Convenient Japanese Vocabulary For Your Trip (Drinks Edition)

Have you ever felt troubled walking into a Japanese restaurant to find out that the staff only speaks Japanese, and you don’t understand a single thing on the menu? Here some Japanese words that you can use at restaurants coupled with some hand gestures and finger-pointing. If you combine this word list with the phrase list, you’re going to be able to communicate in Japanese smoothly. Let’s use these words and try to place an order in Japanese!

1. Water(水/Mizu)

Most restaurants in Japan offer “mizu” (water) for free. In most cases, the staff bring you a glass of water as soon as you are seated. If you go to drinking establishments, such as an izakaya, they’re probably not going to bring you a glass of water as soon as you are seated, but if you ask for a glass the staff will gladly bring you one for free.※You might be charged for drinking water at a fancy restaurant.

2. Tea(お茶/Ocha)

In Japan, if you ask for “ocha” (tea), it usually refers to “ryoku-cha” (Japanese green tea). While there are many types of ryoku-cha, the standard is “sen-cha,” medium-grade non-powdered green tea. Many restaurants in Japan provide ocha for free.

3. Black tea(紅茶/Koucha)

Tea in western countries is usually called black tea due to the color of the tea leaves, but in Japan, the infused tea usually has a reddish-brown color, earning it the name “koucha” (literally “red tea”). The Chinese character for “kou” in koucha is the same character for the color red.


Coffee is a standard drink after meals and during a break. Coffee that is brewed from a mixture of different coffee beans is called “burendo-koohii” (blend coffee), and coffee brewed from lightly roasted beans is called “Amerikan-koohii” (American coffee).

5. Juice(ジュース/Juusu)

“Juusu” (juice) refers to the sweet drink that is usually made from fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruit juice is also sometimes referred to as “nama-juusu,” or “namashibori-juusu.”

6. Sake(日本酒/Nihonshu)

“Nihonshu” refers to liquor that is made by fermenting malted rice, a.k.a. sake. “Jummai-shu” refers to full-bodied liquor that is made by fermenting only rice, malted rice, and water, whereas “ginjou-shu” refers to fragrant liquor that is made with rice grains from which more than 40% of the outer later has been removed by milling.

7. Shochu(焼酎/Shochu)

“Shouchuu” refers to distilled liquor that is made with grains. Shouchuu is usually named by placing the type of grain used as a prefix, for example, “imo-jouchuu” (sweet potato shouchuu), “mugi-jouchuu” (barley shouchuu), or “kome-jouchuu” (rice shouchuu). “Awamori.” an Okinawan liquor, is also a type of shouchuu.

8. Wine(ワイン/Wain)

In Japan, “wain” (wine) refers to alcohol that is made by fermenting fruits (mainly grapes). There are 3 color classifications: aka (red), shiro (white) and roze (rose). Carbonated wine, called “supaakuringu-wain,” is also available in some establishments.

9. Beer(ビール/Biiru)

When you order “biiru” (beer), the staff usually asks you whether you want “nama-biiru” or “bin-biiru”. The former refers to beer that is stored in a barrel and served on tap, and the latter refers to bottled beer. Also, in Japan, there is an alcoholic beverage called “happoushu.” This refers to a beer-like beverage that has a lower malt content than normal beer, making for a light drink that is easy on your throat.

10. Whisky(ウイスキー/Uisukii)

If you enjoy “uisukii” (whisky), you might have already tried different brands from all over the world, but why don’t you also give Japanese whiskey a shot? Yamazaki is a long-standing favorite. Also, in Japan, “haibooru” (high ball) refers to the drink consisting of whisky and soda.


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