If you are a travel foodie planning your next trip to Japan, you might be wondering, how do you order food in Japanese? Japan has become one of the top destinations for culinary tourists. From famous Michelin-starred restaurants to small ramen shops, Japanese food is, without a doubt, a display of tradition, creativity, and delicacy. Today we will learn how to order food in Japanese in 7 simple steps —so you can make the most out of your next visit to a Japanese restaurant.
How To Order Food In Japanese?
Step 1: Decide What Kind Of Food You Want To Eat
Choosing food may seem simple, but when it comes to Japanese food, there is a wide variety. If you don’t have an adventurous palate, deciding beforehand what type of food you want is a good idea. Otherwise, you might be surprised/overwhelmed by the thousands of options available.
Do you want to eat sushi or ramen? Are craving delicious and juicy fried chicken? Maybe you want them all. The type of Japanese food you’re looking for will determine which restaurant you visit. Are you looking for a luxurious place? Or you’d rather have an “authentic” Japanese experience in an 居酒屋 (Izakaya ). Your preferences and budget will help you decide the best option for you.
Step 2: Make A Reservation (If Possible)
After deciding which restaurant you want to visit, you should check if it’s possible to make a reservation or 予約 (yoyaku ). In popular restaurants, finding a table may be more difficult if you don’t make a reservation in advance, especially at dinner time.
However, this only applies to some restaurants. You can go to many places without a reservation and get in without issues. So, if you can’t make a reservation, don’t be afraid; walk in and ask if a table is available.
Let’s see the following example—this is a “conversation” between a customer and a Japanese restaurant receptionist.
Customer: こんにちは、予約は出来ますか？- Konnichiwa, yoyaku wa dekimasu ka? — Good afternoon. Can I make a reservation?
Receptionist: 予約はいつにしますか？- Yoyaku wa itsu ni shimasu ka?— When do you want to make a reservation?
Customer: 明日の19時にお願いします。- Ashita no 19-ji ni onegaishimasu. —Tomorrow at 19:00, please.
Receptionist: かしこまりました。何名様ですか？- Kashikomarimashita. Nan mei sama desu ka? — Understood. How many people?
Customer: ソフィアです。-Sofia desu —I’m Sophia.
Customer: 3人です。- San nin desu. —Three people.
Receptionist: お名前をお願いします。- Onamae wo onegaishimasu — Your name, please.
Receptionist: かしこまりました。明日、19時に3人でよろしいでしょうか。- Kashikomarimashita. Ashita, 19-ji ni, san nin de yoroshīdeshou ka. — Understood. Tomorrow, at 19:00, three people.
Customer: はい。お願いします。- Hai. Onegaishimasu — Yes. Please.
Step 3: Enter A Japanese Restaurant
When you walk into a Japanese restaurant, the first phrase you are going to hear is: “いらっしゃいませ” (irasshai mase), a welcome greeting used when a client arrives. This greeting is not exclusive to restaurants; if you go to clothing stores, coffee shops, or places that provide products or services, they’ll always greet you with “いらっしゃいませ.”
After receiving you, the staff might say, “予約ですか？” (yoyaku desu ka – do you have a reservation? ) or “何名様ですか?” (nan mei sama desu ), which means “how many people.” Then, they will proceed to lead you to your table. Some restaurants have テーブル (Tēburu ) and 座敷 (zashiki ) tatami rooms. If both are available, they might ask you which one you prefer.
Step 4: Look At The Japanese Menu
Now that you are at your table; it’s time to look at the メニュー (Menyū ). Nowadays, most Japanese restaurants have an English menu available, but if you want to practice your reading skills, ask for the Japanese menu. Don’t worry about understanding everything; recognizing a few terms is enough when learning the language. In fact, most menus have images, so if you don’t understand a word, you can always look at the pictures.
If you go with Japanese friends, it’s even better. You can ask them どんな料理がありますか (don’na ryōri ga arimasu ka – what kind of food is there?). They can explain what each meal contains and help you understand the words you don’t. However, it would be best to familiarize yourself with some basic Japanese phrases to feel more confident when interacting with Japanese people.
Here are some key Japanese words you should know to help you make the most of your next visit to a Japanese restaurant.
- Appetizer-前菜 ( zensai )
- Main dish-メインディッシュ(meindisshu)
- Salad- サラダ (sarada)
- Soup-スープ (sūpu)
- Vegetables- 野菜 (Yasai)
- Meat-肉 (niku)
- Chicken meat- 鳥肉 (toriniku)
- Seafood-海鮮 (kaisen)
- Drinks-飲み物 (nomimono)
- Beer-ビール (bīru)
- Sake-酒 (sake)
- Soft drinks-ソフトドリンク (sofutodorinku)
- Dessert- デザート (dezāto)
- Bill/check- お会計 (o kaikei)
Step 5: Ask For Japanese Food Recommendations
In Japanese culture, asking for a recommendation in restaurants is very common. So if you have no idea what to eat or want to try the most popular dishes, ask: おすすめはなんですか？ (osusume wa nan desu ka? – what do you recommend?)
You will surely receive a recommendation from your Japanese friend or waiter.
Step 6: Order Food And Drinks In Japanese
Are you ready to order? If your table has a call button, press it; if not, raise your hand and say “すみません” (sumimasen -excuse me). Then, the waiter or waitress will come to your table and ask you: お決まりですか？ (okimari desu ka? – did you decide?).
Now it’s time to place your order!
Ordering food in Japanese is easier than you might think. You can follow this simple pattern (Dish/drink + quantity + please) to order all your dishes.
- サラダを一つお願いします。(sarada wo hitotsu onegaishimasu — a salad, please).
- ビールを二つとコーラ一つお願いします。(bīru wo futatsu to kōra hitotsu onegaishimasu —two beers and a cola, please).
- 海鮮丼を三つお願いします。(kaisendon wo mittsu onegaishimasu —three seafood bowls, please).
We can see from the previous examples that to order food in Japanese, we must use the Japanese counters to indicate how many plates we want. After confirming your order, the waiter or waitress will say、 “かしこまりました” (kashikomarimashita – understood), and you’re done. Now you need to wait for your food.
Step 7: Ask For The Bill And Pay
Have you finished eating? It’s time to pay. To ask for the bill you can say “すみません、お会計をお願いします” (sumimasen, o kaikei wo onegaishimasu ーthe check, please).
In Japan, customers pay their bills at the cashier. In other countries, customers pay at their tables, and the waiter or waitress brings the tab to the cashier. Before you leave, don’t forget to show gratitude to the staff by saying: “ありがとうございました” (arigatou gozaimashita ) or “ごちそうさまでした” (gochisousama deshita – thanks for the meal) ーthese phrases express appreciation for the food and the treatment you have received. And now you’re good to go.
Over To You
Are you ready to make your next order in Japanese?
Enjoying Japanese cuisine is one of the perks of learning this fascinating language. Now that you know the basics of ordering food in Japanese, it’s time to practice. Learning all the phrases and vocabulary is only possible if we use them. The more you practice, the more confident you will feel. If you do the work, the next time you go to a Japanese restaurant, you will be able to communicate with the staff without any difficulties.
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