How to ask for water in Japanese

Learn Japanese – asking for water and counting objects.

An easy lesson about water

In This lesson we learn to order some water in a restaurant in Japanese and the best way to learn is by telling a little story. In this story you and a friend named Yuki will have a conversation, joined in by a waitress. We also give you a guide on ordering food and list a few food items that you can use when practising what you have learned here.


You and a friend are tourists in Japan. You are both getting hungry and decide to go out to sample some food. You both walk around until you see a quaint little eatery. You walk in and are immediately greeted by a friendly face that takes you to a table, and leaves a couple of menus. You realize you have not had anything to drink for a while. You look at your friend, Yuki, who understands Japanese.
“Hey, Yuki? How can I order us some water?” You ask.
Yuki smiles. “I can order it if you want.”
“No,” You say, eager to learn new words. “Teach me”
Yuki grins at you. “Okay, I will teach you three useful words and a sentence. Tell me if I go too fast.”
“Okay, ” You nod your head.
Mizu means water in Japanese, ni-hai means two cups or glasses and kudasai mean, please. Now repeat these words after me, “Mizu
Yuki nods. “Good, you are doing great. Now to ask for water, simply say ‘mizu ni-hai kudasai’
You say the sentence word for word ‘mizu ni-hai kudasai’.
Your waitress nears your table with a cake platter and gives it to a couple of people sitting at the table next to you. The waitress walks over to your table.
“Nan ni shimashō ka?” She asks Yuki in a friendly voice.
Yuki gesture to her to wait a second, gesturing to you, saying ‘chotto matte kudasai’.
While she waits patiently Yuki explains that she asked you what you will have and that he asked her to wait.
“Now you can ask her for our water.’ Yuki says.
Eager to try out a new string of words you tell the waitress: ‘Mizu ni-hai kudasai’.
She smiles and bows politely and says ‘Hai’ and walks off to get the water.
“Well done!” Yuki says.
“Yuki, when she spoke to you I heard something I have heard in a lot of anime I watched. She said ‘Nan Ni’, doesn’t that mean ‘what’ or something?” You ask your friend.
“Good catch, my friend. Yes, she said ‘nan ni shimashō ka?’ It means ‘what will you have?’. I wanted you to answer her, so I said: ‘chotto matte kudasai’ asking her to wait a moment, giving you a chance to practice your lesson.”

We hope this dialogue with Yuki have been helpful. You can use the words you have learned and combine them with other words and before you know it you will know more Japanese than you thought. Using a language is combining words to give sentences meaning and a great way to learn.

Ordering food guide:

If you know what you want to eat, you can always say it, by ordering it. Example let say you want some ramen you can tell the waiter ‘Ramen onegaishimasu’ and if you want many types of dishes you can list them easily by saying the word ‘to’ in-between. Like this: ‘Ramen to yakisoba onegaishimasu’  (Ramen and Yakisoba please)

There is one thing that is important when asking for food in a restaurant. If you need more than one item, you need to use a different counting system. If you want two bowls of ramen saying ‘Ramen futari’ will mean ‘two ramen people’ and will just confuse the poor waiter. Instead you say ‘Ramen (w)o futatsu onegaishimasu’ . As you might notice, the word -tsu is the counter here.

Here is a way to count to five when talking about objects:
1 thing – hitotsu
2 things – futatsu
3 things – mittsu
4 things – yottsu
5 things – itsustu

Learn to count objects by singing along to this video

Here is a list of types of food and drink to help you on your way:

Japanese English
bīru beer
furaidopoteto french-fries
gyōza meat dumplings
hambāgā hamburger
karē raisu curried rice
kōhī coffee
koucha tea
kudamono fruit
miruku milk
mizu water
niku meat
orenji orange
pan bread
ringo apple
sarada salad
satou sugar
sashimi sliced raw fish
shio salt
subuta sweet-and-sour pork
tonkatsu pork cutlet