Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?


I keep reading the posts on all the great restaurants to eat at all over Okinawa, and I get very excited to try the new foods.  But I keep seeing one reoccurring problem that I think may keep people from trying out a new place, the language barrier.  Now, I have food allergies myself, very bad ones to shellfish, so I was a bit afraid to try out a new place at first.  Then I took a language class and learned just about everything I needed to go out to eat safely.  I want to pass on my knowledge in hopes that it will help someone wanting to try a new place, but afraid of ordering something they did not want.

First off, making reservations:

Yoyaku onegaishimasu – I would like to make a reservation please.

They will ask you:  Nan nin desu ka?  Which means how many people.

Respond with: ___________ nin desu.  Insert number of people in the blank, ichi, ni, san, yon, go, etc.

They will ask you:  Itsu desu ka?  Which means when (what day, etc.)

Respond with: ______ gatsu (month)________nichi (day)________yobi (day of the week) pronounced with a longer o sound.

January is Ichi getsu, February is Ni getsu, March is San getsu, all the way to December being Ju-ni getsu.

The days are numbered just the same, Ichi, Ni, San, all the way to Ju-Ichi being the eleventh, Ni-Ju being the 20th, Ni-ju-ichi the 21st, and Sam-Ju being the 30th.

The days of the week (only use if you are making a reservation for the same week) are; Monday: Getsuyobi, Tuesday: Kayobi, Wednesday: Suiyobi, Thursday: Mokuyobi, Friday: Kinyobi, Saturday: Doyobi, Sunday: Nichiyobi


Okay, now that you have your reservation, you go out to eat, what to do from there?  Well they will sit you down, and you look over the menu.   If you don’t have one of those buttons to push when you are ready to order then just raise your hand and say: Chumon onegaishimasu.  Which means I am ready to order now please.

If they come too soon and you need a minute to finish looking just say: Chotto matte kudasai.  Which means please give me a moment.

So you are ready to place your order, but have a few stipulations.  Here are a few phrases and words that you may need/want to help you order.  These will be listed first in English and then in Nihon-go (Japanese), so that you may read them easier.

allergy:arerugi (just point to yourself, put the name of the food that you are allergic to in front of arerugi, ex: ebi kami arerugi is shrimp and crab allergy, mine.)

please give me water: mizu o kudasai

please give me cold (ice) water: ohiya o kudasai

please give me one of these (pointing to an item on the menu): Kore ichihara o kudasai

without______: ________nashi

Is there_________?: _________ wa arimasuka?

hot/cold drink: atsui/tsumetai

phrase to say just before your first bite: Ittadakimasu

phrase to say as you are leaving if you enjoyed your meal: gochisosama

please bring me the check:  oaiso onegaishimasu

Numbers used for food/drinks: 1-hitotsu, 2-futatsu, 3-mittsu, 4-yottsu, 5-itsutsu, 6-muttsu, 7-nanatsu, 8-yattsu, 9-kokonotsu, 10-toe (you can also just use the number like you were counting, but this is the proper way)

shellfish: kokakurui

shrimp: ebi

crab: kami

mullusk (clams, etc): kai

chicken: keiniku or torinku

pork: butaniku

beef: gyuniku

tuna: maguro

salmon: shake

peanut: pinattsu

nut: nattsu

wheat: komugi

salad: sarada

fruit: furuutsu

fried (deep fried): katsu

pan fried (think the noodle or the chicken sticks): yaki

vegetarian: bejitarian

salt: shio

pepper: koshoo

sugar: sattoo

vinegar: su

soy sauce: shooyu

low sodium: genen

organic: yuuki

juice: juusu

apple: ringu

orange: orenji

milk: mirriku

coffee: kohi

tea: ocha

tea (black): kocha

tea (green): ryokucha

wine: wain

beer: beeru

coke: coke (pronounced the same)

That should pretty much get you started, and unless you are a vegan this should help you navigate the language barrier a bit.  If you happen to be a vegan (there isn’t a word that fully translates into vegan), there are a few books you can buy off the internet that explain in both English and Japanese what a vegan is, just bring it with you and show the waiter as one of my friends does.

And as a side note, these are mainly for Okinawa.  Some of the phrases translate straight for mainland, some are used solely here.  My language teacher was Okinawan, and since we are here, I learned how they did it here.


  1. Great article! Japanese/Okinawan people appreciate our effort when we use their language even if it is not completely correctly used or not. Plus it will give you great sense of accomplishments and joy when you say Japanese words or sentences in restaurants and servers understand what you are saying!

    Just one minor thing though, ‘please give me cold (ice) water: ohiya o kudasai’, we could change it a little bit.
    I understand Ohiya is a old word in Japanese. Only the people over 50 will use and understand this. ‘Water please: Omizu o-negaishimas’ is more readily used. They all seem to serve cold water when simple ‘Omizu o-negaishimas’ was used. But if you want specifically ‘Ice’ in your water, you can use the word Kori.

  2. Thank you so much for posting this information. I’ve been looking for the word “shellfish” and haven’t found it yet…I have a child dealthy allergic to all shellfish; this helps me tremendously! Thank you!

  3. You’ve covered the majority of words one would need, this can be very helpful. Thanks for making this.

    A couple of corrections, though, might be helpful. For the months, instead of getsu it’s gatsu. The days from 1-10 are difficult, so use the normal numbers if you need to, but for reference here’s the real ones (1st thru 10th): tsuitachi(1st), futsuka(2nd), mikka(3rd), yokka(4th), itsuka(5th), muika(6th), nanoka(7th), yōka(8th), kokonoka(9th), tōka(10th). These are only for saying “__ of the month”. After 10, use juu-ichi, juu-ni, etc. + “nichi”. Also, 14 and 24 are “juu-yokka” and “nijuu-yokka”, respectively.

    A couple more spelling corrections. Crab: kani, Sugar: satō, Apple: ringo, Milk: miruku.

    It’s great to get out there and use some Japanese, and this guide should really help everyone do that. Thanks again to the author.