Dining out is an essential experience when traveling in any country. But despite having a diverse international dining scene, you may find that getting around at restaurants in Japan in English — especially in smaller cities — may be a challenge. How do you ask for an English menu? And how do you order if the menu is entirely written in kanji? And how can you ask where the restroom is?
When I first lived in Japan, I created a list of greetings, useful expressions and words to use while in restaurants or coffee shops. Some restaurants show pictures of the dishes on the menu or you can even find them on display in front of restaurants, but a basic list of useful phrases will allow you to eat where the locals eat, in the small family owned restaurants off the beaten track with the most delicious food in Japan. Here is a guide to some of the most useful phrases to practice when dining and wining at Japanese restaurants.
Entering the restaurant
Ni mei desu or Futari desu (２名です・二人です）We’re two/ We’d like a table for two. Use this phrase when entering a restaurant. If more than two people, just replace ni with another number.
Kinen seki onegaishimasu (禁煙席お願いします）A non-smoking table, please.
Kitsuenseki onegaishimasu (喫煙席お願いします）A smoking table, please.
Koshitsu arimasuka? (個室ありますか？) Do you have a private table?
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