12/05/2020

Dine with Grace; Essential Phrases When Eating in Japanese Restaurants

When in Rome, do as the Romans do and when in Japan, eat as the Japanese do. Want to order something, but you don’t speak Japanese? Here are some simple but essential phrases to know when dining in restaurants in Japan.

Useful phrases when ordering in a restaurant and while eating

Knowing a few Japanese phrases can make your dining experience go smoothly, given that you know how to pronounce the words correctly. While Americans are all about accents, Japanese are all about the pitch. Meaning, Americans can easily understand if you speak in their accent while Japanese understands a word by accenting or putting a pitch in a particular morae or syllable. So it is important to know the correct way of pronouncing Japanese words. On that note, here’s a guide that can help you make your dining experience a memorable one.

Tourists prefer to have the best dining experience anywhere they go. To be able to do that, especially when you are in a non-english speaking country like Japan, you must at least learn the basic phrases to get by in a restaurant. Below are some of the useful Japanese phrases you can use:

 

  • Excuse me.
    すみません。
    Sumimasen.

    In order to get the staff’s attention, you can slightly raise your hand and say this phrase to give your order. 

  • How much is it?
    いくらですか?
    Ikura desuka?

    To know the cost of the meal you are about to order. This phrase is useful because some menus do not have prices listed. You can also use this after having a meal, and would like to know how much is the bill before paying.

  • I’d like a large portion,
    大盛(おおも)りでお願(ねが)いします。
    Oomori de onegaishimasu.

    To ask staff for a bigger or extra-large portion use this phrase. Keep in mind that you would be paying extra for a larger portion.

  • What do you recommend?
    おすすめはなんですか?
    Osusume wa nandesuka?

    Used if you cannot decide what to eat, or simply want to surprise yourself.

  • Can you make it not spicy?
    辛くしないでください。
    Karaku shinaide kudasai.

    This phrase may save you the agony from eating the hottest chilis in Japan. 

  • I appreciate/I humbly receive
    いただきます。
    Itadakimasu

    You only use this phrase before starting your meal as it is a sign of your appreciation for the meal given to you by the staff.

  • Dine in and Take-out
    店内(てんない)で。and テイクアウトで。/ 持(も)ち帰(かえ)りで。
    Tennai de and Take-out de / mochikaeri de

    Keep in mind that some restaurants may not have take outs.

  • Check please
    お会計(かいけい)お願(ねが)いします。
    Okaikei onegaishimasu

    There are certain establishments that will bring you the check, while others require you to pay at the register on your way out or even to pay as you order. Take note, unlike Western countries, tipping in Japan is not required.

  • Can I pay using my credit card?
    カードで大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)ですか?
    Kaado de daijobu desuka?

    This might come in handy for travelers who do not like to carry large amounts of money and are more comfortable with credit cards.

  • If you want to ask if possible to separate your bills, say "別々(べつべつ)にできますか?(Betsu betsu ni, dekimasuka?)” which means "Can we pay separately?"

These dining phrases are helpful if you want your full dining experience to be as comfortable as possible in a Japanese restaurant. No matter how limited your Japanese vocabulary is, you’ll sure get by in your dining adventure by learning these essential phrases. 

Restaurant Etiquette

Japanese are big when it comes to etiquette, specifically restaurant etiquette. Following these manners can make you look prepared to whomever you are dining with. Whether it’s a new Japanese friend, a client, or a business associate, showing them that you know these basic table manners can leave an impression.

Saying Thank you before and after a meal

Before eating a meal in Japan, one must say “itadakimasu” or I humbly partake/receive. This expression is similar to saying grace at the beginning of every meal. When you finish, please say “Gochisousama Desu” or thank you for the meal.

Chopsticks

Chopsticks are used everywhere in Japan, and it’s important that one must know how to use them properly.

  • Mind your chopsticks. For Japanese people, leaving chopsticks standing vertically in a bowl is a breach of etiquette.

  • Place your chopsticks on the “hashioki” or the chopstick stand or paper holder that they came in before communicating.

  • Do not pass food to another person’s chopsticks with your own. If you must, put it directly onto their plate or bowl.

  • Never point your chopsticks while you talk because you may offend someone if you do so. 

  • Place your chopsticks sideways on your plate to indicate you are finished. Putting your chopsticks next to your bowl indicates that you are not finished yet.

Dining

  • Do not hold your food above your mouth and try to catch falling food using your hand.

  • Finish your food as a sign of respect and try not to leave any bits of rice or scraps of food.

  • Pour enough soy sauce or what your meal requires on the small bowl provided

  • Do not lift bowls or plates bigger than the palm of your hand, except plates that have rice in it like your personal bowl. If you do lift a bowl, hold it close to your mouth.

  • And once you are done, kindly put all the dishes where they were or return the lid to how it looked in the beginning.

Drinking

  • If you want a glass of water, please say “Ohiya kudasai” or “Omizu kudasai”.

  • If you are at a drinking party, do not be the one to drink first. You must wait for everyone to have their glasses filled.

  • At a drinking party, others will usually pour your drink. Pay attention on pouring beverage or alcoholic drinks, it should be forward not backwards. When someone pours you a drink, hold the glass with both hands. 

  • Raise your glass, and say “cheers” or “kampai” and then take a drink.

Other Useful Phrases to Know

The previous topics have discussed some of the important phrases that can be very helpful when dining in Japan. This will make your dining and wining experience a great one. Moreover, the following Japanese phrases can ease your way of conveying your message toward a service staff or a waiter to help you get a better restaurant service:

  • Do you have an English menu?
    英語(えいご)のメニューはありますか?
    Eigo no menu wa arimasuka?

  • What is this?
    これは何(なん)ですか?
    Kore wa nan desuka?

This phrase is also helpful, especially when you wanted to know the details of the food written on the menu, or to avoid food that you are allergic to.

  • What type of meat is this?
    これは何(なん)のお肉(にく)ですか?
    Kore wa nanno oniku desuka?

This is important for those who have preferences over their meat. Some tourists only eat beef, and this phrase can help you get what you prefer. The different kinds of meat in Japanese are pronounced just like in English: chicken, pork, beef, lamb.

  • Where is the toilet?
    トイレはどこですか?
    Toire wa dokodesu ka?

  • Can you take a picture please?
    写真(しゃしん)を撮(と)ってもらえますか?
    Shashin wo totte moraemasuka?

Tourists may want their dining experience photographed, just ask a staff politely to take your photo.

Summary

There are more helpful phrases that can help tourists when in Japan. The phrases discussed in this article are the ones you will hear frequently, just merely guidelines. The best way to get the dining experience is to learn a few of these phrases not only to make an impression with your knowledge on basic restaurant etiquettes, but to also convey the messages accurately. Japanese are mostly known as polite, and even if you do not know how to speak or even try to speak their native language, they will be more than happy to assist you.

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