Japanese Essentials: Key phrases to know when ordering at a restaurant

Eating out in Japan can be a little intimidating if you can’t read the menu. But fear no more as we have gathered a few key phrases for you to enjoy your meal!

Posted by on September 4, 2017 – Japanese Study
Japanese waiter

Ordering at a restaurant in Japan can be a little intimidating if you can’t read the menu. But fear no more as we have gathered a few key phrases for you to enjoy your meal!

As soon as you enter the restaurant the floor staff will come to you and ask 何名様なんめいさまですか (“how many people”?). Don’t know how to count in Japanese? No problem, use your fingers to indicate 2, 3 or more people. Simply reply  using the counter for people 人 (にん) and the copula です:

Remember that 1 person is ひとり and 2 persons ふたり.

  • 1 person: ひとり(1人)
  • 2 persons: ふたり(2人)
  • 3 persons: さんにん(3人)
  • number + にん

The floor staff will guide you to your table, hand you the menu and a rolled wet towel called おしぼり, to wash your hands. If you can’t read Japanese, you can try and ask for an English menu with this phrase:

英語えいごのメニューがありますか。(Do you have an English menu?)

When you’ve decided on what to order you can get the server’s attention with a loud すみません or if available, press a call button on the table.

To order your food, use the following phrase:

カレー(を)ひとつおねがいします。(one curry please)

The phrase(を)おねがいします is a very polite way to make a request and can translates “please”.

The particle を, marking a direct object of a verb in a sentence, can be omitted. Be careful, this particle can be written “wo” but is always pronounced “o”.

ひとつ is a Japanese counter you can use to count dishes when making an order.

If you can’t read the dish name on the menu, simply point and say:

これ(を)ひとつおねがいします。(One of this, please.)

  • これ: this

Sample dialogue:


Waiter: Are you ready to order?
Mary: Yes. I’ll have one curry and one beer, please.
Waiter: Will that be all?
Mary: Yes, that’s all. Oh, could I also have some water?
Waiter: Right away.

もらえます comes from the verb もらえる, “to receive” and in this particular context, the question translates “could I have”.


  • 注文ちゅうもん: order; the prefix ご is added to sound more polite
  • まりですか: a polite way to ask if you “are decided”
  • はい: yes
  • なまビール: draft beer
  • 以上いじょうで: that’s all
  • よろしいですか: polite way to ask if “it’s okay?”
  • あと: also
  • みず: water, the prefix お is added to sound more polite
  • かしこまりました ー translates as “alright”, “right away”. It’s a very polite way to say you have understood a request.

When you’re ready to leave, you can ask for the note with the phrase お会計かいけいねがいします or, if you already have the bill on your table, walk directly to the cashier to pay. Once you’ve settled up you can let the waiter know you appreciate the meal by saying:

ごちそうさまでした。(Thank you very much (for the meal.)

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