Podcast 09: Just the dialogues

These are the dialogues for podcast #09 ““How to order Sushi at a Japanese Restaurant”

In this week’s podcast Yoshiko and Alex discuss useful Japanese vocabulary and cultural points and advice for ordering sushi at a Japanese restaurant like a native.

The good news is you don’t have to learn a huge amount of vocabulary to order your your favorite dishes if you learn just a few useful key phrases.

Sushi Vocabulary

大将 Taishō – (Sushi) chef
サーモン Saamon – Salmon
マグロ Maguro – Tuna
たまご Tamago – Egg
雲丹 Uni – Sea urchin
いくら Ikura – Salmon roe
貫 Kan – Counter for sushi
一貫 Ikkan – 1 piece of sushi
二貫 Nikan – 2 pieces
三貫 Sankan – 3 pieces
一貫ずつ Ikkan zutsu – One piece of each
お願いします Onegaishimasu – Please
さび抜き Sabinuki – Without wasabi
あがり一丁 Agari ichō – Tea
できますか Dekimasu ka – Can you make it?
お冷や Ohiya – Cold water
お椀 Owan – Soup
茶碗蒸し Chawan Mushi – Egg and custard dish
えんがわ Engawa – Fin of flounder (flatfish)
ごちそうさまでした Gochisōsama deshita – That was delicious
回転寿し Kaitenzushi – Conveyor belt sushi
お腹いっぱい Onaka ippai – I’m full
刺身 Sashimi – Slices of fish
寿司 Sushi – Slices of fish on rice
つまみ Tsumami – Used when ordering just the meat of the fish rather than sushi
ガリ Gari – Slices of ginger in sweet vinegar

Main Dialogue

A: 大将!サーモン2貫ください Taishō! Saamon Ni Kan Kudasai – Chef, 2 pieces of salmon please.

B: はいよ Hai yo – Yes

A: 雲丹といくら1貫ずつできますか Uni to ikura Ikkan zutsu dekimasu ka – Can you do 1 sea urchin and 1 salmon roe?

B: はいよ Hai yo – Yes

A: さび抜きでお願いします Sabi nuki de onegaishimasu – Without wasabi please.

B: はいよ Hai yo – Yes

A: お腹いっぱい。大将あがり一丁 Onaka ippai. Taishō agari ichō – I’m full. Chef, 1 tea please.

B: はいよ Hai yo – Yes

10 Cultural Tips for Ordering Sushi

Here are 10 useful cultural points that will really help you when ordering sushi in Japan.

1. Call the Sushi chef “Taishō”

When you order from a sushi chef it is custom to refer to them as 大将 – Taishō. This means various things including general, boss, cheif etc. but in this context is used specifically to adress a sushi chef.

2. Use “Kan” counter to order sushi.

When counting pieces of Sushi you usually use the counter “kan”. For example:

一貫 – Ikkan – One piece of sushi

二貫 – Nikan – Two pieces of sushi

三貫 – Sankan – Three pieces of sushi

四貫 – Yonkan – Four pieces of sushi

Japanese Pronunciation English
大将サーモンを一貫下さい Taishō saamon o ikkan kudasai One piece of salmon please chef
 大将マグロを二貫ください  Taishō maguro o nikan kudasai Two pieces of tuna please chef
 大将たまごを三貫ください  Taishō tamago o sankan kudasai Three piece of egg please chef
 大将雲丹を四貫ください  Taishō uni o yonkan kudasai Four pieces of sea urchin please chef

An important thing to remember is it is not so common to order more than 2 or 3 pieces of the same type of sushi at the same time. The most common is 2貫 Nikan – two pieces of sushi. It is possible to say something like this:


Tamago o nikan, saamon o nikan, maguro o nikan kudasai

2 pieces of egg, 2 salmon and 2 tuna please.

5) Use the word “agari” to order green tea

When you want to order tea say あがり一丁 agari ichō. This is a special way to order green tea that is particular to sushi restaurants. When you order, they usually bring it to you in a cup. However, in many conveyor belt sushi restaurants it’s common to make your own tea by putting green tea powder in a cup and adding hot water from a tap at the counter.

6) It is OK to use your hands when eating sushi

Believe it or not it is acceptable to use your hands when eating sushi. There is no decidedly proper way to eat sushi. However, when in doubt just copy what every one else is doing in the restaurant.

7) How to dip sushi in soy sauce

The proper way to eat sushi is to very lightly dip the meat of the fish in the soy sauce and not the rice. If soy gets on the rice it can start to fall apart and is not considered the most tasty way to eat it.

Some people even turn the sushi upside down in their mouth when eating so that the tongue touches the meat first.

Also, go easy on the soy sauce and the ginger. Japanese people tend not to drown each piece of sushi in soy sauce. Ginger is supposed to be eaten just to cleanse the palate between dishes.

8) Not all sushi is raw

It is in fact possible to order broiled versions of your favorite sushi which is called 炙り aburi. One particular favorite is 炙りサーモン Aburi saamon or broiled salmon. The chef will take a torch to the Sushi which gives it a delicious seared and smokey taste.

9) Say Gochisōsama when you finish eating

ごちそうさま Gochisōsama means “that was delicious” and you usually say it at the end of a meal. It’s common to say it either eating at a restaurant or at someone’s house after eating a meal with them.

10) To get the bill say Okaikei kudasai

To get the bill say お会計ください okaikei kudasai. The staff will come to the counter or table where you are seated and count the empty dishes to calculate the bill.