Ordering Beer in Japan

BarFor anyone who has lived in Japan for any number of months, you will probably want to skip this article.  For anyone coming to visit or live in Japan, this is a handy guide to help you sort through everything that you need to know from ordering a basic beer to ordering in general.  Feel free to download our handy PDF with all the key phrases that you can easily point to as well.

Sumimasen すみません Sue-mee-mah-sen Excuse me

This phrase will help you in any situation when you need to call attention to someone.  Raise your hand and shout if you want to have fun.  Sometimes you can hear people literally shout this phrase across the room, but be aware that upscale establishments frown on shouting.  Once they acknowledge you, try to be patient and wait.

Nama [hitotsu] (onegaishimasu) なま [ひとつ] (おねがいします) nah-mah [hee-toh-tsu] (oh-neh-guy-she-mas) One beer (please)

Nama is a standard word for the standard draft beer.  If you are going to a regular restaurant without craft beer, they only have one beer on tap and this is it.  [hitotsu] is one.  You don’t have to say this as you can just hold as many fingers as the beers you want.  (onegaishimasu) is basically saying ‘please’.

Kore [hitotsu] (onegaishimasu) これ [ひとつ] (おねがいします) koh-reh [hee-toh-tsu] (oh-neh-guy-she-mas) One of this (please)

‘Kore’ means ‘this’.  You can simply point to something on the menu and say this phrase to order as many as you want.  The simplest is to point on the menu, say “kore”, along with holding up the number with your fingers, then say “onegaishimasu”.  Easy peasy.

Osusume (biru) wa? おすすめ (ビール) は? oh-su-su-may (bee-ru) wah? What is your recommended (beer)?

Basically “what beer do you recommend?”  This can be a little difficult for them to answer as they do not know your tastes.  Many places will try to find out what you like, but this is also useful you want when ordering food.  You can replace “biru” with “tabemono” [food] or “okashi” [snack].  There are other phrases you can add before to explain your personal preferences.

Toriaezu nama (de) とりあえずなま(で) toh-ree-ah-eh-zoo nah-mah (deh) For now, draft beer please

You can hear this phrase when you see a large group of Japanese and it basically means “I’ll start off with a beer.”  I wouldn’t recommend using this beer in a craft beer bar unless you want strange looks, although a few craft establishments do have a “toriaezu” option for non-craft lovers.

Mo ippai (onegaishimasu) もういっぱい(おねがいします) moh-ee-pah-ee (oh-neh-guy-she-mas) One more (please)

If you really love the beer you are drinking and want another, you can use this phrase.  Basically it is saying, “one more please” and they will be happy to grab you another glass of whatever you are drinking.

Okaikei (wo) (onegaishimasu) おかいけい(を)(おねがいします) oh-kah-ee-keh-ii (oh) (oh-neh-guy-she-mas) Bill (please)
Chekku (onegaishimasu) チェック(おねがいします) cheh-koo (oh-neh-guy-she-mas) Check (please)

When you are done with all of your drinks, you need to settle the bill.  The first phrase, “okaikei (wo) onegaishimasu” is the most formal way to ask for the bill.  Chekku, or check, is also used.  “Bill” is a term that most people don’t understand in Japan.  You can also simply say “okaikei” to ask for the check or put your index fingers into the shape of an ‘X’ as a hand signal.  This action can be considered rude, or lower class, but it is often used rather than shouting across the room.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *