NILS Fukuoka Times

Today's Phrase

Essential Japanese Phrases Every Study Abroad Student Needs To Learn ― Dining Out


Dining In a Restaurant in Japan

Previously, we went through the essential Japanese phrases used for general conversation. Right now, we will talk about common phrases used while dining in Japanese restaurants.

Well, I have to be honest about this. The dining in experience in Japan is very different from what I have experienced in other countries in Asia. First and foremost, you will realise that the restaurant staff speaks to you using honorific expressions, instead of polite forms. They will address you as 「様」 which is the “more polite version” of 「さん」. They smile…all the time. And if for example, the waiter/waitress accidentally spilt your cup of water, he/she will bow and apologise - not once, not twice either, but many times.

Before we move on to discuss, let’s go through the commonly used phrases below.

How many people? 何名様(さま)ですか
Do you smoke? おタバコを吸(す)いますか
Smoking seat 喫煙席(きつえんせき)
Non-smoking seat 禁煙席(きんえんせき)
Please wait for awhile 少々(しょうしょう)お待(ま)ち下さい
Once decided, please press the button きまったら、ボタンを押(お)してください
Do you have the English menu? 英語(えいご)のメニュがありますか
Do you have any recommendations? 何かおすすがめありますか
Would you like your drink/dessert after your meal? ドリンクはご一緒でよろしいですか
All-you-can-eat 食べ放題(ほうだい)
All-you-can-drink 飲み放題(ほうだい)
I would like to have this please これを下さい
More water please お冷(ひや)下さい
Can I take away? 持ち帰(かえ)ってもいいですか
Can I have the bill please? お会計(かいけい)をお願いします

Smoking vs. Non-Smoking Seats

If you are a non-smoker, you are not going to be happy with the smoking in Japan – especially in restaurants. Unfortunately, Japan is a bit behind in this area. Most family restaurants have designated smoking areas but these areas are fully open and therefore the whole restaurant can generally smell like smoke. If you are a non-smoker, try sitting as far away from the smoking area as possible and try to sit in corners. This is not always possible during peak times though.
A good friend of mine who has been living in Japan for several years once told me that “having smoking and no-smoking sections in a restaurant is like having a peeing and no-peeing section in a swimming pool”.

If you are a smoker however, you will be very happy as there are so many restaurants in Japan which have smoking seats. But according to several sources, the government is trying to push for 100% non-smoking restaurants nationwide, meaning that the restaurants will be completely smoke-free. This seems to be a very slow progress, so to all the smokers living in Japan, don’t worry!

“Would you like your drink/dessert after your meal?”

This phrase is one of the most commonly used phrases while dining in a restaurant in Japan. I have done quite a fair bit of travelling in and around Asia but I find this to be a rather unique experience. You are actually given a choice for your drinks or desserts to be served together with your meals, or after. In other countries however, I find that the restaurant staff will always serve your drinks together with your meals, and the desserts after. But that is not the case in Japan.

I could still remember the first time I dined in an Italian restaurant in Japan with my international friends from the same Japanese language school that we are attending. So yes, even though we know basic Japanese pretty well, we just could not figure out what the waitress was trying to say when she said 「ドリンクはご一緒でよろしいですか」. It may sound normal to Japanese locals but to those coming from overseas, like us international students, it is actually a pretty cool experience.


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