Ultimate Guide to Ordering Food in Japanese

By Yuki Kobayashi Purwanto | Revised by HeiKin Wong | March 20, 2023

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    Japan's cuisine is famous worldwide, but dining out in the country can be stressful, especially if you don't understand Japanese. Don't worry, we can help you enjoy your dining experience with confidence! Although gesturing and pointing may seem like a viable solution, there is always the risk of conveying misleading or foolish information. Moreover, it takes the fun out of the experience.

    If you find yourself struggling to overcome your apprehension about ordering food in Japanese, this guide will teach you the typical words and phrases used by waiters and servers when ordering food. We will also cover useful phrases for unforeseen circumstances such as a dish being undercooked, overcooked, or not your order!

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    What are the types of restaurants in Japan?

    If you are wondering, where can I eat delicious food in Japan? Don't worry, Japan has a wide variety of restaurants of all styles, ranging from very high-end to mid-range and fast food. If you live in Tokyo or most of Japan's populous cities, you will almost certainly never run out of dining alternatives. 

    There are several affordable "family eateries" restaurants, izakaya (Japanese pubs that offer alcohol, snacks, and meals), and amazing ramen shops operating 24 hours a day. Chinese and Italian cuisine, as well as Indian-style curries and Korean cuisine, are also particularly popular. Large cities also include British-style pubs, which are a popular choice for those craving fish ‘n’ chips. In Japan, international fast food companies such as McDonald's and Burger King are also extremely popular, and they provide specialty foods that are not accessible in other countries.

    Ordering food in Japanese can be a source of anxiety, especially when you have specific dietary needs such as an allergy that you need to communicate. You may also have questions about whether the restaurant offers take-out options. From making a reservation to splitting the check, we'll walk through all the necessary steps and key phrases you need to know to communicate effectively. 

    Order japanese food online - From Izakaya

    How should I respond to the greetings by the staff when entering the restaurant?

    What should I do if I don't make a reservation? Well, don't worry because you can also just enter the store right away in most cases just like you would back home. The moment you enter the store, you will be greeted with a "いらっしゃいませ”(irasshai mase), which means "Welcome," as you go inside the store. This greeting is commonly heard in restaurants, coffee shops, and izakayas. 

    What should you say in return? Absolutely nothing. Your turn to speak comes after they proceed to ask you:

    "何名様ですか?/ Nan mei sama desu ka?”(How many people?) will most likely be the first question from the host or hostess. To which you could reply: 

    “二人です”(futari desu) for two people, etc. Or you could simply raise your fingers to indicate the number of guests in your party. 

    • 1 person: ひとり(hitori
    • 2 people: ふたり(futari
    • 3 people and above: number + にん (nin)
      E.g. 5 people would be ごにん (go nin)

    After that, you will be led to a table. Then, the waiter/waitress will say "こちらへどうぞ(kochira e douzo) meaning "Please sit here" to show you your table. Once you are seated, you will be given a menu and your waitress may say, "メニューになります”(menyuu ni narimasu) which translates to "Here is the menu." 

    After handing you the menu, the staff might say "お決まりになりましたらお呼びください" (Okimari ni narimashitara), which means “Please call me when you're ready to order”.


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    Key phrases and words to ordering food in Japanese

    You have finally reached the very important step! It’s about time to order your food! When you're ready to place your order, grab the attention of the waiter or waitress by raising your hand, making eye contact, and saying "すみません" (Sumimasen) (which means "excuse me"). Alternatively, you can press the call button if there is one available on your table. Ordering a single dish or drink item in Japanese is quite simple. All you need to do is use the phrase "ください" (kudasai) or "お願いします" (onegaishimasu) along with the name of the item you want to order.

    [Food/drink name] + wo + [Quantity] + [Asking for a favor]

    Let's pretend you want to order a bowl of Ramen. This is what we can say in a typical ramen shop:





    Ramen wo hitotsu onegaishimasu

    Can I have one Ramen please?



    [Asking for a favor]

    Ramen + wo



    If you only want to order one of each item, using the default counter (一つ / hitotsu) is fine. However, there will be times when you need to order more, and in that case, you'll need to use a different counter to specify the quantity. Fortunately, there are two counters that can cover all situations: the "つ / tsu" counter and the "個 / ko" counter.

    Ordering food in Japanese using the "ko" counter is straightforward. You can simply add "ko" after the number to express the quantity. On the other hand, the "tsu" counter is more commonly used but can be trickier to use because some of the numbers may not seem like conventional numbers. To help you out, here are the "ko" and "tsu" counters for numbers one to ten.


    “個” (Ko) (for small objects)

    “つ” (Tsu) (general counting)






























    If you are looking for useful tips to help you learn counting numbers and quantities in Japanese, then go ahead and check our comprehensive Ultimate Guide to Counting in Japanese.

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    Ordering drinks

    In most restaurants, ordering beverages before ordering food is a bit odd, but in izakaya (drink-only restaurants), you order your drink first. Why order a beer first? Well, because it will give you more time to look over the menu. Plus, once everyone has their drink in their hand, you can toast or clink your glasses together with your friends or colleagues with a “Kanpai !” (乾杯 / cheers!). 

    Anyway, the staff will ask what would you like to drink.





    Onomi mono wa nani ni shimasuka?

    What would you like to drink?

    To which you reply by following the [Drink name] + [Quantity] + [Asking for a favor] format. Let's say you want to order a beer: 





    Biiru wo hitotsu onegaishimasu

    One beer please

    Ordering food in Japanese - From a Ramen shop

    Ordering food

    While you're waiting for your beverages, have a look at the menu. What dish has a special place in your heart? Depending on the restaurant, food such as salad, karaage (juicy fried chicken), yakitori, edamame (boiled green soybeans), fried potato (potato chips), and potato salad are common izakaya orders. In general, each person costs around 3,000-4,000 yen (US$30-40) in an izakaya and you may sample a variety of dishes for a very reasonable price.

    When you are ready to order, call your server over by saying, “Sumimasen” (すみません) or “Excuse me!”. Most Japanese restaurants will have a button at each table. You can also push the button to call over a server.

    After serving your drinks, the waiter/waitress will ask you:





    Gochuumon wa okimari desu ka?

    Have you decided what you want to order?

    When you are ready to order, remember to follow the structure as mentioned before. In this case, it would be [Food name] + [Quantity] + [Asking for a favor]

    Let's say you want to order one karaage:





    Karaage wo hitotsu onegaishimasu

    Can I have one Karaage please…

    Once you’re done ordering, you can say, “ijou desu / 以上です,” (That’s it). If there’s more you want to order, add  “Toriaezu / とりあえず” (for now) before “ijou desu”.

    The staff then might say:





    Hai, shou shou omachi kudasai

    Okay, please wait

    And congratulations! You have successfully ordered your food!

    When your food arrives, don't forget to say “itadakimasu / 頂きます” before digging in. This word literally means “receive”, and is a polite way of expressing your gratitude for the meal that has been provided for you. If you are a complete beginner that has just started to learn Japanese but has no idea what to do when you go out to eat in restaurants or cafes, we have that covered for you in our Ultimate Guide to Beginner Japanese.


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    How can I make a reservation in restaurants/izakaya in Japanese?

    After you decide on a restaurant to go to, now it's time for you to make a reservation! Making a reservation at a restaurant or izakaya in Japan might seem like a daunting task. However, with a few simple phrases and a bit of preparation, you can easily make a reservation and enjoy a stress-free dining experience. Before we begin, remember that you're calling a restaurant in Japan. You need to be polite. To make your request more polite, you could simply add です(desu) at the end. 

    To start asking for a reservation, provide the necessary information (when, how many people, your name, your telephone number), and make sure to say thank you before ending the call. These are the key information that you need to share with the staff.  

    Let's say you want to reserve a tonkatsu (cutlet) restaurant. This is how a typical conversation will go:

    *Telephone ringing*







    Hai. Tonkatsu-tei Beppu honten de gozaimasu

    Hello! This is Tonkatsu-tei Beppu Honten



    Konnichiwa. Diina no youyaku wo shitain desukedo

    Hi! Well, I'd like to make a reservation for dinner, and…



    Hai. Youyaku wa itsu ni shimasuka?

    Sure. When do you want to reserve?



    juuni gatsu futsuka no mokuyoubi, go-ji ni onegaishitain desu

    At five on Thursday December 5th, but… (is that possible?)



    Kashikomarimashita. Nanmei sama desuka?

    Understood. For how many people?



    Futari desu.

    Two people.



    Onamae to renraku saki wo onegaishimasu

    Can I get your name, address and telephone number?




    My name is…


    電話番号はは (telephone number)...です。

    Tenwabangō wa (telephone number) desu

    My telephone number is…



    Kashikomarimashita. Jyuuni gatsu futsuka no mokuyoubi, go-ji ni futari de yoroshidesyouka

    Understood. So reservation for two people at five on Thursday December 5th. 



    Hai. onegaishimasu

    Thank you very much!

    Congrats! Now you just made a reservation and completed the first step. Now that you have reserved the restaurant/izakaya, be careful not to come late and be on time! If you are still not confident or confused about the phrases, you can go check our Ultimate Guide to Useful Japanese Phrases to help you make a reservation in Japanese like a native!

    Ordering food from a Japanese restaurant

    Asking for recommendations when ordering in Japanese

    For those who are new to a restaurant or izakaya and are struggling to decide what to order, asking for a recommended menu can be a great way to discover the most popular and delicious dishes. The term "おすすめ" (osusume) is commonly used in Japan to describe something that is recommended or suggested because it is of high quality or popularity. In the context of a restaurant or izakaya, asking for the "osusume" can help you choose the best dishes and have a more satisfying dining experience.

    When ordering food in Japanese using the recommended menu, you can use the phrase "おすすめは何ですか?" (osusume wa nandesuka) which means "what do you recommend?" This simple question can be an excellent way to initiate a conversation with the waiter or waitress and get their advice on the best dishes. It's essential to keep in mind that Japanese culture places great emphasis on respect and politeness, so it's important to use polite language and show appreciation for the staff's recommendations.

    Asking for an an English menu

    If you don't feel comfortable reading a Japanese menu, you can request an English menu by simply asking "英語のメニューはありますか?" (eigo no menyuu wa arimasu ka?) meaning “Do you have an English menu?” Remember that not all restaurants have an English menu and you most likely have to read kanji/hiragana. 

    If you are like me, having a hard time learning and memorizing Kanji. Go take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Kanji. This article will help break down the steps you need to be able to master Japanese kanji, provide resources for efficient study, and most importantly to actually remember them.

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    Ordering food in Japanese – Asking and customizing your food or drinks

    Japan offers a wide variety of unique dishes that you may have never encountered before. Even with visual aids on the menu, it can still be difficult to identify a dish. Additionally, you may have specific requests regarding your order, such as substitutions or informing the staff of any allergies. Many individuals have dietary restrictions or preferences, making it crucial to learn the proper terminology and expressions to communicate your needs effectively. Fortunately, there are several useful phrases that you can use to ask questions about the cuisine and make requests when placing your order:





    Kore wa nandesuka?

    What is this?


    Kore wa karai/suppai/amai/nigai desuka?

    Is this spicy/sour/sweet/bitter?


    Tama-negi wo nuki ni shite moraemasuka?

    Can I have (this food) without onions?

    If you’re concern about allergies or if you want to ask whether certain ingredients are included with the dish, you can ask with the following:


    ...wa haitte imasuka?

    Does this have…in it?

    For example, if you want to ask whether a dish has peanuts, you can ask “Kore ni pīnattsu ga haitte imasu ka? / これにピーナッツが入っていますか? (Does this dish have peanuts in it?)

    Ordering drinks in Japanese pubs

    Asking about problems with your food

    Below are examples of common situations/unexpected circumstances that you may encounter when ordering food in Japanese at a restaurant/izakaya. The following are the phrases you can use in those situations and remember to start your sentence by saying Sumimasen.

    What to say when you’ve been waiting for your food for 30 minutes or more.




    すみません、注文した (food name) は後どのぐらいかかりますか?

    Sumimasen, chuumon shita (food name) wa ato dono gurai kakarimasuka?

    Excuse me, how long will it take to get the (food name) I ordered?

    What to say when you’d like to cancel something you ordered.

    すみません、注文した(food name)をキャンセルしたい

    Sumimasen, chuumon shita (food name) wo kyanseru shitai

    Excuse me, I'd like to cancel my order of (food name).

    What to say when you receive the wrong order.


    Sumimasen, kore wa watashi ga chuumon shita ryouri de wa arimasen. Tori kaete moraemasuka?

    Excuse me, this is not the dish that I ordered. Could you please replace it?


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    Ordering food in Japanese – paying your bills

    Once you have finished eating and you are ready to leave, it is time to ask for the check. To do this, you can simply say: 





    Sumimasen. Okaikei wo onegaishimasu

    Excuse me, check please

    In many restaurants and izakayas, the check may be brought to you after all of your meals have been served. If you wish to add anything to your order, you can do so at this time. Once you have finished your meal, you can take the check to the cashier or pay using a touchscreen pad. However, if the restaurant doesn't have this option, you can ask the staff for the check. The cashier is usually located near the entrance. Or you can simply shout ‘SUMIMASEN!’ and one of the wait staff will mosey over to help. It's important to note that not all restaurants and izakayas accept credit cards, so it's a good idea to have cash on hand just in case. Also, keep in mind that tipping is not customary in Japan, so you don't need to leave a tip.

    If you go to a restaurant with a group, you may be asked whether you want to pay altogether. You can answer with the following:





    Restaurant Staff


    Okaikei wa goissho desuka?

    Will you pay together?

    You (if no)


    iie. Betsu betsu ni haraimasu

    No. We pay separately.

    You (if yes)


    Hai. Matomete haraimasu

    Yes, We're paying as one

    If the server doesn’t ask if you pay separately but you want to do it, you can ask:



    Betsu betsu ni harae masuka?

    Can we pay separately?

    ordering dishes in Japanese izakaya

    How can I politely thank the staff?

    As you prepare to leave the restaurant or izakaya, it's essential to express your gratitude to the staff for the meal they provided. Even if you have limited knowledge of the Japanese language, there are several simple phrases that you can use to show respect and appreciation. Typically, as you exit the establishment, the staff will bid you farewell with the phrase "ありがとうございました" (Arigatou gozaimashita), which translates to "Thank you."

    While a simple bow of the head is sufficient in response, you may also use phrases like: 




    Arigatou gozaimashita


    Gochisousama deshita

    The latter expression is particularly fitting as it conveys your appreciation not only for the food but also for the chef who prepared it and the service provided by the staff.

    By using these phrases, you can demonstrate your respect and gratitude toward the Japanese culture and cuisine. With these language tips, you'll be able to navigate izakayas, yakitori businesses, and cafes with ease, allowing you to fully enjoy the unique and delicious dining experiences that Japan has to offer.

    A quick note on izakayas

    Izakaya is a unique dining experience that offers delicious Japanese cuisine in a lively and casual setting. There are huge izakaya chains, such as Watami, Shirokiya, or Shoya, where communication may be simpler and even done on a tablet they provide you. That isn't to mean that the employees will be fluent in English; nevertheless, English menus may be accessible (with pictures). Smaller, family-run izakaya are also available if you're searching for a more "genuine" Japanese experience and you will enjoy an open-table environment and the opportunity to socialize with the locals.

    Also - smoking was permitted in many establishments until very recently. Now, however, smoke-free restaurants are all over Japan, as are various restaurants that are divided into smoking/non-smoking areas. So no need to worry if you are a non-smoker, since times are changing in Japan, and more and more facilities and areas are now completely non-smoking, or have a small room or area designated specifically for smoking. 

    Although, keep in mind that izakaya in Japan are most likely a smoking restaurant. Of course, if it's a smoking restaurant, you just have to deal with it, or walk a little further down the road.It’s best to do some research before deciding on an izakaya!











    Ordering food in Japanese – delivery service

    There are days when we all feel like staying in bed and indulging in a delicious sushi roll, but getting out of the house seems like too much of a hassle. Luckily, Japan has incredibly convenient online food delivery services, such as the popular Demae-can or Uber Eats. It's an ideal solution for those who don't feel like cooking or going out to eat.

    The drawback of using this delivery service in a website or in your phone app is that the website does not offer an English option (Uber Eats, however, does offer full English interface), and it can be difficult for those who cannot read Kanji. On top of that, it also requires a Japanese telephone number. Of course, many browsers offer page translation, but that isn't always the reliable solution. While there are other delivery websites that are offered in English, Demae-can has far more choice and reasonable prices than any others. If you are still struggling ordering from their browser or phone app and you prefer to call them right away, then our Ultimate Guide to Useful Japanese Phrases will show you the useful Japanese expressions to use when ordering online.

    how to order food in japanese online

    Final thoughts

    So there you have it! We have provided you with all the essential Japanese words you need when ordering food in Japanese. Give them a try and let us know how it goes. We hope this guide makes your dining experiences more enjoyable and helps you communicate in Japanese. If you're interested in improving your Japanese conversation skills and stepping out of your English-speaking comfort zone, check out our special Guide to Japanese Learning Apps here. You can also check out more useful guides prepared by us to make your life easier in Japan:

    Guide to Japanese Conjugation

    Guide to Japanese Adjectives

    Guide to Japanese Study Tips

    2 Ebooks to Jump Start your Japanese

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