Useful Phrases and Words for Dining Out in Japan

Publish-date: Nov 08 2019 Update-date: Nov 09 2019

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Useful Phrases and Words for Dining Out in Japan

When traveling to Japan, it’s always a good idea to learn a few Japanese expressions to better embrace the local culture. Aside from basic greetings, phrases used in shopping, and asking for directions, you'll find restaurant lingo useful to learn as you'll need to use them quite frequently. So, here is a guide to some of the most useful phrases to practice when dining and wining in Japan. You will also find some of our top Japanese restaurant picks at the end! Don't miss it!

When Entering the Restaurant

When Entering the Restaurant
For most Japanese restaurants, you have to tell the server at the front door how many people are with you, and then he or she will lead you to your table. Let’s take a look at how to express this in Japanese:

○人です。(○ri / ○nin desu)
English: A table for ○.

○ represents the number of people. Here is a simple guide to saying different numbers:
1 person (hitori)/2 people (futari)
3 people (sannin)/4 people (yonin)/5 people (gonin)
Keep in mind that saying “1 person” and “2 people” have a different pattern from saying other numbers. If there are more than two people, just change the number.
Another unique aspect of restaurants in Japan is that they have smoking areas. You will often find them in establishments such as family diners and izakaya (Japanese pubs). Be sure to mention whether you want a smoking or non-smoking table when you say how many are in your party!

○○はありますか?(○○ wa arimasuka?)
English: Is there any ○○?

You may insert one of the following phrases in ○○:
喫煙席 (kitsuenseki) a smoking table
禁煙席 (kinenseki) a non-smoking table
個室 (koshitsu) a private table

When Ordering

1. When Ordering
After entering the restaurant and reading the menu, it is time to order some food. Here is how to call for a server to take your order:

English: Excuse me.

This expression is very useful! Not only is it great for ordering food or asking the server to come to your table, it is also a frequently used conversation starter, especially when you want to ask a local something. So, it is better to memorize it!
Once you decided on what to order, tell the server:

これをお願いします。/これをください。(kore wo onegai shimasu / kore wo kudasai)
English: I’d like to order this.

They will understand you even better if you point at the menu while saying this!
If you have a specific dietary requirement and need to pay extra attention when ordering food, you'll find this phrase handy!

○○は何ですか?(○○ wa nandesuka?)
English: What is ○○?

When unsure of something on the menu, you may ask the server using the expression above.

Also, if you want to know the kind of meat used in a dish, try this:

これは何のお肉ですか?(kore wa nan no oniku desuka?)
English: What kind of meat is this?

If you are allergic to a certain food or don’t eat a certain kind of meat, use this phrase:

○○は食べられません。(○○ wa taberare masen)
English: I cannot eat ○○.

○○ stands for the food you cannot eat. Here are some of the most common words:
【Meat】牛肉 gyuniku (beef), 豚肉 butaniku (pork), 鶏肉 toriniku (chicken)
【Seafood】海老 ebi (shrimp), 貝 kai (shellfish), 魚 sakana (fish)
【Vegetable】人参 ninjin (carrot), 大根 daikon (white radish), ネギ negi (scallions), ニラ nira (chive), 玉ねぎ tamanegi (onion)
【Others】ピーナッツ pi-nattsu (peanut), 辛いもの karaimono (spicy food), 甘いもの amaimono (sweets)

And here's how to ask if they do have something you want.

○○はありますか?(○○ wa arimasuka?)
English: Do you have ○○?

Aside from food, you may insert other things like wet towels into the question:
ベジタリアンメニュー bejitarian menyu (vegetarian menu)
おしぼり oshibori (wet towel)
お水/お冷 omizu/ohiya (cold water)
お湯 oyu (hot water)
ソフトドリンク sofuto dorinku (non-alcoholic drinks)
アルコールドリンク/お酒 aruko-ru dorinku/osake (alcoholic drinks)

When Dining

When Dining
After the delicious dishes are delivered to your table, it’s time to dig in! Do you know what Japanese say before starting the meal? If you watch a lot of Japanese TV shows, you must be familiar with this phrase:

English: Thanks for the food. / I humbly receive. (Used in the same situation as “bon appetit” in French)

The phrase expresses gratitude for the food you are about to consume. Try saying it next time before you eat!

ごちそうさまでした。(gochisousama deshita)
English: Thank you for the meal. (Said at the end of the meal)

美味しいです。/美味しかったです。(oishii desu / oishikatta desu)
English: It is delicious. / It was delicious.

Say the above phrase when you want to praise the food or drink. But since there are tenses in Japanese, when you say the food is delicious during the meal, you may say “oishii desu”; after you have finished the food, you have to say “oishikatta desu” instead.

When Paying the Bill

When Paying the Bill
Here are three of the most common expressions to use when paying the bill.

お会計をお願いします。(okaikei wo onegai shimasu)
English: Check, please.

For most restaurants in Japan, customers are required to take the bill to the cashier and pay, while some allow you to pay at the table. If you don’t see a bill on your table, you may say the above phrase to the server.

クレジットカードは使えますか?(kurejitto ka-do wa tsukaemasuka)
English: Do you accept credit card payments?

Cash is the most common form of payment in Japan, so it is better to ask that first if you want to pay by credit card.

別々にできますか?(betsubetsu ni dekimasuka)
English: Can we pay separately?

If you dined with someone but want to pay separately, ask the restaurant to see if they have this service first!
After learning some practical phrases for dining out in Japan, it’s time to check out restaurant recommendations! Here are some fine dining places for you to try out the next time you are in Japan!

1. Hakata Ajidokoro Iroha

1. Hakata Ajidokoro Iroha
Founded in 1953 and now managed by the 4th generation owner, Hakata Ajidokoro Iroha is a restaurant famous for its [Hakata Mizutaki] (chicken hot pot). The milky white chicken broth, made with pheasants from Saga using the family’s secret recipe, is very rich in flavor. The bone-in chicken meat is perfectly cooked and extremely tender. Created after numerous attempts, it is not only beloved by the locals of Hakata, but also by many tourists who come a long way just to taste it. The restaurant has many large tables, which is perfect for friends and families to have gatherings and celebrations.

Hakata Ajidokoro Iroha

Open: [Tuesday - Saturday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] 6:00 pm - (L.O. 10:00 pm)
[Sunday] 6:00 pm - (L.O. 9:00 pm)
Closed: Monday
Average price: 6,500 JPY
Address: Iroha Bldg., 14-27, Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka (Map)
More Details

2. Shodai

2. Shodai
Shodai is a ramen restaurant featuring thick soup flavored with the essence of delicious vegetables. The name of the restaurant, meaning “the first generation” in Japanese, carries the idea that “no matter how many generations pass, the taste will always remain the same as the first generation”. Their soup base is boiled for a day and a half, and then added to with stir-fried anchovies and kombu (a kind of seaweed) before being served to customers. This soup with a uniquely deep flavor is a perfect match with the thick noodles and slices of char siu. The restaurant offers ramen in three favors: [Soy Sauce], [Miso], and [Salt]. A lot of gourmands travel from far away just to get a taste of this famous dish.


Open: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm (L.O. 7:00 pm)
Closed: Tuesday
Average price: 800 JPY
Address: 14-8, Sumiyoshi-cho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido (Map)
More Details

3. Teppanyaki Shioji

3. Teppanyaki Shioji
Located on the top floor of Kobe Plaza Hotel, Teppanyaki Shioji is a restaurant offering select ingredients cooked as teppanyaki (ingredients grilled on an iron griddle). Not only can you taste delicious cuisine prepared by the head chef, you also won’t be able to get enough of the fabulous teppanyaki show performed right in front of you. The restaurant also has a great view of the townscape and the beautiful Osaka Bay. No wonder the place is so popular among gourmands! Bring your loved ones here for a special occasion such as an anniversary!

Teppanyaki Shioji

Open: Lunch 11:30 am - 2:30 pm (L.O. 2:00 pm), Dinner 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm)
Closed: None
Average price: [Dinner] 7,500 JPY / [Lunch] 2,500 JPY
Address: 2-9-1, Koyocho-naka, Higashinada-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo (Map)
More Details
After reading this article, you should have learned a couple more practical Japanese expressions for dining out. Try saying them the next time you come to Japan!
Disclaimer: All information is accurate at time of publication.


Publish-date: Oct 30 2019 Update-date: Nov 09 2019

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