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Japanese food has spread across the world. Japanese restaurants have sprouted up all over the place and foods such as sushi, ramen, and soba can now be found just about anywhere. However, it wasn’t until I came to Japan that I realized the fascination that the Japanese culture holds for food. In Japan, the topic of food is discussed in nearly every aspect of life. It will be mentioned in almost every TV show, on the radio, and and will come up in nearly every conversation. It is even commonly discussed during or after a meal. Understanding this is important because the more Japanese food words and related phrases you understand, the better you will be able to communicate.

As a foreigner in Japan, it will be very common for people to ask you what kind of foods you like and dislike and what you can and can’t eat. Food topics make for great conversation because it is something almost everyone has an opinion in. Do you like (insert Japanese food here) will also be another questions that is commonly asked. Whether or not you can eat sushi, ume-boshi (pickled plumb), or natto (a sticky fermented soy bean) are the three “can you eat” food questions I get most often. So here are some common Japanese phrases and words for related to Japanese food. I highly recommend that you learn them well because they will come up often.

Japanese Phrases for Food

  • Can you eat Japanese food?
  • Washoku ga taberaremasu ka? (“Washoku” could also be replaced by “Nihon no tabemono”)
  • 和食が食べられますか?
  • Do you like Japanese food?
  • Washoku ga suki desu ka?
  • 和食が好きですか?
  • Can you eat ~?
  • ~ga taberaremasuka?
  • ~が食べられますか?
  • Do you like ~?
  • ~ga suki desku?
  • ~が好きですか?
  • Are there foods you can’t eat?
  • taberarenai mono ha arimasu ka?
  • 食べられないものはありますか?
  • What’s your favorite food?
  • (ichiban) suki na tabemono ha nandesuka?
  • (一番)好きな食べ物は何ですか?
  • Can you use chopsticks?
  • Ohashi ga tsukaemasu ka?
  • おはしが使えますか?

Japanese Words For Utensils

  • Chopsticks- Ohashi おはし
  • Fork- Fouku フォーク
  • Knife- naifu ナイフ
  • Spoon- supuun スプーン
  • Glass/cup- koppu コップ
  • Plate- osara おさら
  • Bowl- chawan ちゃわん

Common Japanese Food (with descriptions)

  • Sushi- Raw fish over a small ball of rice
  • Sashimi- Raw rish
  • Gohan- The Japanese word for white rice.
  • Soba- Japanese wheat noodles. Can be served hot or cold.
  • Yakisoba- Meaning “fried soba” is different from regular soba. The noodles are thicker and made using eggs, rather than wheat.
  • Udon- Udon is a large, thick noodle made of flour. Udon can be served both hot and cold.
  • Ramen- Consisting of basically a noodle soup, ramen is one of the most popular foods in Japan. The noodles are made from flower and egg and is served hot.
  • Gyudon. A bowl of rice covered with slices of cooked beef.
  • Natto- fermented soy beans. Is usually eaten with rice and sometimes mixed with raw eggs
  • Ume-boshi- Pickled or soured plum
  • Okonomiyaki- Meaning, “what you like, fried”, okonomiyaki is kind of like a pancake of meats, vegetables, flour, and eggs. It is then topped with mayonnaise and a special somewhat sweet sauce called okonomiyaki sauce. It is also common to cover them with seaweed and fish shavings.
  • Takoyaki- Literally meaning fried octopus, are small fluffy dumplings containing small pieces of fried octopus. Toppings are very similar to Okonomiyaki.
  • Tofu- Made from curdled soy milk. Commonly served as a side dish in Japan.
  • Nabe- Literally meaning “pot”, nabe is kind of like a stew of meats, vegetables, noodles, and tofu boiled together in a pot of water.
  • Shabu Shabu- Shabu Shabu is similar to nabe in that you have a pot of boiling hot water and similar ingredients. However, it differs in the fact that each piece of meat or vegetable is only briefly dipped in the water (just enough to cook it) before eating.
  • Shoyu- Soy sauce
  • Ocha- Japanese green tea
  • Osake- Japanese rice wine.