Food etiquette is an essential part of Japanese culture which means that the Japanese language has many terms that are essential to use when enjoying a Japanese meal. From kanpai to gochisousama deshita, here are some key words and phrases (plus a couple bonus words) that you can use at a Japanese table from beginning to end.
Essential Japanese Words and Phrases For Eating
Kanpai (乾杯／カンパイ): Cheers!
Like any language, Japanese has a term that is used when one starts drinking. Whether it is a cold beer after work with co-workers or wine at dinner, use kanpai the way you would use cheers (or its equivalent in your native tongue)!
Itadakimasu (いただきます): I humbly receive
The term has no direct translation in English but stems from the polite form of itadaku, “to receive", and is said before every meal. It is a statement that represents gratitude for the lives of plants and animals who fuel one’s life. Based in Japan’s Bhuddist and Shinto roots, saying itadakimasu before eating is a way of expressing one’s understanding of how much was sacrificed to make a meal possible and express appreciation for Mother Nature. Itadakimasu also shows appreciation for all of the individuals who made it possible for you to have your food on the table - from the farmer to the cook.
When to Use it: Once you have been served and are ready to eat, express your appreciation by saying itadakimasu before digging in.
Gochisousama Deshita（ごちそうさまでした/ご馳走様でした): It was a feast
Gochisousama deshita is a way of showing gratitude for a meal. After beginning a meal with gratitude for how it was prepared and brought to the table, we complete our meals in Japanese by saying gochisousama deshita.This is a sign of respect towards the chef that is important to express whether you are eating at someone’s home, a restaurant, or a bento from the convenience store.
When to Use it: Gochisousama deshita is said at the end of each meal, but also is essential in other situations. Make sure to say gochisousama deshita if you are in the following situations:
- When walking out of a restaurant (this is a way of expressing gratitude to both the chef and the entire staff of the restaurant)
- If someone treats you to a meal (in this case gochisousama deshita is said to the individual you dined with)
Meshiagare (召し上がれ): Bon appetit
This is a term that you may not say very often if traveling in Japan and eating out, but you will hear it when you go out to eat. Meshiagare is the Japanese equivalent to “bon appétit” and is said by a chef, server, or host to show that food has been served and is ready to eat. Simply respond with “itadakimasu” and dig in!
Bonus (Nice-to-Know) Words
Irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ) : Welcome!
You will hear this term wherever you go into Japan whether it is a restaurant or a souvenir shop. There is no need to reply, just smile, but don’t be taken aback when you hear it over and over again in a day!
Oishii (美味しい): This tastes great!
Even if you don’t speak Japanese, being able to say oishii while you are enjoying a meal will let your cook know that you are enjoying the food and is sure to impress!
We hope these words come in helpful for you as you explore Japanese cuisine, add comments below if you think we missed any that are absolute essentials!
Hi All! I am Miriam Weiss and am a mixed race Japanese/American passionate about promoting Japanese culture and all that it has to offer around the world. I grew up between Japan and California and was most recently living in Boston before moving to the Netherlands! I am excited to share my passion and knowledge with all of you!