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Japan Tours and Life Style

Izakaya Hopping -Things to not miss while Travelling Japan

Izakaya is one of Japan’s must-do activities. It’s difficult not to enjoy a drink and a yarn with friends over some heavily salted fried food at this Japanese institution, whether it’s your first vacation to Japan or you’ve lived here for a lifetime.

The Japanese word izakaya is made up of three characters that mean “stay-drink-place” in that sequence. A place to grab a drink, relax in, and unwind. That appears to be the case.

 What is an Izakaya?

Izakaya is one of Japan’s must-do activities. It’s difficult not to enjoy a drink and a yarn with friends over some heavily salted fried food at this Japanese institution, whether it’s your first vacation to Japan or you’ve lived here for a lifetime.

 

Izakaya in japan
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Most dictionaries and guides translate izakaya as “pub” or “tavern,” but it doesn’t quite fall into either of these categories. The literal translation is “stay sake shop,” which refers to a location where you can remain and drink rather than a liquor store where you can buy alcohol to take home. Izakayas differ from bars in that patrons are constantly seated (typically at a table or on tatami) and there is less possibility for social contact. There’s a steady stream of (shared) dishes, and drinking is a huge part of it. Other than “usually goes well with booze,” it’s difficult to categorise the cuisine. In fact, the menu can be so varied that you might get a chance to taste some things you’ve never had before.

Izakayas are also usually frequented by big groups of friends or colleagues, making them unsuitable for a romantic date. Going to an izakaya by yourself is not actually done, even if there are no restrictions prohibiting it!

 

What’s on an Izakaya Menu

Izakayas, with a few exceptions, are not the place to be a wine or craft beer aficionado. Japanese pilsner-style draught beers (nearly always Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, or Suntory), various “sours” (for example, lemon blended with shochu and soda), chuhai, a vast selection of cold and warm sake (more appropriately called as nihonshu in Japanese), and shochu make up the majority of the drink menu. Shochu will be served with still water or soda water and ice because it is a spirit. If you don’t want to consume alcohol, most izakaya provides a selection of cold non-alcoholic beverages, such as oolong tea, green tea, zero-alcohol beer, and soft drinks, but no coffee. Skip on to the drinking and etiquette section for more information on drinks.

 Food

In an izakaya, the food is typically basic, straightforward fare that appeals to a wide range of people. Expect yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and other grilled meats and fish, as well as karaage (fried chicken), edamame, pickled vegetables, and possibly some casual Western fare like French fries, potato salad, and pizza. At a larger izakaya, you’ll find other Japanese specialties like sushi and ramen. Izakaya food is, at its most basic level, anything that goes well with drinking. Simply make sure to purchase enough food for everyone, as most products are little or single servings. However, you don’t have to order everything at once; you can place modest orders while waiting for another round of beverages. Get some grilled rice balls if you’re still hungry at the end of the night!

You’ll be given a towel to wipe your hands and a tiny plate called an “otoshi” when you sit down at an izakaya. This is included in the “otoshidai,” or seating fee, and can range from stewed vegetables to fresh seafood. It’s worth a go if you have an open mind.

Finally, it’s fair to state that most izakayas aren’t very vegan or vegetarian-friendly. Japan is a foodie’s paradise. Make sure the “salad” you just purchased isn’t topped with cheese or bacon by looking at the menu or asking the staff.

Izakaya in japan
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Drinks

Expect to be disappointed if you expect microbrews or high-end drinks. Beer (crisp and cold), sake, shochu, whiskey, and wine are typically available. Whiskey soda (known as a “highball” in Japanese) and “sours” (shochu and soda with some form of fruit flavour, comparable to “hard seltzers”) are popular mixed drinks.

Many izakayas have happy hour specials in the early evening, and many have all-you-can-drink offers all night—pay a fixed sum and get unlimited drinks for a set period of time (usually 1-2 hours). It’s not a problem if you don’t drink alcohol. Tea, juice, and other soft drinks are available in almost every izakaya.

 

Seating

In an izakaya, you pay otoshidai or sekiryo, which is sometimes translated as “table charge,” rather than tipping or paying a standard service fee. This is a misnomer because you are just paying for the seat, not the table. The price is per person and includes otoshi, a tiny Japanese meal. The benefit of paying this fee is that you get to try whatever otoshi comes your way—like it’s a lottery, where you might receive some of the best nibbles you’ve ever had, while other times it’s a letdown. In any case, the thrill is in the surprise, and it’s an essential aspect of the izakaya experience.

 

Nomihōdai (all you can drink)

After arriving in Japan, one of the first kanji characters I learned to read was nomihodai. It basically means “drink as much as you want.” It rarely means all you can drink till you can’t anymore; there’s usually a time limit (commonly 1 hour, 90 minutes, or 2 hours) and a limited selection from which to order. Although it may appear to be a good deal, you may have to give up eating and talking in order to drink quickly enough to receive your money’s worth. When you choose the nomihodai option, service likewise seems to mysteriously slow down. The simplest method to avoid this is to order your next round of drinks well before your current round is finished.

 

Tabehōdai (all you can eat)

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the hodai portion of tabehodai means “free for everyone,” thus it’s “all you can eat.” Take note of the restrictions before imagining yourself consuming a little mountain of exquisite sashimi for pennies on the dollar. Your menu choices will be limited to the less expensive things on the menu, much as the drinks. You will be charged extra if you order anything other than tabehodai goods.

 

5 Best Izakaya in Japan

 

Uotami

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Uotami is Japan’s largest izakaya chain, with over 700 locations around the country. You can simply get to them because many of them are close to the stations.

They have a large and fairly priced menu. You can sample a variety of traditional Japanese izakaya fare that is thought to go well with sake, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. The all-you-can-drink option is very popular because it includes a diverse drink menu. You may drink numerous types of alcohol (as well as soft drinks) for only 1000-1500 yen (depending on the shop)!

 

Torikizoku

Izakaya in japan
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Torikizoku is recognised for providing every meal, including drinks, at as low as 280 yen! They have about 500 locations, which are clearly identifiable by the yellow signboard.

Beer, whiskey, wine, sake, and cocktails are all available for 280 yen. Torikizoku’s meal menu consists primarily of yakitori (traditional Japanese grilled chicken on sticks), which is one of the reasons for its popularity among foreign guests. You may enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine while drinking without having to worry about money. They have a variety of delicious yakitori to select from, with three seasoning options: salt, spices, and tare (sweet and savoury sauce).

 

Isomaru Suisan

Izakaya in japan
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Isomaru Suisan is a one-of-a-kind izakaya with locations all across Japan, particularly in the Tokyo area. What makes it unique is that you cook the seafood right at the table. The environment is vibrant, and you may enjoy an amazing eating experience.

Shrimp and scallops, for example, are incredibly fresh. Grilling intensifies the flavours. Fresh raw fish such as sushi and kaisen don is also available (raw seafood rice bowl). The best part is that they are reasonably priced in comparison to other seafood restaurants and bars. The drink menu is also reasonably priced. If you enjoy seafood, Isomaru Suisan is a must-try!

 

Kin no Kura

Izakaya in japan
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Kin no Kura is another well-known izakaya chain. They provide a diverse menu ranging from Japanese to Western cuisine, with many dishes and drinks priced under 500 yen.

What’s amazing about this izakaya is that you can order using the table’s touch screen. It’s such a foreigner-friendly and convenient system that the menu is also written in English. Along with the low-cost dishes, they provide an all-you-can-eat plan that starts at 2800 yen and includes unlimited drinks!

 

Watami

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Watami serves a wide range of Japanese cuisine. Because they have branches all around the world, you may have heard of them. In Japan, there are around 300 shops.

Despite the fact that cheap izakaya chains are sometimes loud and vibrant, they have a more soothing and restful ambience. The interior design and food presentation are also excellent. You may spend quality time with friends, family, or a boy/girl friend while enjoying delectable foods like as fresh sushi and crispy karaage (Japanese deep-fried chicken).

 

5 Best Izakaya Alleys in Tokyo

Omoide Yokocho at Shinjuku

Izakaya in japan
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Omoide Yokocho () is a narrow alley near Shinjuku Station’s West Exit that is home to around 50 small restaurants and Izakaya. Most Izakaya only has 5–6 seats at the kitchen counter. The crimson lanterns and smokey streets attract a large number of visitors, and it is now one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist destinations.

Ameyoko at Ueno

Izakaya in japan
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Ameya Yokocho, also known as Ameya Yokocho, is a Japanese actress. Near Ueno station lies Ameyoko, an open-air market. There are a lot of Izakaya with tables and chairs outside in the midst of the long market strip where people enjoy drinking during the day. Why not combine your vacation to Ueno with some Izakaya hopping?

Under Track Izakaya at Yurakucho

Under Track Izakaya at Yurakucho
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Yurakucho is a fantastic Izakaya neighbourhood in Shimbashi, nestled beneath the train tracks (gado shita). Yurakucho and Shimbashi are known as “paradise for salarymen,” and many of them go there after work for a quick drink. As a result, there are a plethora of inexpensive Izakaya in this neighbourhood.

Nonbei Yokocho at Shibuya

Izakaya in japan
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Nonbei Yokocho means “drunker’s alley” in Japanese. Visitors can still experience the nostalgic aura of the Showa era (postwar time) in this little and lovely alley, despite its location in the heart of Shibuya, which is recognised as the city of the youthful generation with a plethora of fashion buildings.

Hoppy Dori at Asakusa

Izakaya in japan
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Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist attractions. A strip dubbed “Hoppy Dori” is located off the main street of the famous temple, Sensoji, where you may enjoy drinks and food throughout the day. The street takes its name from the popular alcoholic beverage “Hoppy,” which is frequently offered in this region.

Japanese people are known for their reserved demeanour. When you enter an izakaya, though, the atmosphere changes dramatically. A loose atmosphere is created by boisterous greetings, singing, dancing, lively talking, and other activities.

Izakaya drinking is now a part of Japanese culture. They have reasonably priced meals and drinks, as well as a pleasant ambience. This fantastic nightlife should be experienced on a shoestring budget!

When you’re ready, simply google the name of the izakaya and a location near you will appear.

 

 

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