High School - Japan, High School Abroad

Decoding Japanese Restaurant Lingo and Other Important Bits of Knowledge

by Jes Stayton, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Participant

Like other countries, Japan has many restaurants:  Ramen, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki restaurants are common.  Ramen can be bought in most foreign countries, but there is far more variety in Japan.  Ramen restaurants are everywhere.  I can see three on my way home from school alone.



Okonomiyaki is lettuce and other ingredients fried within bread. (It may not be bread.  I’m not entirely sure.)  A brown, sweet sauce, mayonnaise, shredded seaweed, and fish flakes are placed on top.  If you eat at a restaurant, the middle of the table is a stove, and the waiter or waitress will place the half-cooked okonomiyaki on the stove.  I have also been to a restaurant where the diners mix the raw ingredients, and cook the okonomiyaki themselves.  My previous host family told me that this is Japanese soul food, and I can understand why they feel that way.  Okonomiyaki is delicious.

The word takoyaki literally means cooked (yaki) octopus (tako).  Octopus is cooked within balls of bread.  These are also topped with sweet brown sauce, mayonaise, shredded seaweed, and fish flakes.  Takoyaki is often sold in the food courts of shopping malls, while okonomiyaki is more often available in restaurants.


Another type of restaurant that is common in Japan is the sushi restaurant.  Unlike in America, there are two types of sushi restaurants in Japan.  The first type is the same as you might find in America.  The customers sit together at a table, and order sushi from a menu.  This type of sushi restaurant is more often frequented by  business people meeting for lunch, than by families.  It is both more expensive and more formal than the other type.

The second type of sushi restaurant in Japan is what I think of as the ‘mawari sushi restaurant’ (Japanese people don’t actually call it this, so please don’t repeat it. ).  At  this type of restaurant, sushi is placed on a conveyor belt that goes around the room.  Customers can then take the sushi they want to eat off the conveyor belt.  At the restaurant I went to, the color of the plates signified the price of the sushi.  (I think there is some way to tell the price at most restaurants. )  The waiter or waitress looks at the plates at the end of the meal to calculate the bill.  Customers can also order sushi from the chefs, but I think choosing sushi off the belt is more fun.  It is also easier, since you don’t need to read a menu.


About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


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