How to enjoy Japanese Izakaya?

Since you have come all the way to Japan, many of you may be thinking of going out to an izakaya, a Japanese-style drinking establishment. It is important to know what an izakaya is and how the system works so that you can enjoy it with peace of mind.

In this article, we will introduce how to enjoy izakaya, the system you should know, and popular dishes. If you want to create pleasant memories at an izakaya, this is a must-see.


◊What is an Izakaya?

Izakaya is a Japanese-style drinking establishment where you can enjoy a variety of food and drinks. They are similar to Western bars and pubs, but the main difference is that you can enjoy authentic food as well as drinks.

Izakaya restaurants offer a variety of main food themes, such as Japanese cuisine, yakitori (grilled chicken), seafood, and so on. The atmosphere and concept of each restaurant is different, so you will be able to enjoy a variety of spaces.

Most restaurants open at 5:00 p.m. and close at around 24:00 p.m. Some restaurants are open 24 hours and some are open from noon.


◊Izakaya Attraction

Izakaya, a uniquely Japanese type of restaurant, has a variety of attractions. Some foreigners have even become izakaya fans. What is it about izakaya that attracts people? Here are some of the reasons.


・Experience Japanese food culture

Izakaya is a fun way to experience real Japanese food culture. When you hear the word “Japanese cuisine,” you may think of sushi, sashimi, and tempura, and you may think that you frequently go to specialty restaurants to eat them. However, many Japanese people do not go to restaurants that serve such dishes very often. This is because the prices are too high for the average person.

On the other hand, many ordinary people visit izakaya because they offer a wide variety of dishes at reasonable prices, from snacks to meat, fish, and local food. In other words, at an izakaya, you can taste the menu that Japanese people eat on a daily basis.


・Enjoy both drinks and food.

Izakaya offers a wide variety of drinks and dishes. Because of their affordable prices, you can enjoy a variety of menu items. For example, when it comes to drinks, we have a selection of beer, sake, cocktails, whiskey, etc. that is second to none at bars and pubs. There are also many non-alcoholic drinks such as juices and teas, so even those who cannot drink alcohol do not need to worry.

The menu also includes snacks, salads, meat and fish entrees, noodles, rice dishes, and desserts. Thus, one of the ways to enjoy izakaya is to fully enjoy both drinking and eating in one place.


・Quick delivery of alcohol and meals

Another attraction of izakaya is the speedy delivery of drinks and meals. Some people are surprised to find that their drinks and food are brought to their table at the same time they order them! Some people are even surprised that their drinks and food are delivered to their table at the same time they order them.

In most cases, you will wait 10 minutes or more for your food at a restaurant, but in most cases, your food and drinks will be served within 10 minutes at an izakaya. However, please note that you may have to wait longer than 10 minutes if the restaurant is crowded.


◊The system you need to know to enjoy Izakaya

Many of you may have read this far and thought, “I would love to go to a Japanese izakaya!” I would love to go to a Japanese izakaya! However, please note that izakaya have their own system. If you keep this system in mind, you will be able to enjoy your time at an izakaya to the fullest.


・Appetizers and appetizers

When you are seated at an izakaya (Japanese style bar), a small bowl of food is served along with an oshibori (hand towel). This dish is called “oshoshi” in eastern Japan and “tsukidashi” in western Japan.

This dish is added to the bill, which is about 300 to 500 yen. You may be wondering, “Why am I being served a dish I did not order, and why am I being charged for it? You may wonder why you are being served food you did not order and charged for it. In fact, this is a unique cultural practice whereby alcohol is served earlier than food when both are ordered at the same time, and the alcohol is served as a filler until the food arrives.


・How to Order

There are three types of ordering methods at izakaya: touch panel, call button, and speaking to the waiter.

A tablet or touch panel is installed at each table, from which you order drinks and food, which is the touch panel ordering method. At restaurants with a call-out button, a waiter will come to the table and ask for your order when you press the button.

At restaurants where you call out to the waiter to order, if the restaurant is busy or crowded, he or she may not notice you, so you should raise your hand and say “Excuse me.

Also, when you are seated at an izakaya, it is customary to order a drink first, followed by your meal.


・Tip not required

Note that you do not have to tip waitstaff at Japanese izakaya. If you are from a country where tipping is an ingrained part of the culture, you may be confused by the fact that you do not have to tip. If you encounter a waiter or waitress with good service and hospitality, you may be tempted to give a tip.

However, you should avoid forcing yourself to give a tip. In some cases, the waiter may even get angry with your boss. If you feel that the service is good, you should say “Thank you” and leave.


・having one’s own way

Some izakaya have “all-you-can-eat” or “all-you-can-drink” plans. This “all-you-can-eat” system allows you to order as much alcohol and food as you like within a set amount of time, such as 90 or 120 minutes, if you pay a certain fee.

One of the ways to enjoy izakaya is to be able to drink and eat as much as you like without worrying about money. If you visit an izakaya that offers an all-you-can-drink plan, why not order it?

However, please note that the all-you-can-drink plan may have rules such as the refill of alcohol by changing the glass or the prohibition of leftover food.


◊Popular dishes you can enjoy at Izakaya

When visiting an izakaya for the first time, you may find yourself wondering what to order due to the large number of items on the menu. Here are some popular menu items that you should definitely order at Japanese izakaya.


・Japanese fried chicken is very popular in Japan

It is no exaggeration to say that karaage is the number one popular menu item at Japanese-style pubs. Karaage is a dish in which chicken seasoned with garlic and soy sauce is coated with batter and deep fried in oil. It is characterized by its smaller size than foreign fried chicken. It is popular among foreigners visiting Japan, especially among Asians, whose taste buds are similar to those of the Japanese.

Fried chicken goes well with alcoholic beverages such as beer, highballs, and lemon sours, so be sure to try it.


・Various types of yakitori

When visiting an izakaya, be sure to order yakitori. Yakitori is a dish of grilled chicken and vegetables on bamboo skewers. There are two main types of seasoning: one is simply seasoned with salt, and the other is a rich, sweet and savory sauce.

Yakitori is characterized by its wide variety, and some izakaya (Japanese style pubs) specializing in yakitori offer a wide variety of dishes. The “Yakitori Assortment” is ideal for first-timers, as it offers a selection of popular skewers.

Yakitori goes well with beer or highballs, sake (Japanese rice wine) for the salt flavor, and red wine for the sauce flavor.


・Dashi maki tamago (rolled egg) with the flavor of dashi broth

Speaking of a classic izakaya menu item, one cannot miss the dashimaki tamago, which is a well beaten egg mixed with dashi broth and cooked in shape. Soft and fluffy, with an elegant flavor of dashi broth, it is popular among all ages.

Many izakaya (Japanese style pubs) offer dashimaki tamago arranged with mentaiko (cod roe), shirasu (baby sardines), shiso (shiso leaves), and other ingredients. Start with a simple dashimaki tamago and enjoy the flavor of the dashi broth.

The best drinks to serve with dashimaki tamago are imo-shochu (sweet potato shochu), sake (Japanese rice wine), or hot sake, as they allow the flavors of the dashi to come through. However, barley shochu is not recommended as it increases the smell.


・Ochazuke to finish the meal

Eating ochazuke at the end of a meal is one of the ways to enjoy izakaya. Ochazuke is a dish of white rice topped with ingredients such as pickled plums, kelp, and arare seaweed, and served with tea or soup stock. The ingredients on the rice differ depending on the restaurant, and some restaurants offer “yaki onigiri chazuke,” which is grilled rice balls topped with dashi broth.

Ochazuke is a perfect way to end a pleasant time at a Japanese izakaya, where you can enjoy the gentle taste and flavor of tea and soup stock to your heart’s content.


◊Let’s master the art of izakaya fun!

Izakaya, which can be considered Japan’s original eating and drinking establishments, offer a unique way to enjoy food that reflects the Japanese food culture. If you are interested in learning about the real eating habits of the Japanese people, please visit an izakaya and order from the popular menu. Enjoy the delicious food and lively atmosphere, and you will surely become a fan of Japanese “food and drink”.


Q. What is the appeal of Izakaya?
The appeal of izakaya is that you can experience the Japanese dining culture as it is served in ordinary homes, rather than the more formal meals served in long-established Japanese restaurants.
Another attraction is that you can enjoy both drinking and eating.

Q. What is the best menu to eat at Izakaya?
I would have to say the karaage (fried chicken), which is very popular in Japan, yakitori (grilled chicken) of various kinds, and ochazuke (rice in tea broth), which has the flavor of dashi.
You can feel the Japanese flavor in these dishes.
Ochazuke is also a great way to end a meal.