Guide to Saying Itamae: Formal and Informal Ways, Tips, and Examples

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to say “itamae” – the term for a skilled sushi chef in Japanese. Whether you’re interested in respectfully addressing an itamae or simply want to learn more about this fascinating term, we’ve got you covered with a variety of formal and informal expressions, along with helpful tips and examples. Let’s dive in!

Formal Expressions

When it comes to formal situations, it’s important to use respectful language and honor the traditional hierarchy in Japanese culture. Below are some ways to address an itamae formally:

  • Itamae-san: This is the most common and polite way to refer to an itamae. Adding “san” after “itamae” is a sign of respect and formality. For example, you could say, “Sumimasen, Itamae-san” to get the itamae’s attention.
  • Itamae-sama: “Sama” is an even more respectful honorific than “san.” It is used to show utmost deference and reverence. However, this term is rarely used unless you have a very close relationship with the itamae or are in a highly formal setting.

Informal Expressions

In less formal situations or when interacting with an itamae on a friendly level, you can use more casual expressions. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Itamae-kun: Adding “kun” after “itamae” is a friendly and informal way to address the various sushi chefs. It’s commonly used among peers or when you share a rapport with the itamae.
  • Itamae-chan: “Chan” is another informal honorific used mostly for individuals who are younger or have a close relationship. It has a warm and affectionate tone. For instance, if you have a familiar bond with an itamae, you can address them as “Itamae-chan.”

Tips for Proper Pronunciation

Pronouncing “itamae” correctly is essential to convey your respect and understanding. Follow these tips to pronounce it accurately:

  • Start with “ee”: The “i” sound in “itamae” is pronounced as a long “e”. Think of it like the “ee” in “eel.”
  • Tamarize the “ta”: The “ta” in “itamae” is pronounced with a slight emphasis on the “ta,” making it sound like “ta-mae.”
  • Finish with a soft “ae”: The “ae” in “itamae” should be pronounced softly, similar to the way you say the letter “eh.”

Examples in Context

To help you understand the usage of “itamae” in different situations, here are a few examples:

Example 1: Customer: “Sumimasen, Itamae-san. Please recommend your specialty.”

Itamae-san: “Hai, wakarimashita. I recommend trying our signature nigiri platter.”

Example 2: Friend: “Itamae-kun, can you teach me how to make sushi rice?”

Itamae-kun: “Sure, I’d be happy to show you the technique.”

Remember, the context and your relationship with the itamae will influence which expression to use.


In conclusion, getting the pronunciation and usage of “itamae” right is crucial to convey respect when addressing a sushi chef. In formal settings, use “Itamae-san” or “Itamae-sama” to show deference, while “Itamae-kun” or “Itamae-chan” can be used in informal situations or when there is a close relationship. Practice the pronunciation tips mentioned earlier to master the correct intonation. So, next time you communicate with an itamae, whether it’s for a recommendation or a friendly conversation, you’ll be well-prepared to address them appropriately.

We hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights into saying “itamae” in various formal and informal ways. Enjoy your sushi experiences and continue to appreciate the skill and artistry of these talented chefs! Ganbatte kudasai!

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