Ordering Food in Japanese: The Complete Guide for Foodies
I thought I’d ordered yakitori.
But what followed was a salad, vegetarian hotpot, and mixed rice with vegetables (and this was a famous yakitori restaurant).
Although a beginner could order in Japanese at a restaurant, it’s intimidating to know that the server could ask you something you don’t understand. Or in my case, you might say something misleading.
In this post, you’ll learn how to order food in Japanese—from entering the restaurant and receiving your chopsticks to asking for the bill.
- Japanese Phrases for Entering the Restaurant
- How to Order in Japanese
- How to Make Special Requests in Japanese
- Japanese Phrases for Unusual Circumstances
- How to Ask for the Bill and Pay in Japanese
Japanese Phrases for Entering the Restaurant
Japan can be a bit overwhelming with its selection of restaurants, which are usually bunched together quite closely, but generally they will all have their menus up front—even if you can’t see inside.
For non-Japanese people, it’s usually okay to look at the menu and peer into the restaurant to see what’s going on.
When you enter the restaurant, you will always be greeted with:
いらっしゃいませ — Welcome
This typical greeting can also be heard in stores, coffee shops, etc.
The first question they will ask is:
何名様ですか? — How many people?
三人です — three people
一人です — one (person)
Next you will be led to a table, and then with a hand gesture and a polite:
こちらへどうぞ — Please sit here
The waiter or waitress will show you your table. After you sit down you will be given a menu, sometimes accompanied by the spoken words:
メニューになります — Here is the menu
If you aren’t comfortable reading a Japanese menu, you can ask for an English menu with the question:
英語のメニューがありますか? — Do you have an English menu?
Restaurants often have an English version.
Up to this point in your dining experience, it’s only been necessary to use simple words or phrases like:
はい — Yes
ありがとうございます — Thank you
How to Order in Japanese
Once you are at your table with a menu, the waiter or waitress might ask:
お飲み物は? — Would you like a drink?
お飲み物はいかが致しますか? — What would you like to drink?
Ordering a drink (or anything for that matter) is relatively simple. You just need to state the name of the item plus:
お願いします — Please
Many drink names are similar to English names, so if you say something like beer ( ビール ) or Coca-Cola ( コカ・コーラ ), you’ll probably be understood.
It’s a good idea to find the Japanese name first for other drink items, but most drink names are easy to remember. Green tea is called お茶 , and after you say it a few times, you can quickly recall it.
Getting your server’s attention
If you ever need your server’s attention, you can always raise your hand and say:
すみません — Excuse me
Many Japanese restaurants also have call buttons for each table, so you can press the button and a server will be there shortly.
Ordering your meal
After serving your drinks or after giving you some time, they will ask you:
ご注文はお決まりですか? — Have you decided what you want to order?
If you aren’t ready yet, then you can ask for more time by saying:
もう少し時間を頂けますか? — Can I have a little more time?
If you do know what you want, then you can order!
Since many Japanese dishes are small, you will usually state what you want and how many plates of each. If you are ordering for several people, state how many of each item you want.
This is a simple three-part sentence structure for ordering: Japanese food item, number and please. For example:
… を一つお願いします — Can I have one of … please?
If you were to ask for two plates of curry, you would say:
カレーを二つお願いします — Two plates of curry, please
Once you order, your server will say:
はい、少々お待ち下さい — Okay, please wait
How to Make Special Requests in Japanese
If you are feeling more adventurous with your Japanese, or don’t know what to choose, then you can ask for your waiter or waitress’s recommendation:
お勧めは何ですか? — What do you recommend?
Alternatively, if you are not sure what something is, you can ask:
これは何ですか? — What is this?
If you want to eat something that isn’t spicy, then you can ask:
あまり辛くない物はどれですか? — Which one is not too spicy?
Asking for other menus is quite easy, as it follows the same sentence structure as asking for an English menu. If you want a children’s menu, ask:
お子様メニューはありますか? — Do you have a children’s menu?
For a vegetarian menu you can ask:
ベジタリアンメニューはありますか? — Do you have a vegetarian menu?
Most people have some ingredient that they can’t eat or don’t like.
If this is the case for you, it is important to learn the word for the food item, and how to say that you don’t want it. If you don’t like eggs ( 卵 ), for example, then you can say:
卵を抜きにしてもらえますか? — Can I have it without egg?
Japanese Phrases for Unusual Circumstances
A different situation you might encounter is the dreaded case that something you ordered is sold out. For example, if your favorite food curry has somehow run out, your server will approach your table and say:
I am terribly sorry, but the curry has sold out. Would you like something else from the menu?
If you hear this sentence, you will know that you must choose something else from the menu.
Finally, depending on where or at what time you are eating, you could hear:
We are now taking last orders. Would you like to order anything else?
Like before, in this case you can either order Japanese food as normal or say:
ありません — nothing
How to Ask for the Bill and Pay in Japanese
To ask for the bill, just ask this when you’re ready to pay:
お勘定をお願いします — Can I have the bill, please?
In Tokyo, it’s common to also say:
If the bill was placed on your table earlier, as in many small restaurants, take it to the cashier to pay.
You can then say:
ごちそうさまでした — Thanks for the food
And walk out of the restaurant with a full stomach and the satisfaction of successfully using Japanese to order your meal.
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