Most people can use microwaves without a problem at home. But when it comes to using one in a foreign country, that’s another story. There are multiple buttons with different options that you may have never seen before. It’s hard to believe that something simple as reheating food could possibly give you some trouble. To get an idea of what some of the buttons could be used for, let’s go over them with this particular microwave in the picture below.

Buttons and functions

The most standard button to use is the ‘あたためスタート’ (Start heating) button. As it is a large button in the center, it definitely appears to have the most importance. These two words will be very useful to know: ‘あたため’ (heating) and ‘スタート’ (start). In some other microwave models, you may just see a sign with only one word like ‘スタート’ (start). Just pressing this button will start the microwave on a sensor mode which it will heat the food and then turn off automatically when ready.

Above the start button, there are 6 options you could choose to pin point the category, if possible, of what you are heating. This will help the sensor for appropriate heating time.

1. 牛乳 (Milk)

2. 野菜 (Vegetables)

3. 根菜 (Root vegetables) ゆで野菜 (Boiled vegetables)

4. からっとフライ (Crispy fry)

5. ぐらたん (Gratin)

6. ケーキ (Cake)

7. トースト (Toast)

8. 冷凍めん (Frozen noodles)

As you see, there are buttons for things like cake and toast. That’s because some microwaves act as an oven as well. Although these options will differ between different brands and models, it would be good to recognize some words like the above to avoid any unwanted function when using the microwave.

Time option 

Most buttons are for heating with sensor which will automatically stop when the food is ready, but of course, there is the time option too. For this microwave, the ‘手動’ (manual) button needs to be pressed first and then press the time buttons which can be added in increments of 10分 (10 min) 1分 (1 min) and 10秒 (10 sec)

Other buttons

For defrosting raw food, ‘生解凍’ (raw frozen) should be pressed first and then the time which the button for it shows that it takes 1 minute for every 100g of frozen item or 10 seconds for every 10g.

The power level can also be changed by the down and up button with the words 仕上がり/温度 (finish/temperature). The power level of the microwave and temperature for oven option can be changed.

The 脱臭 (deodorize) option is used for cleaning the microwave. And finally, the とりけし (stop) button is used to end heating.

When exploring around a grocery store in Japan, you may find that there are variety of convenient food such as packets of curry, various frozen food, bento, and other already-made food that can be reheated using a microwave. If you are a foodie, things like yakitori, croquets, and karaage chicken may be very appealing to you. Plus, grocery store food typically are at a very affordable price. Convenient stores are popular for tourists to buy food at since there is an option to heat the food at checkout, but the cost of food is higher compared to typical grocery stores.

Refer to these terms to help you operate a Japanese microwave which will most definitely become useful when you have that late-night munchies or want some quick eats while saving some money in Japan.

[Survey] Traveling to Japan