Japanese for Eating Out

Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?

CONTRIBUTED BY KATHERINE MOORE

Whenever I go out with friends, they quiz me about eating out in Japan.  Some of them are more concern with etiquette, while others are just for fun and good to know kind-of-stuff.  To give you some ideas, here are some things I think it would be nice for you to know about eating out in Japan.

Before the meal

When you enter a restaurant, the employees will greet you with “Ira-shai-ma-se,” which means welcome.  You can reply to this with “Kon-ni-chi-wa” during the day or “Kon-ban-wa” at night.  After you have seated and decided what to order, you can ask “Sumi masen, oo-daa onegai shimasu.” This translates to “Excuse me, I’m ready to order.”

Sumi-masen – excuse me

oo-daa – order

onegai shimasu – please

As soon as you finish ordering, you can say “ijou desu” to let the server knows that you have ordered everything you want.  This translates to “that’s all.”  It ends that weird waiting-for-someone-to-say-something moment.

During the meal

Once you get your food, you can say “itada kimasu” when you’re ready to eat. This means that you are about to start eating.  This is useful for your patron, to let them know that either (1) you are hungry and can’t wait for them to get their food, or (2) you are checking to make sure that everybody got their food and can start eating.  I hope it is more towards later!.  After that, it is mostly (hopefully) saying “oishii,” meaning tasty.  Here are some useful words when eating:

Amai – sweet

Nigai – bitter

Sup-pai – sour

Shiop-pai – salty

Karai – hot, spicy

Atsui – hot (temperature, the same as Summer hot)

Tsumetai – cold (different from Winter cold, which is samui)

Nurui – luke warm (use this when you’re complaining that your food is cold when it should be hot)

To add fun to these words, you can take off all the i’s in the end of every word and replace it with an exclamation point.  This will strengthened your opinion. For example, you can say “Kara!” to show that it is very, very spicy.  It makes you sound cool, too.

After the meal

Now that you are done eating, you can say, “gojisou sama deshita.”  This means you are done eating and appreciate the meal.  You can say this to the server and chef, if you want to be more polite.  You can also say “oishi katta,” meaning “it was tasty.”  If you are really happy and you want to let them know that you will be coming back, you can also say, “mata kimasu.”  Finally, don’t forget to say “arigato gozaimasu” on your way out to thank them for their services.

I hope this helps you familiarize yourself to eating out in Japan.  These are all optional, of course, but are nice things to know.  It doesn’t hurt to be able to say how you feel about your meal and experience in general.  Also, being able to show gratitude to the employees, especially the chef, will gain you respect from them.  It’s a win-win situation.  You are able to say something about your meal, and they are able to understand what you are saying.  Happy dining!

4 COMMENTS

  1. I also want to make note that it’s impolite to stick chopsticks in the rice bowl so that they stick straight up. That is only done when food is offered to the dead, i.e. obon.

    • Hi Midori,
      Thank you for comment, I would be interested in knowing if you are a native Japanese speaker. Both shoppai (塩っぱい) and shio karai are correct, however shoppai is more commonly used in daily conversation.

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