What is the right way to address the bartender? Or the person preparing sushi?

On a recent visit I heard マスター used to address a bartender, and I already know that 大将 is one way to address the sushi chef.

I have two questions about both the form of address for a bartender and for the sushi chef: firstly, are there any other forms I can use in each case? Secondly, what is the level of formality and familiarity implied by using マスター and 大将?

  • 1
    +1 for hitting the weak point of our language. – l'électeur Dec 8 '15 at 1:02
  • l'électeur: Rem acu tetigisti! Can you imagine my plight, sitting in a dimly lit whisky bar in Osaka, not knowing exactly how to address the bartender, trying to strike up conversation and order drinks, all while never referring to my counterpart by name or title? Well that's the background for this question... – jogloran Dec 8 '15 at 7:00
  • Come on... I know someone's out there with the perfect answer to this :) – jogloran Dec 15 '15 at 6:03
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    I think this is a cultural issue, i.e. you really never address someone directly. Rather you say すみません or slightly raise your hand. – Jesse Good Dec 15 '15 at 11:53
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    ^ 私も「すいません」しか言いません。特に女性は「大将!」ってあんまり言わないと思います。ちなみにうちの父はお寿司屋さん(回転寿司じゃない個人の店)で、店主を「ご主人」、その奥さんを「奥さん」って言うような気が・・・ – Chocolate Dec 15 '15 at 16:25
up vote 5 down vote accepted
+50

This question is more difficult than you might think, because everyone knows the "correct" answer, but few have actually used it in real life :-)

Well, the "right" answer would be マスター for addressing a bartender and 大将 for addressing a head sushi chef. Both マスター and 大将 imply that they're the highest ranked people (ie, shop owners), as you might have already guessed.

However, these words are almost never heard in common sushi-go-round restaurants or izakaya chains, which I've gotten used to.

マスター/大将 are heard mainly in nonchain, orthodox (and often expensive) bars and sushi restaurants. I think they sound not only formal but also friendly. If you are lucky enough to become a 常連 of one of such shops, feel free to address them using マスター or 大将.

Personally, I've been to such bars/restaurants several times in my life (usually accompanying someone elder than me). And I have always gotten away with just cowardly saying すみません or something like that — feeling that a one-shot, 青二才 customer like me was not the suitable person to say マスター or 大将 confidently. People who have a lot of experience of going to such shops may use マスター/大将 on the first visit, but I'm not very sure.

  • 2
    +1 I also totally belong in the すみません faction. I don't think I have ever used either マスター or 大将 in eateries and bars. I grew up thinking I would use them when I was old enough, but it has not happened yet (and I vaguely think that it might actually never happen for me). – l'électeur Dec 15 '15 at 15:06
  • Indeed, for getting the bartender's attention I just used すみません. But my question was about how best to refer to the bartender while you're in conversation and need a form of address. In a normal situation I would use a title instead of a pronoun, but what's best to use here? – jogloran Dec 15 '15 at 18:40
  • I would use: 「オシャレなバーのマスター/店主」「高級寿司屋の店長/店主/大将」「居酒屋チェーン店の店長」「回転寿司チェーン店の店長」. – naruto Dec 15 '15 at 19:29
  • ^ I think that's the answer I've been looking for. – jogloran Dec 16 '15 at 0:16

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