All articles >

How to Order Food in Japan

Knowing a few simple phrases and tips about how to order food in Japan can come in super handy for travellers. Although some restaurant staff might be able to speak English and you can always resort to simply pointing to items on the menu, things are much easier once you’ve memorized just a few key points.

Here’s a summary of the most important phrases and advice to help you out. I’ll also add a language bank at the bottom of this article so you can see all of the new vocabulary.

Entering a restaurant

Typically, when you enter a restaurant the staff will respond to you in a similar way each time. This is useful for travellers because we can pretty much expect the same thing to happen and know how to react.

As you walk through the door, the staff will probably call:


Then, they’ll probably ask:

Nan mei sama?” (casual) or “Nan mei sama desu ka?” (polite)
“You’d like a table for how many people?”

If you’re dining solo, you can hold up one finger and say:

Hitori desu.
“One person.”

They’ll then lead you to a table or seat and say:

“This way please.” Or “Here you go.”

In Japanese, there are different ways to count different types of things. These are called counters. If you’re dining as a couple or as a group, you’ll want to use the counters for people:

  1. Hitori
  2. Futari
  3. Sannin
  4. Yonin
  5. Gonin
  6. Rokunin
  7. Nananin / Shichinin
  8. Hachinin
  9. Kyunin / Kunin
  10. Jūnin

So, if you’re dining with three people, say:

Sannin desu.
“Three people.”

If you’re a solo traveller, check out our article: Top 15 Restaurants and Places You Can Dine Alone in Tokyo

Source: Pixabay

Ordering food

Now we’ve got our table and we’ve browsed the menu, we need to order. The simplest way to ask for anything is to point at it on the menu and say:

Kore wo kudasai.
“This one please.”

Although the above is grammatically correct, most people drop the “wo” in speech, so you can also just say kore kudasai. So, from here on I’ll put (wo) in brackets.

If we want to sound extra polite, we can use the more formal version of “kudasai” which is onegaishimasu. In a restaurant situation, either is fine to use and you wouldn’t look rude if you used “kudasai.”

Whenever you want to say the specific name of the dish you want to order, drop the “kore” (meaning “this”) and add the name of what you want. For example, if we want to order karaage and specifically want to say this, we would say:

Karaage (wo) kudasai.
“Karaage please.”

Let’s say we want a draft beer with our karaage. “To” means “and,” it’s a very useful particle for when you’re listing things. The sentence becomes:

Karaage to nama biiru kudasai.
“Karaage and a draft beer please.”

What if we’re feeling particularly peckish and we want to order more than one karaage? Here, we need to use counters again. There’s two common ones that you can use for counting most objects:

-Ko counter

  1. ikko
  2. niko
  3. sanko
  4. yonko
  5. goko
  6. rokko
  7. nanako
  8. hakko
  9. kyūko
  10. Jukko

-Tsu counter

  1. hitotsu
  2. futatsu
  3. mittsu
  4. yottsu
  5. itsutsu
  6. muttsu
  7. nanatsu
  8. yattsu
  9. kokonotsu
  10. tō (This is not commonly used, so you can say “Jukko” as above)

-ko counters are probably easiest to remember, since they follow the same pattern as 1-10 in Japanese, with -ko added at the end. Other than that, there’s not much difference between how common or when to use the two counters. If we want to order two karaage, our sentence now becomes:

Karaage niko to nama biiru kudasai.
Two karaage and a draft beer please.”


Karaage futatsu to nama biiru kudasai.
Two karaage and a draft beer please.”

What if we’re dining with a group of people? Well, we can string all of what we learned above to make a sentence like this:

Karaage rokko to nama biiru muttsu kudasai.
“Six karaage and six draft beers please.”


Karaage muttsu to nama biiru muttsu kudasai.
“Six karaage and six draft beers please.”

Starting the meal

In Japan, it’s customary to say itadakimasu! or “thank you for this meal!” before you begin eating. It’s also polite to wait until everyone has received their drink before you drink any of yours. People might then toast by clinking their glasses and saying kanpai! (“cheers!”)

If you want more tips on table manners in Japan, check out our Guide to Japanese Etiquette.

Asking for extra things

Perhaps your one draft beer wasn’t enough and you want to order another. Here, you can attract the attention of the waiter or waitress and say:

Sumimasen, okawari kudasai.
“Excuse me, a refill please."

If you want to order a different drink, you can say:

Sumimasen, [name of drink] kudasai.
“Excuse me, a soda please.”

If the staff took the menu away, but you’d still like to order more, you can ask them:

Sumimasen, menu kudasai.
“Excuse me, the menu please.”

How to pay

In many restaurants in Japan, the staff will bring the bill to the table as you're eating and you simply take it to the counter to pay once you’ve finished and you’re ready to leave. In some places though, they might not do this and you’ll have to ask for the bill. Attract a staff member’s attention with a “sumimasen” and ask:

Okaikei onegaishimasu.
“Please bring the bill.”

Some places in Japan don’t accept card, so you can check by asking:

Kaado ii desu ka?
“Is card ok?”

If you’re not eating by yourself, when you’re paying the staff might ask you:

Issho desu ka? Betsu betsu desu ka?
“Are you paying together? Or separately?”

In this case, you can say:

Issho desu.
Betsu betsu desu.

Leaving the restaurant

In Japan, it’s not customary to tip at the end of a meal. Instead, you can thank the staff by saying:

“Gochisou-sama deshita.
“Thank you for the meal.”

So there you have it! Now you’re prepared to order food in Japan and enjoy all the culinary delights of Japanese cuisine. Don’t worry too much about speaking perfect Japanese though, many places (especially in bigger cities) might have staff who can speak enough English to at least help you order, and staff are likely to appreciate your language efforts — no matter how good or bad!

Language bank

  • Irasshaimase! / Welcome!
  • Nan mei sama? Nan mei sama desu ka? = How many people? (casual/ polite)
  • Sama = Person/ people
  • Hitori, futari, sannin, yonnin (etc) desu = One person, two, three, four (etc) people
  • Douzo = This way please / Here you go
  • Kore = This
  • Kudasai/ Onegaishimasu = Please (casual / formal)
  • Karaage = Japanese fried chicken
  • Itadakimasu = Thank you for this meal (before eating)
  • Gochisou-sama deshita = Thank you for the meal (after eating)
  • Kanpai = Cheers
  • Nama biiru = Draft beer
  • To = And
  • Sumimasen = Excuse me
  • Okawari = Refill
  • Okaikei = Bill
  • Kaado = Card
  • Issho = Together
  • Betsu betsu = Separately
  • Arigatou gozaimasu = Thank you (present)
  • Arigatou gozaimashita = Thank you (past)
Written by: Jessie Carbutt

Originally from the UK, Jess lives, works and writes in Japan. A lover of exploring and anything creative, she's always discovering new things in her Tokyo home.

Ready to explore Japan?

Download Travelr app, browse all upcoming events and network with other travelers.

Download app
Our app is available on App store or Google play. It will connect you with nearby travelers and local. You can find all events there.
TRAVELR INC. | TOKYO, JAPANTerms & privacy