If you are planning to visit Japan, you must learn how to order food in Japanese. Otherwise, you can come across several embarrassing situations. You need to overcome your fear of ordering food in Japanese restaurants.

Having a fear of ordering food in any language other than your native one is natural, and that is totally understandable. But, thanks to the fact that all restaurants follow the same format, you can easily become a master of speaking Japanese in a restaurant with just a few tips!

The procedure of entering the restaurant, placing your order, and asking for food is the same for all restaurants. Let’s get into a detailed guide to learning how to order food in Japanese.

Entering the Restaurant

Japan’s restaurant selection can be overwhelming, as they are typically grouped together quite closely, but they will all have their menus upfront – even if you can’t see them inside. It’s usually fine for non-Japanese people to look at the menu and have an inside look at the restaurant to see what’s going on.

Once you enter the restaurant, you will be greeted with いらっしゃいませ” (irasshai mase). It is a typical Japanese greeting normally heard at coffee shops.

Normally, the first question asked from you will be “何名様ですか?” (nan mei sama desu ka? – How many people?). To reply, simply say “三人です” (san nin desu) for three people, etc., or with a smile, you can say “一人です” (hitori desu), which means just one person.

Now you will be taken to the table and with a hand gesture and a polite “こちらへどうぞ” (kochira e douzo– Please sit here), the waiter or waitress will direct you towards your table. After being settled down, you will be given a menu, sometimes followed by the spoken words “メニューになります” (menyuu ni narimasu – Here is the menu).

If you do not know how to read the entire menu in Japanese and don’t know Japanese food names. You can ask “英語のメニューがありますか?” (eigo no menyuu ga arimasu ka? – Do you have an English menu?). Many Japanese restaurants also offer English menus.

After getting the menu you can say はい” (hai – Yes) or “ありがとうございます” (arigatou gozaimasu – Thank you). Saying thank you in Japanese is easy, you just need to be gentle and polite.  

Ordering food in Japanese

After settling down at your table, the waiter or waitress, most probably, will ask “お飲み物は?” (onomi mono wa? – Would you like a drink?) Or “お飲み物はいかが致しますか?” (onomi mono wa ika ga itashimasu ka? – What would you like to drink?).

Ordering a drink is simple and easy. You just need to say the name of the drink plus “お願いします” (onegai shimasu – Please). Many drink names are similar to English names, so if you say something like beer (ビール- biiru) or Coca Cola (コカ・コーラ- koka koora), then you will probably be understood.

Following are some of the famous drink names in Japanese:

  • bīru (beee-roo) (beer)
  • kōhī (kohh-heee) (coffee)
  • jūsu (jooo-soo) (juice
  • gyūnyū (gyooo-nyooo) (milk)
  • o-cha (oh-chah) (tea)
  • wain (wah-een) (wine)
  • mizu (mee-zoo) (water)

If you want to get the further attention of the server, you can just say “すみません” (sumimasen – Excuse me). Many Japanese restaurants have a call button placed beside the table that you can press to get the attention of the server.

Ordering the meal

After the drinking session, the waiter or waitress may ask you “ご注文はお決まりですか?” (gochuumon wa okimari desu ka? – Have you decided what you want to order?). If you have not decided yet, you can simply say “もう少し時間を頂けますか?” (mou sukoshi jikan wo itadakemasu ka? – Can I have a little more time?).

Ordering food in Japanese is simple. You just need to know three things i.e. your desired food item, number and please. For example, “… を一つお願いします” (… wo hitotsu onegai shimasu – 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” (karee wo futatsu onegai shimasu – Two plates of curry, please).

Following are some of the famous food items in Japanese:

  • niku (nee-koo) (meat)
  • butaniku (boo-tah-nee-koo) (pork)
  • gyūniku (gyooo-nee-koo) (beef)
  • ringo (reen-goh) (apple)
  • sarada (sah-rah-dah) (salad)
  • toriniku (toh-ree-nee-koo) (chicken)
  • sakana (sah-kah-nah) (fish)
  • tamago (tah-mah-goh) (eggs)
  • yasai (yah-sah-ee) (vegetables)
  • kudamono (koo-dah-moh-noh) (fruit)
  • dezāto (deh-zahh-toh) (dessert)
  • gohan (goh-hahn) (cooked rice)
  • aisu kurīmu (ah-ee-soo koo-reee-moo) (ice cream)
  • chīzu (cheee-zoo) (cheese)
  • sūpu (sooo-poo) (soup)
  • pan (pahn) (bread)

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ü  If you are not sure about what you need to order, you can ask the waiter or waitress by saying “お勧めは何ですか?” (osusume wa nan desu ka? – What do you recommend?).

ü  If you have confusion about anything, you can ask “これは何ですか?” (kore wa nan desu ka? – What is this?).

ü  If you do not want your food to be spicy you can ask “あまり辛くない物はどれですか?” (amari karaku nai mono wa dore desu ka? – Which one is not too spicy?).

ü  If you want another kind of menu, you can simply ask “お子様メニューはありますか?” (okosama menyuu wa arimasu ka? – 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?” (bejitarian menyuu wa arimasu ka?– Do you have a vegetarian menu?).

Some unusual circumstances

Sometimes, unusual circumstances can occur at the restaurant. For example, the curry you order ran out and the server approached you saying “申し訳ありません。カレーは本日売り切れてしまいました。メニューから他のものをお選び頂けますか?” (moushiwake arimasen. Karee wa honjitsu urikire te shimaimashita. Menyuu kara hoka no mono wo oerabi itadakemasu ka? – I am terribly sorry, but the curry has sold out. Would you like something else from the menu?).

In this case, you will be asked to select something else from the menu list.

Asking for bill

While asking for a bill, just say “お勘定をお願いします” (okanjou wo onegai shimasu – Can I have the bill, please?) when you are ready to pay. In Tokyo it is also common to say “お会計をお願いします” (okaikei wo onegai shimasu). If the bill is already placed on your table just take it up to the cashier to pay.

You can then say “ごちそうさまでした” (gochisousama deshita – Thanks for the food). There are several Japanese learning websites to help you make the right choice of Japanese words for any situation that you may face.

If you need a little practice to learn how to order food in Japanese, you can get your hands into italki. Here, you will learn Japanese vocabulary, Grammar, Kanji, grammar, etc. if you are wondering how difficult it is to learn Japanese characters, then italki is the right medium to resolve this confusion. Enroll yourself today!

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