Word of the Week: 食べ放題

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘so’ (そ), and focussed on the word 染める (someru), which means ‘to dye’. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘ta’ (た).

Unfortunately no one joined in with any suggestions this week, which was a bit of a shame. 😦 I really love receiving your comments and ideas, so I hope you all come back to join me next week! I guess ‘ta’ is a bit of a hard one, but in the end I decided to write about…

食べ放題 / たべほうだい


I’m sure a lot of you will know the expression ‘tabehoudai’ (食べ放題), especially if you’ve lived in Japan. But for those of you who don’t know, this expression means ‘all-you–can-eat’. Tabehoudai-style restaurants are quite common in Japan – usually you pay a set amount (often from around 2,000 Yen or so per person) and you are allowed to stay for a fixed amount of time, during which you can eat as much as you want to. There’s a drinking version of this too (of course!), known as ‘nomihoudai’ (飲み放題 / のみほうだい), which can often be found in the same restaurants as tabehoudai.

Google images search for 食べ放題

Google images search for 食べ放題

Google images search for 飲み放題

Google images search for 飲み放題

The word ‘tabehoudai’ is made up of the verb ‘taberu’ (食べる) meaning ‘to eat’ and ‘houdai’ (放題), meaning ‘as much as one likes’. Likewise, ‘nomihoudai’ includes the verb ‘nomu’ (のむ), meaning ‘to drink’.

Tabehoudai is basically a buffet, and this is sometimes referred to as a ‘viking’ (バイキング / baikingu) in Japanese. I was so confused the first time I heard this! Not only does ‘viking’ in Japanese sound like ‘biking’ (because there is no clear ‘v’ sound in Japanese), I had never heard a buffet referred to as a ‘viking’ before! According to Wikipedia, the use of the word ‘viking’ for a buffet “originated from the restaurant “Imperial Viking” in the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, which was the first restaurant in Japan to serve buffet-style meals.”. There’s a more detailed explanation of how this came to be over on Togugu.com.

Many tabehoudai restaurants in Japan serve Western-style food such as pizza and pasta, but there are also places serving Japanese food such as sushi and yakiniku, and even ones that specialise in desserts and cake. A tabehoudai specialising in cake is usually known as a ‘cake viking’ (ケーキバイキング / ke-ki baikingu), which I think is a really fun name (it makes me imagine lots of kawaii Vikings eating piles of cupcakes…)! Of course, I love the idea of all-you-can-eat cake, but have never actually been to one.

Google images search for ケーキバイキング

Google images search for ケーキバイキング

Although tabehoudai and nomihoudai are ‘all-you-can-eat/drink’, the Japanese are generally quite respectful of this and don’t use it as an opportunity for a binge. Moreover, it’s considered quite rude and wasteful (もったいない / mottainai) to leave food on your plate in Japan, so people tend not to take more than they think they can eat. Unfortunately, some foreign visitors to Japan have been known to take advantage of tabehoudai and nomihoudai, to the point where there are actually some places that do not allow foreigners to enter! However most do accept foreigners, and it’s a really fun thing to do with a group of friends, so I highly recommend trying tabehoudai and nomihoudai if you’re lucky enough to be in Japan. Just make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach! 😉


Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘chi’ (ち), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘chirasu’ (ちらす) meaning ‘to scatter’ would be acceptable, but ‘Chiba-ken’ (千葉県), the prefecture, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

12 thoughts on “Word of the Week: 食べ放題

  1. I love tabehodai and nomihodai! ^_____^
    All you can eat / drink is always awesome. 😀

    Suggestions for next time:
    ちくしょう! (expression: ~Damn it!)
    散る (that’s what cherry blossoms do way too fast *g*)


  2. Thats interesting about the origin of ‘viking’, I always thought that word was funny and never thought to look up where it came from.

    Word for next week: ちゃんと.

    Why no nouns by the way?


    • Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it?

      Thanks for the suggestion!

      Ah, the no nouns thing was just my idea to make me write about different stuff. Over the last few years I have done an A to Z of Japan, an あ to わ, and Weekly Shiritori, and most weeks I wrote about places and food. This year I wanted a game that would make me write about some different things, and also learn some new words. It’s working so far!


  3. Yes, you can’t beat a good tabehodai and nomihodai place in Japan. We regularly have work parties at restaurants that feature both of these 🙂 A few suggestions few next week are:

    Chiisai (小さい) Small
    Chikaku (近く) Near, Close, Nearby


  4. Looks like I can’t comment with my WordPress account! Trying my Twitter account. Yes, you can’t beat a good tabehodai and nomihodai place in Japan. We regularly have work parties at restaurants that feature both of these 🙂 A few suggestions few next week are:

    Chiisai (小さい) Small
    Chikaku (近く) Near, Close, Nearby


  5. はじめまして。



  6. a verb beginning with ‘chi’ (ち)






    • Thank you for your suggestions, Rockin’! I can understand Japanese but making sentences is still hard for me. Maybe you feel the same way about English? Please keep reading if you can, and please leave comments any time (in Japanese or English). ありがとう!よろしくね!


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