There are four common ways to pay for a restaurant bill in Japan.
1. To purchase a meal ticket before entering the restaurant.
This is one of the most interesting way to order a meal in Japan. Restaurant that has this system, has a vending machine usually placed either in front of the restaurant or somewhere near their entrance for customer to purchase a meal ticket. The vending machine could be analog or touch-screen. You can choose what you would like to eat, what you’d like to drink (usually for soft drink or alcoholic beverages), or what topping they would like to add to their main order, by simply pressing a few buttons. After that, you need to (manually) insert your money or, sometimes with touch screen or modern format of the vending machine, scan your suica for the payment.
After the payment was completed, the machine will issue a paper receipt. It’s usually a small piece of paper, so be careful not to lose it. Pick up that receipt and hand it to the person whose in charge to receiving your order. And then after that, all you have to do is sit nicely and your food will be ready in no time!
Usually, restaurant that has this system are one that is really efficient with their time. I found that affordable gyudon restaurant using this system a lot!
2. Restaurant staff will put the receipt on your table at the same time the food being delivered to your table.
This is a very common system that you probably will experience the most in Japan. When you go to a restaurant, you will be seated, and then handed the menu. When you are ready, you can call the staff (or sometimes there’s a button on your table that you can press), and order what you would like to have (or to not have – in this episode of me and my dietary restriction). When your food are being delivered to your table, the action that follow is the staff will put the bill in a small acrylic cylinder/tube on your table.
In this case, please enjoy your meal first and then pay after you finished. Please bring your bill to the cash register instead of calling the staff this time. Also, usually, there are more payment options available for this system. If the restaurant had some point system they will ask you if you have the corresponding point card.
3. To ask the restaurant staff the bill after the meal was finished.
This is also a common system. You order, enjoy the meal, and then ask the staff for the bill. But many times, I found this system to be applied less than the second one unless it’s a fancy environment.
Extra: When ordering in a cafe and would like to sit down and enjoy your time at the cafe, please look up if there are some available seat first! Some coffee will help you look up the vacant seat, but most of the time, cafe could unexpectedly full. With knowing in advance if you are able to sit or should do takeout, you could save the some consumption tax money.
Another extra: You don’t need to give a tip in Japan (as far as I know), but you can say gochisousamadeshita (thank you for the meal) to express your gratefulness for the delicious meal. I like to add a slight bow when I say it as I leaving the restaurant!