How to Make a Reservation in Japanese Make that reservation in Japanese, reservation-free

    予約(よやく)
    Reservation

    You've probably noticed that Tofugu regularly publishes informational reviews of Japanese restaurants as part of our travel articles. We love dining out! Here's a tip, though: when visiting a restaurant in Japan, be sure to make a reservation first.

    Most US restaurants that require a reservation will allow you to make it online. Few restaurants in Japan have this capacity, however, so you'll need to learn to do so over the phone. It's not as intimidating as it sounds—plus, it's a great way to practice speaking Japanese and learn something practical.

    To make the process easier, we've created an insanely detailed guide, which walks you through the basic vocabulary you'll need to reserve a table over the phone and some sample sentences for when you arrive. It gives you the chance to practice beforehand and even make your own cheat sheet before you call.

    Ready?

    Prerequisite: This guide is going to use hiragana and some katakana, so we highly recommend you learn it beforehand by reading our guides. Don't worry! They can be learned in a day or two, just come back when you're ready.

    Starting with the Basics: よやく

    kanji for the word reservation in japanese

    The Japanese word for reservation is 予約 (よやく), which consists of two kanji: 予, meaning "beforehand," and 約, meaning "promise." Used for bookings, appointments, or subscriptions, this kanji for "beforehand promise" is for a commitment made at an earlier time and then executed later.

    • 予約

    There are several variations on the phrase "to make a reservation":

    • 予約をする/よやくをする (or the verb 予約する), "to do a reservation"
    • 予約を取る/よやくをとる, "to get a reservation"
    • 予約を入れる/よやくをいれる, "to put in a reservation"

    For now, however, you only need to remember the first one: 予約をする.

    • 予約をする

    The first phrase you'll need to learn to say is simple: "I want to make a reservation." For that, the verb する, which means "to do," conjugates to したい, which means "want to do." Here it is in Japanese: 予約をしたい.

    • 予約をしたい

    Note: you can also say 予約がしたい, using the particle が instead of を, to emphasize a little more what it is you want to do (in this case, 予約).

    samurai making a reservation on the phone

    Before you start dialing, however, remember that you're calling a restaurant in Japan. You need to be polite. Merely saying "I want to make a reservation" is too blunt and a little unmannerly—like a samurai from long ago. What should you do instead?

    To make your request more polite, you could simply add です at the end: 予約をしたいです. This means, "I'd like to make a reservation."

    • 予約をしたいです

    And yet… that's still not quite polite enough, because you're still bluntly stating what you want to do. In Japanese conversation, if possible, it's best to opt for gentle requests rather than bold declarations. To make one in this case, replace です with the magical phrase んですけど, or んですが, as in: 予約をしたいんですけど…

    • 予約をしたいんですけど...
    • 予約をしたいんですが...

    This phrase is worth knowing. It's a combination of the verb します (do) and たいんですけど (want [to], but…), and it's used when you want to connect one sentence with another. In this case, if you omit the second sentence, it indicates a request or wish that could be expected from the preceding sentence. The final "…" is important. "…" in a sentence with んですけど is often used to indicate one's desire for approval, as in: "I'd like to make a reservation, so/but/and…" It's an implied request: "Is that okay with you? Is it possible?"

    It's a roundabout way of being polite, of course, but the implication in the "…" is useful and practical. In the actual conversation, you can use it as is:

    Ring, ring!

    Restaurant: Hello. This is Restaurant Tofu & Blowfish.

    You: こんにちは。えっと、予約をしたいんですけど…
    Hi! Well, I'd like to make a reservation, and…

    Restaurant: Sure! For which day?

    Note: I didn't yet translate what the employee would say in Japanese. We'll learn that later!

    Of course, you can make it a full sentence and include all the information they'd probably need, such as:

    • 1月1日の1時から11人で予約をしたいんですけど、空いてますか?
    • I'd like to make a reservation at one o'clock on January 1 for eleven people, but is it available?

    Before you start dialing, however, remember that you're calling a restaurant in Japan. You need to be polite.

    If you do, however, odds are you'll probably be asked to say it all again, since a busy restaurant employee likely needs a moment to grab a reservation book (and a pen) to write it all down.

    When making a reservation, although you might mention whether it's for lunch or dinner, we suggest using んですけど or んですが, implying the unfinished "…", and let the conversation flow. It's better to not go into too much detail at first over the phone. Instead, provide key points—the date, the time, and the number of people—one by one. It's also the best way to make yourself understood.

    Conversation Starter: もしもし or Hello?

    Here's a tip. When you make or answer a call, it's common to start the conversation with もしもし. Yet this phrase is considered to be a casual greeting. If you're making a business call or something similar, to be polite, avoid もしもし and instead say, こんにちは (hello) or こんばんは (good evening). For restaurants, this is more appropriate.

    Date and Time

    a clock and calendar

    Now that you know how to ask for a reservation, you're ready to start giving the information for it. Let's start with the when (いつ). In Japanese, use the following order: date (with month first), day of the week, and time.

    If you wanted to make a reservation for 7 p.m. on your friend Steve Buscemi's birthday, the conversation would begin like this:

    Ring, ring!

    Restaurant: Hello. This is Restaurant Tofu & Blowfish.

    You: こんにちは。えっと、ディナーの予約をしたいんですけど…
    Hi! Well, I'd like to make a reservation for dinner, and…

    Restaurant: Sure! For which day?

    You: 12月13日の木曜日、7時です。
    On Thursday, December 13 at 7 p.m.

    Note: when speaking the date, it's okay to omit the 日 (び), which means day, and say either 木曜日 (もくようび) or 木曜 (もくよう). And be aware the restaurant worker might do it, too.

    Now that you know the order of the information, let's jigsaw-puzzle together your actual reservation dates and time. We've provided charts for each one below. (And you can always start with our article How to count anything in Japanese!)

    Month (月)

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    January 1月 / 一月 いちがつ
    February 2月 / 二月 にがつ
    March 3月 / 三月 さんがつ
    April 4月 / 四月 しがつ
    May 5月 / 五月 ごがつ
    June 6月 / 六月 ろくがつ
    July 7月 / 七月 しちがつ, なながつ
    August 8月 / 八月 はちがつ
    September 9月 / 九月 くがつ
    October 10月 / 十月 じゅうがつ
    November 11月 / 十一月 じゅういちがつ
    December 12月 / 十二月 じゅうにがつ
    Which month? 何月 なんがつ

    Day of the Month (日)

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    1st 1日 / 一日 ついたち
    2nd 2日 / 二日 ふつか
    3rd 3日 / 三日 みっか
    4th 4日 / 四日 よっか
    5th 5日 / 五日 いつか
    6th 6日 / 六日 むいか
    7th 7日 / 七日 なのか
    8th 8日 / 八日 ようか
    9th 9日 / 九日 ここのか
    10th 10日 / 十日 とうか
    11th 11日 / 十一日 じゅういちにち
    12th 12日 / 十二日 じゅうににち
    13th 13日 / 十三日 じゅうさんにち
    14th 14日 / 十四日 じゅうよっか
    15th 15日 / 十五日 じゅうごにち
    16th 16日 / 十六日 じゅうろくにち
    17th 17日 / 十七日 じゅうしちにち, じゅうななにち
    18th 18日 / 十八日 じゅうはちにち
    19th 19日 / 十九日 じゅうくにち
    20th 20日 / 二十日 はつか
    21st 21日 / 二十一日 にじゅういちにち
    30th 30日 / 三十日 さんじゅうにち
    31st 31日 / 三十一日 さんじゅういちにち
    Which day? 何日 なんにち

    Day of the Week (曜日)

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Monday 月曜(日) げつよう(び)
    Tuesday 火曜(日) かよう(び)
    Wednesday 水曜(日) すいよう(び)
    Thursday 木曜(日) もくよう(び)
    Friday 金曜(日) きんよう(び)
    Saturday 土曜(日) どよう(び)
    Sunday 日曜(日) にちよう(び)
    Which day of the week? 何曜(日) なんよう(び)
    This week 今週 こんしゅう
    Next week 来週 らいしゅう
    The week after next 再来週 さらいしゅう
    Today 今日 きょう
    Tomorrow 明日 あした / あす
    Day after tomorrow 明後日 あさって

    Time (時間)

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Zero o'clock 0時 / 零時 れいじ
    One o'clock 1時 / 一時 いちじ
    Two o'clock 2時 / 二時 にじ
    Three o'clock 3時 / 三時 さんじ
    Four o'clock 4時 / 四時 よじ
    Five o'clock 5時 / 五時 ごじ
    Six o'clock 6時 / 六時 ろくじ
    Seven o'clock 7時 / 七時 しちじ, ななじ
    Eight o'clock 8時 / 八時 はちじ
    Nine o'clock 9時 / 九時 くじ
    Ten o'clock 10時 / 十時 じゅうじ
    Eleven o'clock 11時 / 十一時 じゅういちじ
    Twelve o'clock 12時 / 十二時 じゅうにじ
    Noon 正午 しょうご
    Twelve in the afternoon (お)昼の十二時 (お)ひるのじゅうにじ
    1 p.m. 13時 / 十三時 じゅうさんじ
    2 p.m. 14時 / 十四時 じゅうよじ
    3 p.m. 15時 / 十五時 じゅうごじ
    4 p.m. 16時 / 十六時 じゅうろくじ
    5 p.m. 17時 / 十七時 じゅうしちじ, じゅうななじ
    6 p.m. 18時 / 十八時 じゅうはちじ
    7 p.m. 19時 / 十九時 じゅうくじ
    8 p.m. 20時 / 二十時 にじゅうじ
    9 p.m. 21時 / 二十一時 にじゅういちじ
    10 p.m. 22時 / 二十二時 にじゅうにじ
    11 p.m. 23時 / 二十三時 にじゅうさんじ
    0 a.m. 24時 / 二十四時 にじゅうよじ
    half past はん
    1:30 一時半 いちじはん
    1:30 1時30分 / 一時三十分 いちじさんじゅっぷん
    a.m. 午前 ごぜん
    p.m. 午後 ごご
    3 p.m. 午後3時 / 午後三時 ごごさんじ
    Morning あさ
    Lunch time, afternoon ひる
    Evening 夕方 ゆうがた
    Night よる
    Breakfast 朝食, ブレックファスト ちょうしょく, ブレックファスト
    Lunch 昼食, ランチ ちゅうしょく, ランチ
    Dinner 夕食, ディナー ゆうしょく, ディナー
    What time? 何時 なんじ
    Around ころ / ごろ

    Greetings

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Hello. こんにちは。 こんにちは
    Thank you. 有難うございます。 ありがとうございます
    I’m sorry / Excuse me すみません。 すみません
    available (spot, date) 空いている あいている
    Is it available? 空いていますか? あいていますか?
    Can / To be able to できる できる
    Can I reserve/book ~ ? 予約できますか? よやくできますか?

    Although you'll be able to piece together a lot of the information from the tables above, here are some additional things to be aware of:

    Did You Say しち or いち?

    Sometimes the Japanese words for "seven" (しち) and "one" (いち) can be hard to distinguish, especially over the phone. To keep from being misunderstood, we suggest using なながつ for "July" and ななじ for "seven o'clock" rather than しちがつ and しちじ.

    ようび: Day of the Week

    When you make a reservation, providing the date and time should be enough, though it's a good idea to add the day of the week as well. It makes sense. Have you ever told someone something was happening on the tenth, even though you actually meant the eleventh? Or thought an event was on a Thursday when it's was really on a Wednesday? Everybody does it now and then. To avoid misunderstandings, it's a good idea to mention both.

    This Saturday vs. Next Saturday in Japanese

    Also, keep in mind that Japanese speakers have a different understanding of "this" and "next," as in "this Saturday" (この土曜日) or "next Saturday" ( つぎの土曜日) than English speakers. Say it's Monday, for example: in English, Saturday of that week is referred to as this Saturday. In Japanese, however, it's called next Saturday—as in "the next Saturday that will fall in the month." Until you fully understand how to use "this" and "next" in Japanese, be careful using them.

    A 24-Hour Clock

    For afternoon, evening, or nighttime, instead of saying "1 p.m.," "2 p.m.," "3 p.m.," and so on, Japanese people prefer to say "thirteen o'clock," "fourteen o'clock," "fifteen o'clock," etc. If you're not comfortable using a 24-hour clock, you can just say 午後1時 (ごごいちじ) for "1 p.m." or 昼の1時 (ひるのいちじ) for "one in the afternoon," but be aware that the person on the other end of the phone may still use "thirteen o'clock" when they confirm it.

    Is This Okay?

    We recommended that (when possible) you avoid making declarations or statements when asking for things.

    In the previous section, when we were discussing 予約, we recommended that (when possible) you avoid making declarations or statements when asking for things. With that in mind, let's look closer at the last line of the date-and-time example above:

    You: 12月13日の木曜日、7時です。
    At seven on Thursday December 13.

    In this case, being declarative is okay because you didn't state what you wanted; you simply answered their question. Yet you can be more polite by adding the verb お願いする (おねがいする)—which means "please," "I ask of you," "I beg you," and other such nuances—and combining it with んですけど. Here's an example.

    • 12月13日の木曜日、7時でお願いしたいんですけど…
    • At seven on Thursday December 13, but…

    That's right—the "…" again. Remember that the "…" refers to something being omitted—in this case, a question such as "…but is it possible?" or something similar. You can also make the sentence into a complete question, as in:

    • 12月13日の木曜日、7時でお願いしたいんですけど、空いていますか?
    • I’d like to make a reservation at seven on Thursday December 13, but is it available?

    The restaurant employee will answer yes or no, so it's time to move on to the next question.

    How Many People Are Coming?

    woman making a reservation in japanese

    You're getting closer to completing your reservation for Steve Buscemi's birthday. But how many people are coming? Is it a big party, or is it just an intimate dinner for you and Steve?

    Ring, ring!

    Restaurant: Hello. This is Restaurant Tofu & Blowfish.

    You: こんにちは。えっと、ディナーの予約をしたいんですけど…
    Hi! Well, I'd like to make a reservation for dinner, and…

    Restaurant: Sure! For which day?

    You: 12月13日の木曜日、7時でお願いしたいんですけど…
    At seven on Thursday December 13, but… (is that possible?)

    Restaurant: 7 p.m. December 13… It's probably fine, but for how many people?

    You: 二人です。(二名です) Two people.

    Because you're answering a question, using a statement is fine, especially if it's a small group. If the group was a large one, and you were worried the restaurant may have trouble accommodating them, you might say:

    • 十人なんですけど…(大丈夫ですか?)
    • It's for ten people… (but is it okay?)

    Note: in the above example, we provided you with two forms of "two people." For one person it would be 一人 (ひとり), for two 二人 (ふたり), and for three+ it is just the number plus 人 (にん). Then there's the more polite version, which is __ 名 (めい). No exceptional readings here, just the number plus 名.

    Either of the versions above is okay to use, but the best rule of thumb is to mirror the other person: if they ask how many people using 何人 (なんにん), answer in the ~人 form; if they ask it by 何名 (なんめい), use the ~名 form. But in the end either will work out just fine.

    If you decide to change Steve's birthday dinner for two into a family gathering by adding a child, definitely mention it to the reservationist. In that case, you would say 大人2名と子供1名です。(おとなにめいとこどもいちめいです。), which means two adults and one child.

    Number of People (人)

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    0 people 0人 / 零人 ぜろにん, れいにん
    1 person 1人 / 一人 ひとり
    2 people 2人 / 二人 ふたり
    3 people 3人 / 三人 さんにん
    4 people 4人 / 四人 よにん
    5 people 5人 / 五人 ごにん
    6 people 6人 / 六人 ろくにん
    7 people 7人 / 七人 しちにん / ななにん
    8 people 8人 / 八人 はちにん
    9 people 9人 / 九人 くにん / きゅうにん
    10 people 10人 / 十人 じゅうにん
    11 people 11人 / 十一人 じゅういちにん
    12 people 12人 / 十二人 じゅうににん
    13 people 13人 / 十三人 じゅうさんにん
    14 people 14人 / 十四人 じゅうよにん
    15 people 15人 / 十五人 じゅうごにん

    Number of People (名)

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    1 person 一名 いちめい
    2 people 2名 / 二名 にめい
    3 people 3名 / 三名 さんめい
    4 people 4名 / 四名 よんめい
    5 people 5名 / 五名 ごめい
    6 people 6名 / 六名 ろくめい
    7 people 7名 / 七名 しちめい / ななめい
    8 people 8名 / 八名 はちめい
    9 people 9名 / 九名 きゅうめい
    10 people 10名/十名 じゅうにん, じゅうめい
    11 people 11名 / 十一名 じゅういちめい
    12 people 12名 / 十二名 じゅうにめい
    13 people 13名 / 十三名 じゅうさんめい
    14 people 14名 / 十四名 じゅうよんめい
    15 people 15名 / 十五名 じゅうごめい

    Number of People (Other)

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    In total 全部で ぜんぶで
    In total (people only) 全員で ぜんいんで
    Adult 大人 おとな
    Child 子供 こども
    Baby 赤ちゃん あかちゃん
    Infant 乳児 にゅうじ
    How many people? 何人, 何名 なんにん

    Who are you?

    steve bsucemi making a phone reservation in japanese

    Before we finish our basic reservation vocabulary, let's learn how to provide your name and number. When making a restaurant reservations in the US, you might be able to just give your first name, but in Japan you're expected to give your last name—your family name. In our case, then, instead of "Steve" (スティーヴです), you'll say "Buscemi" (ブシェミです). If you'd like to spell it for them, say:

    • スペルは、b-u-s-c-e-m-iです。
    • The spelling is b-u-s-c-e-m-i.

    As for your phone number, just say the numbers and add です at the end: 123-456-7890です。Should the restaurant ask for both name and number at the same time, you can respond with a combined sentence:

    • 名前はブシェミで、電話番号は123-456-7890です。
    • My name is Buscemi and my phone number is 123-456-7890.
    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Name 名前 なまえ
    Spelling 綴, スペル つづり, スペル
    Phone 電話 でんわ
    Phone Number 電話番号 でんわばんごう
    Contact Number 連絡先 れんらくさき
    0 ぜろ / れい
    1 いち
    2
    3 さん
    4 し / よん
    5
    6 ろく
    7 しち / なな
    8 はち
    9 きゅう
    To repeat 復唱する ふくしょうする

    Yay! We were finally able to make a reservation to celebrate Steve Buscemi's (or should I say Buscemi Steve's?) birthday. "Finally" is ようやく in Japanese, so let's take a break by making a 駄洒落 (Japanese pun).

    「ようやく予約ができた」, which means, "We were finally able to make a reservation!"

    A Little More Information, Please

    man requesting no shrimp over the phone
    アレルギーがあります。
    I have an allergy.

    Now you're armed with the basics for reserving a restaurant table. Most of the time, when speaking to someone on the phone, your needs will be simple. But what if you needed to know about a few other details? What if you preferred a table seat rather than one in the room with tatami mats? What if you have a particular food allergy? What if you needed to know about wheelchair access? Because my boss told me to go crazy with the details, let's fill in those gaps for you.

    When making a request, you can simply say リクエスト and they would understand that you have a request. To state you have a question, say 質問 (しつもん). However, a request is like a statement, so even though it's a request from you, it's better to make it into a question, so it's more like asking if that request is okay with them. After you've made the reservation, if you still have questions, before they hang up the phone, quickly say, 「すみません!まだ質問があります。」, which means, "Excuse me! I still have some questions."

    • すみません!まだ質問があります。

    The following are a few typical vocabulary and example phrases you may need for making a request or asking questions. This isn't an exhaustive list—if it's missing something common, please let us know!

    Dietary Restrictions

    If you have specific food preferences, let them know. Are you a vegetarian? Vegan? Does yogurt make you sick? Do eggs make your throat swell shut? Use the following chart and example sentences to help you.

    Keep in mind that many Japanese restaurants specialize in a specific dish, and often can't accommodate special requests. Even so, it's good to give them a heads-up and ask if they have something on their menu you can eat.

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Allergy アレルギー アレルギー
    Allergic reaction アレルギー反応 アレルギーはんのう
    Severe 重い, ひどい おもい, ひどい
    Vegetarian ベジタリアン ベジタリアン
    Pregnant woman 妊婦, 妊婦さん にんぷ, にんぷさん
    Vegan ビーガン ビーガン
    Person ひと
    To eat 食べる たべる
    Can eat ~ 食べられる, 食べれる たべられる, たべれる
    Can’t eat ~ 食べられない, 食べれない たべられない, たべれない
    There is, there are (people) いる いる
    There isn’t, there aren’t (people) いない いない
    There is, there are (things) ある ある
    There isn’t, there aren’t (things) ない ない
    Meat にく
    Any meat 肉類 にくるい
    Pork 豚肉, ポーク ぶたにく, ポーク
    Chicken 鶏肉, チキン とりにく, チキン
    Beef 牛肉, ビーフ ぎゅうにく, ビーフ
    Fish さかな
    Fish broth 魚の出汁 さかなのだし
    Vegetable 野菜 やさい
    Milk 牛乳, ミルク ぎゅうにゅう, ミルク
    Dairy 乳製品 にゅうせいひん
    Egg たまご
    Honey 蜂蜜 はちみつ
    Nuts ナッツ ナッツ
    Any nuts ナッツ類 ナッツるい
    Crustacean 甲殻類 こうかくるい
    Any shellfish 貝類 かいるい
    Mercury 水銀 すいぎん
    A lot of 多い おおい
    Little 少ない すくない
    Uncooked food 生物 なまもの
    Raw fish 生魚 なまざかな
    Animal 動物 どうぶつ
    Cope 対応する たいおうする
    Possible 可能 かのう
    Can do できる できる
    Ok 大丈夫, OK だいじょうぶ, オーケー
    Not okay NG エヌジー
    To use 使う つかう
    Make 作る つくる
    All, everything, anything 一切 いっさい
    Except for ~ ~ 以外 ~ いがい
    In addition to ~, besides ~ ~ 以外にも ~ いがいにも
    To bring something in 持ち込む, 持ち込みする もちこむ, もちこみする
    Only だけ だけ
    He, him, his かれ
    She, her, her 彼女 かのじょ
    Other people 他の人 ほかのひと
    The other person, one more person もう一人 もうじとり
    Course コース コース
    Chef’s choice/Chef’s tasting menu お任せ おまかせ
    à la carte アラカルト アラカルト
    • アレルギーがあります。
    • I have an allergy.
    • 卵アレルギーがあります。
    • I have an egg allergy.
    • 乳製品が食べられません。
    • I cannot eat dairy.
    • アレルギーがあって、ナッツ類が食べられません。
    • I have an allergy and cannot eat nuts.
    • ナッツアレルギーがあって、他の人が周りで食べているだけでも、アレルギー反応が出ます。
    • I have a nut allergy, and I get a reaction even when other people eat it around me.
    • 重い甲殻類のアレルギーがあるんですが、お店で甲殻類は使われていますか?
    • I have a severe crustacean allergy. Do you serve them at your restaurant?
    • ベジタリアンです。
    • I'm a vegetarian.
    • ベジタリアンの人が一人います。
    • There is one person who is vegetarian.
    • ベジタリアンの人が一人いて、肉と魚、魚の出汁が食べられません。
    • There is one person who is vegetarian and cannot eat any meat or fish, including fish broth.
    • 卵と乳製品は大丈夫です。
    • Eggs and dairy are okay.
    • 何か彼が食べられるものはありますか?
    • Is there anything he can eat?
    • ビーガンの人が一人いて、動物から作られるものは一切食べられません。肉と魚、魚の出汁以外にも、卵や乳製品、蜂蜜などもNGです。
    • There is one person who is vegan and cannot eat anything produced from animals, which includes not only meat, fish, and fish broth but also eggs, dairy, honey and so on.
    • 妊婦さんが一人いて、生物と水銀の多い魚が食べられません。
    • There is a woman who is pregnant, and she can't eat uncooked food or fish that contains a lot of mercury.
    • ご対応は可能でしょうか。
    • Is it possible for you to cope with that?
    • 彼女だけ、食べられるものを持ち込みすることは可能ですか?
    • Is it possible that only she will bring her own food that she can eat?
    • 他の人はコースで、彼だけアラカルトにしてもらうことはできますか?
    • Is it possible that only he orders from the menu when we get there, while other people have the course?

    Speaking, Writing, and Requesting a Menu in English

    a dinner menu

    Once you're at the restaurant, unless you're relatively fluent in Japanese, you may want to ask (early on) for an English menu or if someone there can speak English.

    Here's a tip, though: since English is compulsory in Japan, most Japanese people have learned it. They often have difficulty hearing native English spoken and speaking it themselves. Yet many can read it more easily. If you need to convey something, you may have a better chance of being understood if you write it down—or use Google Translate to display what you wrote as well as its translation.

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    English 英語 えいご
    Japanese 日本語 にほんご
    Can speak 話せる はなせる
    Can read 読める よめる
    Good at, well 上手 じょうず
    Bad at, poor 下手 へた
    Menu メニュー メニュー
    English menu 英語のメニュー えいごのメニュー
    A person who can speak English (1) 英語が話せる人 えいごがはなせるひと
    A person who can speak English (2) 英語の話せる人 えいごのはなせるひと
    A person who can speak English (3) 英語を話せる人 えいごをはなせるひと
    not ~ much あまり〜ない あまり〜ない
    • 英語が話せる人はいますか?
    • Is there a person who can speak English?
    • 英語のメニューはありますか?
    • Is there an English menu?
    • 日本語が話せます。
    • I can speak Japanese.
    • 日本語が話せません。
    • I can’t speak Japanese.
    • 日本語が読めません。
    • I can’t read Japanese.
    • 日本語が下手です。
    • I’m poor at Japanese.
    • 日本語があまり上手に話せません。
    • I can’t speak Japanese very well.
    • 日本語があまり上手に話せないんですが、英語が話せる人はいますか?
    • I can’t speak Japanese very well, but is there a person who can speak English?
    • 日本語があまり読めないんですが、英語のメニューはありますか?
    • We can’t read Japanese very much, but is there an English menu?

    Where Would You like to Sit?

    woman asking for non-smoking table

    At the restaurant, you may have specific seat preferences. Here's how to talk about them.

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Shop, store, restaurant みせ
    Seat, place, table せき
    All seats, all tables 全席 ぜんせき
    Smoking (seat) 喫煙(席) きつえん(せき)
    Non-smoking (seat) 禁煙(席) きんえん(せき)
    Separation from smoking/non-smoking 分煙 ぶんえん
    Barrier-free, wheelchair accessible バリアフリー バリアフリー
    Table seat テーブル席 テーブルせき
    Counter seat カウンター席 カウンターせき
    Tatami mattress seat 座敷 ざしき
    Private room 個室 こしつ
    Near the window 窓際 まどぎわ
    At the back おく
    If possible できれば できれば
    I prefer ~ 〜がいい 〜がいい
    Please お願いします おねがいします
    Leaving it to you よろしくお願いします。 よろしくおねがいします
    • お店では喫煙可能ですか、禁煙ですか?
    • Is smoking allowed in your restaurant or not?
    • 禁煙席がいいんですが…(可能ですか?)
    • I prefer non-smoking seats, but… (is it possible?)
    • できれば、窓際の席がいいです。
    • I prefer a table near the window, if possible.
    • できれば、個室の座敷でお願いします。
    • If possible, a private room with tatami mats, please.

    Planning a Party

    woman planning a party over the phone

    If you are arranging a party, you'll have quite a few details to talk about with the restaurant. Here are the basic vocabulary and phrases.

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Budget 予算 よさん
    How much いくら いくら
    ~ yen 〜円 〜えん
    About ~ 〜ぐらい 〜ぐらい
    Coupon クーポン クーポン
    Discount 割引 わりびき
    Discount coupon 割引券, 割引クーポン わりびきけん, わりびきクーポン
    Credit card クレジットカード クレジットカード
    Cash 現金 げんきん
    Cash only 現金のみ げんきんのみ
    Course コース コース
    A la carte アラカルト, 単品 アラカルト, たんぴん
    Order 注文 ちゅうもん
    All-you-can-eat 食べ放題 たべほうだい
    All-you-can-drink 飲み放題 のみほうだい
    Reserve the whole place 貸切 / 貸し切り かしきり
    Party パーティー パーティー
    Dress code ドレスコード ドレスコード
    Exclusive party 貸し切りパーティー かしきりパーティー
    Girl's party 女子会 じょしかい
    Drinking party 飲み会 のみかい
    Year-end party 忘年会 ぼうねんかい
    Birthday party 誕生日会, バースデーパーティー たんじょうびかい, バースデーパーティー
    Birthday plate バースデープレート バースデープレート
    Cake ケーキ ケーキ
    Can use 使える つかえる
    To prepare 用意(を)する ようい(を)する
    To decide 決める きめる
    To go 行く いく
    There (over there) そっち, そちら そっち, そちら
    • 三十人ぐらいで、貸し切りパーティーをしたいんですが…(可能ですか?)
    • I’m planning to reserve the whole place for a party with about 30 people, but… (is it possible?)
    • 予算は五千円です。
    • Our budget is ¥5,000.
    • 三千円の女子会コースでお願いします。
    • The ¥3,000 girl’s party course, please.
    • 誕生日会なんですが、ケーキを用意してもらうことはできますか?
    • This will be a birthday party, so is it possible for you to prepare some cake?
    • 割引券があるんですが、使えますか?
    • I have a discount coupon. May I use it?
    • クレジットカードは使えますか?
    • May I use a credit card?
    • 注文は、そちらに行ってから決めます。
    • We will decide what to order when we get there.
    • コースはどのようなものがありますか?
    • What kind of course do you have?
    • ドレスコードはありますか?
    • Is there a dress code?

    Babies and Children

    illustration of a small baby

    Please don't assume you can bring children into a restaurant; you'll need to ask first. If it's okay, you may need to clear up a few things ahead of time. You don't want to be rude once you get there!

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Accompanied by children 子供連れ こどもづれ
    Baby food 離乳食 りにゅうしょく
    Kids lunch お子様ランチ おこさまランチ
    For kids 子供用 こどもよう
    Bringing ~ in 〜の持ち込み 〜のもちこみ
    Kid’s chair 子供用の椅子、キッズチェア こどもようのいす, キッズチェア
    Kid’s room キッズルーム キッズルーム
    Changing diaper オムツ替え おむつがえ
    Changing table オムツ替え台 おむつがえだい
    Bathroom トイレ トイレ
    Where どこ どこ
    • 子供連れでもOKですか?
    • Is it okay to bring children?
    • 子供は一才です。
    • My child is one year old.
    • 離乳食の持ち込みはOKですか?
    • Is it okay to bring baby food?
    • 子供用の椅子はありますか?
    • Do you have a child’s chair?
    • トイレにオムツ替え台はありますか?
    • Is there a changing table in the bathroom?
    • どこかで赤ちゃんのおむつを交換できますか?
    • Is there anywhere I can change the baby’s diaper?

    Canceling a Reservation or Running Late

    woman apologizing on phone

    Some restaurants will still charge you full price for the course you reserved if you cancel at the last minute.

    If something comes up and you can't keep your reservation, please let the restaurant know ASAP. Japanese restaurants are often very small, and some only have one round of seating per day. If you need to cancel, do it right away!

    When you book your reservation, it's smart to ask about their cancellation policy. Ask:

    • もしキャンセルになってしまった場合、何かルールはありますか?
    • If we happen to have to cancel the reservation, do you have any rules for it?

    Some establishments have a deadline for cancellation—something like:

    • キャンセルは前日のお昼の12時まで。
    • Cancellations have to be made by noon one day before the reservation day.

    Be aware that some restaurants will still charge you full price for the course you reserved if you cancel at the last minute.

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    I’m sorry. (polite) すみません。 すみません
    I’m sorry. (very polite) 申し訳ありません。 もうしわけありません
    Cancel キャンセル キャンセル
    To cancel キャンセルする キャンセルする
    Cannot go 行けない いけない

    Here's how to cancel a reservation:

    • 10月29日の18時からで予約している佐藤なんですが、その日行けなくなってしまって… 申し訳ないんですが、キャンセルしてもらってもよろしいでしょうか?すみません。
    • This is Satō, and I have a reservation at 6 p.m. on October 29. I’m afraid that we are not able to go to your place. Could you cancel the reservation, please? I’m sorry.

    Tourists who fail to keep their reservations have become a problem in Japan, and many restaurants now ask for a Japanese phone number to confirm them. If you don't have a local number, you can give them the hotel's contact info and/or your email address. If you're staying at an AirBnB and don't have a hotel, or if the restaurant won't accept an email address, tell them:

    • 日本で繋がる番号がないので、日にちが近くなったら、こちらから確認の電話を差し上げてもいいですか?
    • I don’t have a phone number that can be used in Japan, so may I call you when the day gets closer for confirmation?
    • 日本で繋がる番号がないので、前日にこちらから確認の電話を差し上げてもいいですか?
    • I don’t have a phone number that can be used in Japan, so may I call you guys a day before for confirmation?

    If you're an American tourist whose phone can receive calls in Japan, providing your phone number with a country code (国番号) works fine, although some restaurants will still double-check to make sure they can reach you. If they've told you they'll be calling to confirm, but you haven't heard back, call them. They may be having trouble contacting you.

    Also, please don't arrive late! Remember that Japanese restaurants—especially small ones with limited seating—carefully plan their nightly schedules, and parties that arrive late stand the chance of throwing off the entire plan. One sushi restaurant we visited in Tokyo—Sushiya no Nohachi—has been known to refuse entry to customers who arrive late without notice. If you're going to be more than ten minutes late, it's advisable to call ahead and let them know.

    Reservations Full? Have a Plan B.

    woman changing plans on the phone in japanese

    When the date or the time you request is not available, you are most likely to receive responses such as すみません (I'm sorry), 申し訳もう わけございません (I'm sincerely sorry), 恐れ入りおそ い ますが… (I'm afraid that… [we can't]), or 生憎あいにくですが… (Unfortunately…). Usually they'll tell you clearly that they're all booked up and can't take the reservation. But even if they don't, these expressions all mean "no" in other words.

    If you have a Plan B, however, you can still suggest it to them. When suggesting the second option, use では、〜はどうですか?, which means, "Then, how about…?"

    English Japanese Pronunciation
    Then では, それでは では, それでは
    How about ~? / What about ~? 〜はどうですか? 〜はどうですか?
    Is ~ available? 〜は空いていますか? 〜はあいてますか?
    • では、19時はどうですか?
    • Then, how about 7 p.m.?
    • それでは、10月30日の18時は空いていますか?
    • Then, is 6 p.m. on October 30 available?

    Or simply ask when it would be available.

    • いつなら空いていますか?
    • When would it be available?
    • 何時なら空いていますか?
    • What time would it be available?

    Most restaurants accept reservations, but some don't take bookings at lunch, especially on weekends. Casual, fast, dine-in restaurants such as a gyudon-ya, kaiten sushi-ya, or ramen-ya usually don't take reservations; you'll need to wait in line at these. Also, some require you, in order to visit, to be recommended or accompanied by a regular. Without that, they may turn you away! In Japanese culture, this is called 一見さんお断り (いちげんさのことわり).

    If they tell you:

    • 恐れ入りますが、ご予約はお断りしております。
    • I'm afraid that we don't take reservations.

    Or something similar, you have to say:

    • そうですか。分かりました。有難うございます。
    • Is that so? I understand. Thank you.

    And hang up.

    Honorifics: What a Japanese Restaurant Employee Might Say

    woman using keigo on the phone

    In Japan, restaurant staff and other employees use honorific expressions called keigo when speaking to customers, especially over the phone. As explained in our keigo article, these honorifics can be confusing, even to the Japanese. It's too broad a topic to cover right now, but here are some frequently used expressions:

    English Japanese (polite, honorific) Pronunciation
    There is/are ~ (things) あります, ございます あります, ございます
    Is, are, am です, でございます です, でございます
    It's our rule that ~ 〜となっております。 〜となっております
    To be available (spot, seat) 空いています, 空いております あいています, あいております
    Available (spot, seat, table) 空きがあります, 空きがございます あきがあります, あきがございます
    Spot/Seat not available (1) 空きがありません あきがありません
    Spot/Seat not available (2) 空きがございません あきがございません
    Spot/Seat not available (3) 空きがない状況です あきがないじょうきょうです
    Fully booked 満席 まんせき
    (Seats are) booked up ご予約(で席)が埋まる ごよやく(でせき)がうまる
    Please お願いします, お願い致します おねがいします, おねがいいたします
    Sure, certainly, I see 分かりました, かしこまりました わかりました, かしこまりました
    Sure, certainly, I see 承知しました, 承知致しました しょうちしました, しょうちいたしました
    To attend (to your request) 承る うけたまわる
    I'm sorry, excuse me (1) すいません , すみません すいません , すみません
    I'm sorry, excuse me (2) 申し訳ございません もうしわけございません
    I'm sorry, excuse me (3) 恐れ入ります おそれいります
    Unfortunately, 生憎ですが、 あいにくですが
    Payment (method) お支払い(方法) おしはらい(ほうほう)
    Name お名前 おなまえ
    Telephone number お電話番号 おでんわばんごう
    Date お日にち おひにち
    Time お時間 おじかん
    Seat, table お席 おせき
    Customer お客様 おきゃくさま
    Child お子様 おこさま
    Room お部屋 おへや
    Tatami room お座敷のお部屋 おざしきのおへや
    Birthday person お誕生日の方 おたんじょうびのかた
    Decided お決まり おきまり
    Preference ご希望 ごきぼう
    Address ご住所 ごじゅうしょ
    Visit (to our restaurant) ご来店 ごらいてん
    Reservation ご予約 ごよやく
    Contact number ご連絡先 ごれんらくさき
    How many people 何名様 なんめいさま
    Two people 二名様 にめいさま
    We’re waiting for you (1) お待ちしています おまちしています
    We’re waiting for you (2) お待ちしております おまちしております
    Is it okay? (1) よろしいですか? よろしいですか?
    Is it okay? (2) よろしいでしょうか? よろしいでしょうか?
    How about ~ ? 〜はいかがですか? 〜はいかがですか?
    To come (to go, to be at) 来ます, いらっしゃいます きます, いらっしゃいます
    Could you tell me ~ ? 〜を教えて頂けますか? 〜をおしえていただけますか?
    Excuse me (for end of call). 失礼致します。 しつれいいたします
    Some, a few, little 若干 じゃっかん
    Still まだ まだ
    Already 既に すでに
    Only ~ 〜のみ 〜のみ
    • お支払いは現金のみとなっております。
    • It's our rule that we only accept cash for the payment of the bill.
    • お客様のご連絡先を教えて頂けますか?
    • Could I have your contact information?
    • 何名様でいらっしゃいますか?
    • For how many people?
    • 申し訳ありませんが、その日は生憎予約が埋まっておりまして…
    • I'm terribly sorry, but unfortunately that day is booked up... (so we can't take your reservation).
    • ご希望のお席はございますか?
    • Do you have any preference for the seat?
    • コースはお決まりですか?
    • Have you decided what course you are going to have?
    • お誕生日の方のお名前の綴を教えて頂けますか?
    • Can you spell the name of the birthday person for me?
    • ご確認させていただきます。2月12日、午前11時から、大人4名様と子供1名様のお席のみのご予約でよろしいでしょうか?
    • To double-check, the reservation is at 11 a.m. on February 12 for 4 adults and 1 child, just for the seats (no course or specific meal pre–ordered). Is this correct?

    Final Notes and Role-Play

    If you're staying at a good hotel, take advantage of its concierge service to make your reservation.

    Remember that restaurants in Japan tend to be small and fill up quickly, so if you really want to try one out, it's safest to book in advance. If the spot is super popular, you may have to book way ahead—sometimes a year!—but, if you're traveling, a couple of months prior is usually sufficient. For casual eateries, a few days in advance is fine.

    Google or the Internet is the best place to do basic research. If the restaurant you're interested in doesn't have a website, you can always use…

    …and some services such as Voyagin can secure restaurant seats for a fee.

    If you're staying at a good hotel, take advantage of its concierge service to make your reservation. Also, some credit cards provide a concierge service, sometimes allowing you to score seats in almost impossible to reserve restaurants. Some restaurants make a few tables available exclusively for those fancy services.

    If you can't use any of those alternative methods of making a reservation, pick up the phone. Remember that…

    • Restaurants are usually very busy between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and 6 and 9 p.m.; if possible, avoid calling then. (Plus, if it's busy, the reservationist may talk faster than usual!)
    • If you must call then, try to start the conversation with, "I'm sorry to call you during this busy time" (お いそがしいところすいません).
    • For many places, "last call" for ordering food is thirty minutes before the closing time.
    • Weekend nights, especially during a busy season like December for year-end and Christmas parties, usually get booked up quickly.
    • Because many people in Japan celebrate with family at New Year's instead of Christmas, many restaurants close from December 31 to Jan 3, 4, or 5.
    • Be careful about the summer holidays, called Obon, which occur around mid-August. Restaurants may be closed.

    In addition to food you order while you're there, some restaurants require you to order a course in advance. Do your research beforehand and decide what you want to do before you call.

    Couldn't Hear or Understand?

    Don't feel bad if you didn't hear or understand something properly. Here are some phrases for such a situation.

    • すみません。よく聞こえませんでした。
    • I'm sorry. I couldn't hear it well.
    • もう一度言っていただけますか?
    • Can you say that again, please?

    Your Reservation is Done!

    two women making a reservation in japanese

    All you need to do now is wait until the reservation day (予約の日) and go to the restaurant! When you open the door, say こんにちは or こんばんは with a smile, followed by:

    • (七時に)予約した、ブシェミです。
    • I'm with the Buscemi party, who has a reservation (at seven).

    or

    • (七時に)予約の、ブシェミです。
    • I'm with the Buscemi party, who has a reservation (at seven).

    Whatever name you made the reservation under, if it's you, have fun, and bon appétit!

    Free Reservation Role-Play Giveaway

    We put together six(!) different conversations that cover a lot of situations you may run into when making a reservation in Japanese. Included in this download is a PDF with text and translations of all the conversations, plus audio. Even if you don't plan to do that, it's good practice for intermediate and advanced-level students. You'll learn new vocabulary, polite Japanese forms, and more!

    Download Reservation Roleplay PDF & Audio by signing up to the Tofugu newsletter

    Sign up to our email list to download the Reservation Role-Play Giveaway. We'll send you emails to let you know about new Japanese language articles like this one (and we'll just send you every free article giveaway directly from now on), Japanese lessons (a couple times a month), and Tofugu news (just a few times a year).