Whether you are a guest invited to dinner, or you are just eating out with a friend, here are some phrases that you will find useful when having a meal in Japanese.
Expressions to use before a meal
This phrase literally means “I will have (the meal).” It’s an expression of appreciation for the food and the people who were involved in creating that meal from the very beginning. This includes the farmers, fishermen, cooks, moms, etc. who worked hard to bring the food to the table.
This may in fact be the most important phrase you’ll ever need to learn in Japanese besides arigato gozaimasu (thank you) and sumimasen (excuse me). Japanese people place great value on saying this phrase, especially when they are at home and with family. Children are taught very early on to always remember to say Itadakimasu before a meal.
おなかがすきました！ Onakaga Sukimashita!
This phrase simply means “I’m hungry.”
Another version of it that you could use is お腹がペコペコです (Onakaga pekopeko desu). This is more informal and means “I’m starving.” Among friends, Japanese people will often say Onakaga pekopeko when they are very hungry. Since peko-peko is a funny sound, using it may bring a smile to your Japanese friend’s face.
This phrase is used to indicate that something “looks delicious!” You should say it when you see food in front of you, but haven’t started eating yet. This phrase is especially useful when a food item is very decorative or beautifully presented, such as a decorated cake or a meal prepared with a great deal of care.
Expressions to use during a meal
This phrase means “delicious” or “yummy.” A more polite version is the longer phrase とてもおいしいです (Totemo oishii-desune), which means “it’s really delicious.” Japanese people often say Oishii several times during a meal when the food is really good.
[おしょうゆ] をとって いただけますか？ [Oshoyu] wo totte itadake-masuka?
This phrase means “could you please pass me the [soy sauce]”? You can also say oshio (salt), dre-shin-gu (dressing), or so-su (sauce) instead of oshoyu. You will find that this phrase is quite useful for when you are at a table and are sitting too far away from whatever you need. Now, you know how to ask someone to pass it to you!
[とんかつ] は だいこうぶつです。 [Tonkatsu] wa daikobutsu desu.
This phrase means: “[pork cutlet] is (my) super favorite food.” You could also say [tonkatsu] ga daisuki desu, which means “I love [pork cutlet].” If you say this, then your Japanese friend will probably feel reassured. This is because he/she can now assume that if this is your favorite food, then you will probably enjoy the meal.
[ワサビ]は にがてです。 [Wasabi] wa nigate desu.
This phrase means “I’m not a fan of wasabi.” Of course you can replace wasabi with any other food item. You should be polite when using this expression, so be sure to add Sumimasen to the beginning. The reason for this is that you generally say this when rejecting food that has just been offered. Therefore, it’s always a better idea to say Sumimasen before rejecting it.
Phrases to use after a meal
おなかがいっぱいです！ Onakaga ippai desu.
This phrase means “I’m full.” You can also say “I’m full” by using まんぷくです(Manpuku-desu). A third, shorter way to say this, especially when you are amongst friends, is おなかいっぱい (Onaka ippai). This last phrase means something similar to “full stomach.”
とても おいしかったです！ Totemo oishikatta desu!
This expression is used to say “it was really delicious!” Even if you have already said Oishii during the meal, you may want to say this phrase after the meal as well, just to emphasize how much you enjoyed the food. However, if you thought the food was terrible and it was at a restaurant, then it may not be necessary to say it. On the other hand, if you thought the food was terrible, but it was painstakingly prepared by your good friend, then you probably would still want to say it.
[わたし]のおごりです！ Watashino ogoridesu!
This phrase means “it’s my treat” or “the meal is on me.” If you are eating out and you want to pay for your friend’s meal, then this phrase will be quite useful. Even if you don’t use it, it’s good to know what it means just in case someone else says it to you. Japanese people sometimes pay for another person’s meal in certain circumstances. An example of this is when there is a senpai-kohai (senior/junior) relationship between two people in an organization. In this case, the senpai (senior) might pay for the kohai (junior)’s meal. However, nowadays, it’s much more common for each person to pay for his or her own meal.
ごちそうさまでした！ Gochiso-sama deshita!
This phrase is just as important as いただきます (itadakimasu). However, it is said following meal, instead of before. Japanese people will also casually say Gochiso-sama for short.
This is also an expression of appreciation for a meal. It literally means “that was fabulous food.” When you are invited to someone’s house and finish eating, don’t forget to say Gochiso-sama deshita! If you forget, you could actually be considered to be impolite. The phrase also has the meaning “thank you for providing me the meal,” so by saying Gochiso-sama deshita, you are saying thank you to whomever gave you the food.
Please note that you can also use it to mean “thank you for (paying for) the meal.” So, if you are eating out with someone and they pay the bill for you, you can use this to show your appreciation. However, if you are eating out with someone and you are going to pay for the meal yourself, you should avoid using this phrase. This is because if you use Gochiso-sama deshita when a payment is involved, your friend might assume that you are expecting him/her to pay.
There are of course many more phrases you could use during a meal in Japanese. However, the ones mentioned above are some of the most frequently used. I hope you now feel ready to eat some delicious food in Japan. Itadakimasu!