When you go to Japan, or if you are already there, chances are you will find yourself eating in a restaurant at some point or another. At least, I hope you do.

While you may be able to get by simply with pointing at the picture of what you want on the menu and saying “please,” you’ll probably feel a lot more comfortable if you are more familiar with words and phrases commonly used in restaurants. So let’s look at some of the more useful ones.

5 useful phrases in Japanese Restaurants

Japanese Phrases in Restaurants :Ordering

The first thing you may notice in Japanese restaurants is that the staff will speak very politely. This is pretty common in all types of stores in Japan, and you’ll probably get used to it pretty quickly.

Because the staff speaks politely, customers tend to follow suit. Make sure you use more polite language, and be expecting it when you go in. (A note on this though: there are always exceptions. Restaurant staff tend to be more polite, but you might find restaurants where they aren’t. They’re pretty few and far between.)

Here’s a few common words and phrases you’ll hear when you go to a restaurant.

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Japanese Phrases You Can Use in Restaurants

EnglishRomaji日本語
How many are in your party?Nanmeisama desu ka?何名様ですか?
Drink (but polite)Onomimonoお飲物
Have you decided what you want?Gochuumon wa okimari desu ka?ご注文はお決まりですか?
I’ll have … please.…wo kudasai.…をください。
I’ll have … please.…wo onegai shimasu…をお願いします。
RecommendationOsusumeオススメ
BillOkanjouお勘定
BillOkaikeiお会計
Together (for paying the bill)Issho ni一緒に
Separate (for paying the bill)Betsu betsuべつべつ
Just a moment, please.Chotto Matte kudasai.ちょっとまってください。
Do you want your drink with your meal or after?Onomimno wa Itsugoro Omochi itashimasyouka?おのみものはいつごろおもちいたしましょうか?
After meal, please.Gohan no Ato de Onegaishimasu.ごはんのあとでおねがいします。
Is that everything?Gochuumon wa Ijyoude Yoroshiidesuka?ごちゅうもんはいじょうでよろしいですか?

One thing you may notice in this list is the use of “o” (お) in front of several words, such as the words for “bill” and in the phrase “okimari desu ka” (お決まりですか). This is just to make the word or phrase more polite.

You can also see how polite the staff generally are from the use of “sama” (様), which is super formal and not really used in everyday conversation. However, it is used to refer to customers in restaurants and stores.

You may have also noticed that some phrases have different ways to say them listed in the chart, such as “wo kudasai” and “wo onegai shimasu” for ordering. These are generally interchangeable, and they are both polite enough to be acceptable.

Things That Are Different

There are a few things in Japanese restaurants that can be different, especially for someone used to dining out in the United States. These differences are specifically things I noticed were different from the U.S., so if you’re in a different country, Japan might be more familiar to you. Or less. You’ll find out.

Menu in Japanese

Menus in Japan often have illustrations of everything (or almost everything) on the menu. This is really nice if you don’t know the words for certain dishes, and it can also become really good reading practice.

But some Japanese restaurants, usually smaller, family run places, might have each item written on a slip of paper and attached to the wall. I actually thought restaurants like this were really fun because I had to look around to find what I wanted to order. Then I saw other items after I got my food, which gave me something to order the next time I stopped by.

Generally, it’s not very polite to ask to change a lot of things in your order (such as trading out a side or a meat or something). You can, of course. And a good phrase for this is “___ wo nuki ni shite moraemasu ka?” (___ を抜きにしてもらえますか?), where ___ is what you don’t want. This is alright, especially if you have an allergy or don’t eat a certain food. But if you’re going to change more than one thing from your order, you may be better off just picking a different option from the menu.

I also sometimes had a hard time if I asked for extra things after I got my food. If you’re going to ask for ketchup with your fries, you should first be prepared to get some weird looks, and you should also be prepared to not get any ketchup. That definitely happened to me once.

You usually won’t have any leftovers to take home. This is because Japan doesn’t serve large portions like the U.S. Even if you do have leftovers, some Japanese restaurants won’t let you take them home because they won’t be fresh anymore. You can ask, but they might not let you.

One last big difference is tipping. We tip in the U.S. because servers rely on tips to make up their paycheck. That doesn’t happen in Japan, so you don’t need to tip. All of the cost is already included in the bill.

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Japanese Phrases in Restaurants : Try Some New Food!

If you’re going to be in Japan, make sure you hit up different Japanese restaurants. You can use these phrases to feel more comfortable exploring, and who knows? You might even get a new favorite food out of it.

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