Eating out with kids in Japan

Most restaurants in Japan welcome children and are usually well set up to cater for them. With the exception of bars, pubs (izakaya) and expensive formal establishments, I have never felt uncomfortable eating out with my children.

When entering a restaurant you’ll probably be asked for the number of people in your group “nan mei sama desu ka?” And if you’d like to be seated in the smoking or non-smoking section (if they have them).
If you smoke you can say “kitsuen desu”, if you don’t “kinen seki desu” or “kinen desu”.

You might be offered a high chair or “kodomo isu” and most servers will bring water for the table (often in a plastic cup or with a straw for your child).

If you don’t order a special meal for your child and he/she will be sharing with you, you can ask for a small plate “torizara kudasai”.

Many restaurants have a smaller serving of food available for children. This special meal will sometimes be called a kids plate; written like this “キッズプレート”, a kids set “キッズセット” or a kids lunch “キッズランチ”. It may also be called a child’s plate “お子さまプレート” (okosama plate), child’s set “お子さまセット” (okosama set) or child’s lunch “お子さまランチ” (okosama lunch).

If you want to ask about he availability of this kind of meal before sitting down, you could ask the server “kids menu arimasu ka?” (do you have a kids menu?)

In some cases it will come with a free drink and/or dessert. Most places will offer a small selection of kids’ drinks like apple or orange juice (りんごジュース / オレンジジュース), milk (ミルク), calpis (カルピス), or cola (コーラ).

If your child is lucky, some kids’ meals also come with a small toy (often that he/she can pick from a small selection at the register or in a basket the server will bring to the table).

Don’t forget your manners... “... please” (...kudasai), “let’s eat” (itadakimasu), “thank you” (arigatou gozaimasu), “thank you for the meal” (gochisou sama deshita).

And as is the case in most places in Japan, although people are happy to serve tourists (and their kids), remember that speaking/singing/laughing too loudly, running around inside, putting shoes on chairs/tables, aggressive behavior, violence etc will be frowned upon.

Have a great meal,

Fran xx

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