OKAWARI
お代わり

Use this word to ask for seconds of rice, noodles or anything you can’t get enough of. Best used in casual settings where you are friends with the host. Just be sure to pair it with “kudasai” or else you’ll sound like an impolite schoolboy.

KUDASAI
下さい

Please, or used to ask if you can have something. You use this at the end of a sentence. For example, “toro kudasai” or “okawari kudasai.”

SHOKUYOKU NO AKI
食欲の秋

Fall is the season for eating. From rice, to mushrooms, to fish, it’s the season of harvest and it’s said that food tastes the best during the fall. Maybe something to consider when planning your trip? You’ll hear people use this phrase as an excuse to eat more.

BETSU BARA
別腹

The literal translation of this is “second stomach.” No matter how full you are, the Japanese believe there is always room in your second stomach for dessert, seconds, or more booze.

OSUSUME WA?
おすすめは?

What’s your recommendation? If you’re struggling with the menu or feeling indecisive, you can always use this phrase to ask for some suggestions. No English menu? No problem. Just throw out this phrase and have the server point at an item.

OISHII
美味しい

Delicious. If there is one word that will bring visitor and host together, this is it. Said with a slight twinkle in the eye, it can melt all the barriers of language and culture into a warm broth of love for one’s fellow man.

TABEMASU
食べます

To eat. You did come to Japan to eat, yes? Say this word (remember, the ending u is silent in Japanese) with a question mark at the end, and you will immediately be led to Japanese food.

OMAKASE
お任せ

I leave it up to you. It’s the equivalent of putting yourself in the chef’s hands—most common at high-end sushi bars but also used in many top restaurants. Say it when you want to be taken on a boundless gastronomic adventure, or when you have no idea how to order à la carte.

ITADAKIMASU
頂きます

I receive this food. Use this and gochisousama deshita to bookend mealtime, and you will win hearts everywhere you go. This is essentially a small blessing to be intoned just before you begin eating, aimed at those who prepared the food for you.

GOCHISOUSAMA DESHITA
ご馳走様でした

It was quite a feast. After you finish eating, say this incantation to thank and praise the cook. When you return for lunch the next day, they’ll give you a hero’s welcome.

SUMIMASEN
すみません

Excuse me. Personal space in Japan is highly valued and yet nearly impossible to defend. Sumimasen and its expat-impatient variety, excuse-me-masen, are the Purell of jostling: a word you can just lather on any situation to defuse and disinfect.

DOZO
どうぞ

Please, go ahead. Like vale in Spain or doch in Germany, dozo in Japan is a multitool of a word. It adds politeness—not an undervalued commodity in Japan—to any situation, whether you’re letting someone pass in front of you or handing over a present.

DOKO
どこ

Where? It’s not just that most people don’t speak English; most street signs and place names are not in the Romaji alphabet, and guidebook and Internet addresses routinely fail. Doko is your friend.