What are some popular restaurant suggestions in Tokyo?

A few of Tokyo's notable popular restaurants include Michelin-starred restaurants like Den, Ode, and Sushi Saito. Chef Koji Sawada's two-Michelin starred sushi restaurant Sawada, is another well-known institution that has been featured in the Michelin Guide since 2008.

Browse more Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo for some of the top fine dining restaurants in Japan or contact byFood's VIP Gourmet Concierge for personalized suggestions.

How long does it take to verify the reservation?

This depends on the restaurant and its popularity. Some restaurants can confirm the reservation within 48 hours, others might take a week or more to arrange the reservation.

As a general rule, exclusive, smaller restaurants like a 3 Michelin star sushi restaurant, will likely have a waiting list. The most exclusive restaurants in Japan win the favor of regular customers with a members-only policy. If you'd like to make a reservation at a highly exclusive restaurant, please give as much notice in advance as possible. We also suggest contacting the VIP Gourmet Concierge for additional support.

Some things don’t change

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This restaurant reservation service and other platform upgrades have been made in response to the needs of our guests and hosts, but our core values have not changed. The mission of spreading happiness through food is still at the forefront of what we do, with restaurant reservations also contributing to our Food for Happiness program, which provides meals to children in need. We will continue to promote local businesses and authentic food experiences across Japan so you can have unforgettable and delicious adventures! 

Have more questions about making restaurant reservations in Japan? See Guest FAQs. If not, start exploring restaurants in Japan!

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The byFood Team
Sharing our love of Japanese cuisine and culture, with the mission of spreading happiness through food.
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