We Americans get such a bad rap. I kind of think it's unfair, but it's the way of the world. French people are snooty, Italians are sexy, English food is bad and Americans are loud, fat and obnoxious. Most American tourists that choose to come to Japan on vacation are adventurous folks that are seasoned travelers. They try and learn a few survival phrases before they come and try their best to abide to the local etiquette. I will be the first to tell you that in Japan, it is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to not offend someone - whether you're foreign or not. That's just the way it is. You can't please everyone, but if you try your best, most people won't hate you.
The other day my roommate and I were eating at our favorite burger place in Tokyo, Authentic Burger. It's a cute burger shack in Akasaka that plays ska music. We were minding our own business when in walks an American family of three - dad, mom and super embarassed teenage sun wearing a SF Giants Shir-zey. I have never been more offended/shocked at a stranger's behavior ever in my life. (Hyperbole!! Watch out!) They made no effort to speak Japanese and just were very very rude and condescending.
Dad : "YES, WE'D LIKE 3 HAMBURGERS AND 3 DIET COKES"
Japanese Waitress: "Ahhhh...saaaa...sumimasen...ahh...no diet soda."
Mom: "WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO DIET SODA?! RON, JUST GET ME AN ICED TEA."
Dad: "OK, COULD WE HAVE ICED TEA. THANK YOU. EXCUSE ME, HOW DO YOU SAY HAMBURGER IN JAPANESE?"
Japanese Waitress: "Hambaga. We just say Hambaga"
Dad: "OH, WELL THAT'S EASY TO REMEMBER. COULD WE GET SOME SWEET AND LOW?"
Japanese Waitress: ???
Anyhow...roommate and I couldn't stand to sit and witness this so we left and made a point to say "Gochisosaama" very loud to the chef and waitress.
If you ever do come to Japan, be sure to write this down:
ittadekimasu - if you eat with Japanese people, it's best to say this before you eat your food. It's like a blessing.
gochisosaama - Say this to the staff and chef when you pay and leave the restaurant, thanking them for your meal.
How to order:
WHAT YOU WANT TO ORDER + onegaishimasu
WHAT YOU WANT TO ORDER + o kudasai
Point to what you want on the menu and say "Kore o kudasai."
*if you don't know how to pronounce what you want to order, just try to say it anyway and point to it on the menu. They may not know what you're saying, but pointing goes a long way.
How to say thank you:
arigatoo gozaimasu (thank you)