Of course it helps to have a Japanese guide to help navigate through all the different types of eating establishments and menues you will come across in Japan, but it is not absolutely necessary for one reason: Plastic food.
The Japanese are big on pictures and faux food, and many places–from the most expensive to the most informal–will usually have a visual rendition of what is available on the menu. This feature, of course, makes ordering a snap as you can point to whatever it is you want. I got a big kick out of the plastic food items displayed outside of restuarants, and I thought you might too!
Of course, some places, like this restaurant in Osaka, where the specialty is crabs, are into overstatement.