How to Order Food in Japanese

Ordering Food in Japanese

Photo by by quinn.anya on Flickr

Ordering food in Japanese doesn’t need to be an intimidating experience. With these simple phrases and your pointer finger you’ll be ordering food off the Japanese menu like a pro.

The Point and Smile Method

If your mind goes blank or all else fails, the point and smile method should always work when ordering in Japan. If the menu has pictures or there’s a food display nearby, just point at what you want and smile at the waiter or waitress. They’ll know what you mean :)

You can also add a note of thanks with the Japanese word for thank you “arigatou” while you point at the item.

Japanese waitress smiling

Photo by t6mdm on Flickr

Advanced Ordering

Ok, don’t get nervous, advanced ordering is actually really simple. It’s just an expanded method of the point and smile technique except you add a simple Japanese phrase to the mix.

Simply point to the item you want and say:

This please: Kore o kudasai (ko-ray oh ku-da-sigh)

It’s really as simple as that. The “o” is an honorific that can be dropped if you like, but it doesn’t hurt to be polite and leave it in there.

Now, if you find yourself in a restaurant without pictures on the menu or and food display, well then you’re a bit over your head :)

Here’s how it looks:

And here’s a more advanced system of ordering using the general Japanese counting system:

Try it out the next time you order and let us know how it goes!

2 Responses to “How to Order Food in Japanese”

  1. Shaun  on September 12th, 2012

    If I can add a few things:

    The “o” on “kore wo kudasai” is not an honorific. It’s the particle marking the object.

    Although textbooks always teach this as the method of ordering, I’ve never actually heard anyone say this. In fact, when I first tried to use it in Japan I was laughed at as it sounds abnormally strange. It’s not wrong, it’s just… not used often and therefore weird to natives. It is one of those things that instantly points you out as FOREIGNER!! I would suggest dropping the “kudasai” and stick with either “kore wo” or if you are feeling fancy add an “onegaishimasu” to the end of it.

    With the counting most people drop the marker “wo” and stick with #object# #number#. In the video example what you’ll actually hear is “mocha futatsu”.

    While Japanese people are very concerned about being polite, the context within the service industry generally leads this to be one way. They are overly polite to the customers but customers are generally pretty casual to the workers.

  2. Travis  on September 13th, 2012

    Thanks for the clarification Shaun. Silly book knowledge lets me down again :)

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