Japanese Words for Food

Both borrowed words and native words are commonly used for food items in Japanese, and many foods are called by both the native and English-derived terms, in which case the more common/established of the two will be the one used here.


Kana Romaji English
りんご ringo apple
ぶどう budou grapes
なし nashi Japanese pear
ようなし younashi (western) pear
かき kaki persimmon
オレンジ orenji orange
レモン remon lemon
ライム raimu lime
グレープフルーツ gureepufuruutsu grapefruit
バナナ banana banana
いちご ichigo strawberry
ブルーベリー buruuberii blueberry
さくらんぼ sakuranbo cherry
メロン melon green melon (honeydew)
すいか suika watermelon

Random tidbit: Japanese apples are much larger than western apples, while the watermelons are rather small.


Kana Romaji English
にんじん ninjin carrots
セロリ serori celery
レタス retasu lettuce
キャベツ kyabetsu cabbage
トマト tomato tomato
ねぎ negi green onion (scallions)
たまねぎ tamanegi (round) onion
ポテト poteto potatoes
ブロッコリー burokkorii broccoli
ピーマン piiman bell pepper, green pepper (Fr. piment)
まめ mame beans (in general)
ピース piisu peas
コーン koon corn

Japanese cuisine uses a lot of vegetables, including many that are unknown in the west. One Japanese vegetable you might be aware of is the daikon, which is a giant white radish.

にくとシーフード(Niku to Shiifuudo)/Meat and Seafood

Kana Romaji English
ぎゅうにく gyuuniku beef
ぶたにく butaniku pork
ハム hamu ham
とりにく toriniku chicken
たまご tamago egg
さかな sakana fish
えび ebi shrimp, prawn, lobster
かに kani crab
たこ tako octopus

Tori "bird" is used to refer to chicken in the context of food, since turkey and other poultry is rarely found in Japan. Similarly, niku "meat" without further specification usually refers to beef, though butaniku (pork) is cheaper and consumed in greater quantity.

And of course, let's not forget toufu (soy bean curd), which by itself is mostly flavorless but easily absorbs the flavor of anything it's cooked with. In Japan it's not just a vegetarian food, but a regular ingredient in Japanese cuisine.

にゅうせいひん(Nyuuseihin)/Dairy Products

Kana Romaji English
ぎゅうにゅう・ミルク gyuunyuu/miruku milk
チーズ chiizu cheese
ヨーグルト yooguruto yogurt
アイスクリーム aisukuriimu ice cream

Dairy products are not used in traditional Japanese cuisine, but they can still be found in Japanese supermarkets and in western food. Both gyuunyuu and miruku are common words for milk.

こめとめんとパン(Kome to Men to Pan)/Rice, Noodles, Bread

Kana Romaji English
こめ kome rice (uncooked)
ごはん gohan rice (cooked)
げんまい genmai brown rice
うどん udon udon (wheat noodles)
そうめん soumen somen (thin noodles)
そば soba soba (buckwheat noodles)
ラーメン raamen ramen (Chinese noodles)
パン pan bread, rolls, pastries
かしパン kashipan sweet bread, pastries
ピザ piza pizza

Several notes this time:

  • Japanese rice is short grain, as opposed to the long grain rice usually used in the west. Short grain rice is somewhat sticky and clumps together, making it easy to eat with chopsticks. 
  • Japanese noodles, especially somen and soba, can be served hot in a soup or cold with a dipping sauce. Noodle dishes are a popular lunch food in Japan.
  • The "ramen" that we know is really just instant noodles. Real ramen is a Chinese-style Japanese noodle soup with real broth and various toppings that vary by region.
  • Pan in Japanese can refer to any sort of bread or pastry, and is more of a snack than a staple meal item.


Kana Romaji English
みず mizu water
おちゃ ocha green tea, tea in general
にほんちゃ nihoncha Japanese green tea
むぎちゃ mugicha Japanese iced barley tea
こうちゃ koucha black tea (lit. "crimson tea")
コーヒー koohii coffee
ぎゅうにゅう・ミルク gyuunyuu/miruku milk
ジュース juusu juice
オレンジジュース orenjijuusu orange juice
レモネード remoneedo lemonade
ソーダ sooda soda, pop
おさけ osake sake (rice wine), alcohol in general
にほんしゅ nihonshu Japanese sake
ワイン wain wine
ビール biiru beer

As you might expect, Japanese people drink a lot of tea, both green and other varieties, not necessarily with meals, but often alone or with snacks.

Koohii for coffee was coined back when "f" was transcribed as "h" in borrowed words, giving ハ、ヒ、フ、ヘ、ホ rather than the more modern ファ、フィ、フ、フェ、フォ.

ちょうみりょうとやくみ(Chomiryou to Yakumi)/Seasonings and Condiments

Kana Romaji English
しょうゆ shouyu soy sauce
あぶら abura oil
su vinegar
みりん mirin sweet cooking sake
しお shio salt
こしょう koshou pepper
さとう satou sugar
わさび wasabi wasabi (Japanese "horseradish")
ごま goma sesame seeds
バター bataa butter
ケチャップ kechappu ketchup

Real wasabi is a grated root; the green paste found outside of Japan is a cheaper substitute made from horseradish and mustard, two related plants.

わしょく(Washoku)/Japanese Food

Kana Romaji English
すし sushi sushi (sweet vinegared rice with raw seafood, in various shapes)
さしみ sashimi sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish over sushi rice)
てんぷら tenpura tempura (battered and fried vegetables and seafood)
やきとり yakitori yakitori (grilled chicken skewers)
やきにく yakiniku yakiniku (grilled beef and vegetables)
やきざかな yakizakana grilled fish
やきそば yakisoba yakisoba (fried noodles, usually udon or ramen-like, with ham/sausage and vegetables)
すきやき sukiyaki sukiyaki (too difficult to explain here)
おこのみやき okonomiyaki okonomiyaki ("Japanese pancakes", with meat or seafood and vegetables inside)
とんかつ tonkatsu fried pork cutlet
カレー・カレーライス karee/karee raisu Japanese curry with rice
コロッケ kurokke croquette (fried mashed potato patty with meat/seafood/vegetables)
ぎょうざ gyouza Chinese style fried dumplings (potstickers)
みそしる misoshiru miso soup (miso is a soy-based paste)
つけもの tsukemono Japanese pickles

This particular list is far from complete, but includes a number of items that are familiar to westerners or otherwise easy to understand.

Yaki, from the verb yaku, can refer to frying, grilling, baking, or any similar cooking methods that apply direct heat. In contrast, there are several words that translate as "to steam", each for a different food item. Boiling, steaming, and other less fiery cooking methods are used more in Japanese cuisine than in western cooking.

Most meat-based dishes only originated in the last century or so, since consumption of meat was banned for most of Japanese written history.

Although not strictly native to Japan, Japanese karee is quite unlike Indian-style curry and definitely unique to Japan.

ようしょく(Youshoku)/Western Food

Kana Romaji English
スープ suupu soup (any kind)
サラダ sarada salad
サンドイッチ sandoitchi sandwich
ハンバーガー hanbaagaa hamburger
ホットドッグ hottodoggu hotdog
フライドポテト furaidopoteto fries, fried potatoes
フライドチキン furaidochikin fried chicken
ステーキ suteeki steak
ピザ piza pizza
スパゲッティー supgettii spaghetti

Note that despite the similar names, Japanese versions of western foods are typically adapted to Japanese tastes, with results like pizza with corn as a topping.

おやつとおかし(Oyatsu to Okashi)/Snacks and Sweets

Kana Romaji English
チップ chippu chips
ポップコーン poppukoon popcorn
クッキー kukkii cookies
ケーキ keeki cake
パイ pai pie
アイスクリーム aisukuriimu ice cream
チョコレート chokoreeto chocolate
ゼリー zerii jelly (gelatin and similar desserts)
わがし wagashi traditional Japanese sweets (many of which are cracker-like)

Dessert is not traditionally served after meals in Japan (except possibly fresh fruit), but sweet foods are eaten as snacks.

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