A Guide to Japanese Izakaya and Why It Represents the Drinking Culture ofJapan

A Guide to Japanese Izakaya and Why It Represents the Drinking Culture ofJapan

If you are looking for a fun activity to do while you are in Japan, perhaps a new drinking experience? We recommend you head to a Japanese Izakaya; it is a place that combines the culture of Japanese drinking as well as an enjoyable time with your friends! Find out more about the simple yet indulging experience of Japanese Izakaya below.




What is an Izakaya

In Japanese “Izakaya” is translated as “Pub” or “Tavern”, but the definition does not describe Japanese izakaya quite accurately. It is a Japanese bar, but not your usual drinking pub. These places could be designed in a modern style to suit tourists but still embrace the Japanese culture of drinking.

            Although drinking is a big part of Izakaya, they also offer a constant stream of shared dishes to go with your drinks. The food menu can be quite diverse that it is a good chance for tourists to try different Japanese dishes. Typical izakaya offer dishes such as chicken Karaage, Yakitori, Edamame, grilled fish, French fries, and Sashimi. It is worth mentioning that Izakaya are often visited by large groups of friends or co-workers and are rarely attended alone.




Photo: mennote

System/Seating Charges

Izakaya has a system of otōshidai or sekiryō, which refers to “table charge’. The charge is generally per person and includes a small dish of food called otōshi. These dishes are served regularly as the fee is already included in the otōshidai. It is a great way to try out different dishes that you may not have the chance to otherwise.

            Generally, you can enjoy a great time at Izakaya costing around 2000 -3000 yen per person (each drink costs about 300 - 600 yen, each appetizer costs 300 - 500 yen). The price usually varies from place to place, so it is recommended you ask the workers before entering. The reasonable pricing is an attractive part of Japanese Izakaya. During Happy Hour, some Izakaya would serve drinks with half price, and the general cost of All-You-Can-Drink-and-Eat course for each Izakaya would be around 3000 - 5000 yen.




Time Limit

A quiet night at an Izakaya is enjoyable, you can have a relaxing time throughout the night with no limited time. However, on a busy night, there might be a group of people waiting in line for seats. Generally, Izakaya imposes a 2-hour limit from when you first get seated. When you reach 2-hour time limit, the staff may ask you to leave so awaiting customers can be seated.




Photo: san-tatsu

Drinks/Nomihodai (All You Can Drink)

When you visit an Izakaya, you can expect to see a selection of drinks such as beer (crisp and cold), sake, shochu, whiskey and wine. The highlight of any izakaya is the drinking culture of sake, it is a popular Japanese drink made by fermenting rice and processed through a brewing method like beer. Another popular drink is shochu, which is a vodka-style spirit in Japan made from barley or potatoes. Usually served with lemon, pickled plum, fruit juices, or water. There are various drinks you could try at an Izakaya, however, their drinks are rather simple so do not go to these places expecting high-end cocktails!  


            If you plan on visiting an izakaya, we recommended looking into their happy hour specials in the early evening, many Izakayas offer all-you-can-drink deals, where you can pay a certain amount of money and receive unlimited drinks for a set amount of time. Nomihodai is translated as “all you can drink”, however they are usually a time limit, typically 90 minutes or 2 hours. It is worth noting that for Nomihodai, the menu from which you can order is restricted. Also, if you are not a big fan of drinking and want to socialise with your friends, don’t worry, Izakaya also offer non-alcoholic drinks such as tea, juice, and other soft drinks. Nomihodai deals could range from 300-800 Yen per 30 minutes.


 Photo: tori-tetsu




Photo: hotpepper


Food/Tabehodai (All You Can Eat)

While drinking is a big part of Izakaya, they also offer some delicious dishes that you should definitely try! Like mentioned, izakaya menu can consist of chicken Karaage, Edamame (boiled and salted soybean pods), Kushiyaki (grilled meat or vegetable skewers), Sashimi (slices of raw fish), Agedashi dōfu (deep-fried tofu in broth), Tebasaki (chicken wings), Tsukemono (pickles), Yakisoba noodles, French fries, Nabe (Japanese hotpot), and Yakitori or grilled chicken skewers. If you like fish, you can enjoy fresh Sashimi, sushi rolls, Nigiri Sushi, and Yakizakana. When ordering, make sure to be considerate as these dishes are meant to be side dishes, they are generally small or single servings.


            Tabehodai is an all-you-can-eat service, however your orders will be restricted to the cheaper items on the menu. So, if you would like to try high quality food, you might want to stick to the traditional menus. When you are seated at an izakaya, you’ll be handed towel to wipe your hands and a small dish called an “otoshi” will be served. A side note, if you are a vegan/vegetarian, we recommended carefully read the menu or ask the staff, as Japanese food are usually not vegetarian-friendly.


Photo: tabelog




Smoking At Izakaya

After April 2020, smoking is heavily restricted in almost all bars and restaurants in Japan. While smoking was allowed at almost every store prior to the change of rules, Japanese bars prohibit smoking, and breach of this rule can cause you some serious troubles! 

            However, most bars now have designated smoking rooms for smokers to enjoy both drinking and smoking. Non-smoking Izakaya exists, but not common, it is recommended you do further research if you don’t want to be inhaling smoke all night.





While Japanese are known to be more reserved and polite, when you step into a Japanese Izakaya, it is loud and lively, exactly where you would want to be to have an enjoyable time! Full of energetic greetings, singing, dancing, hearty chattering, and a lively atmosphere. Be ready for an extraordinary experience that will not disappoint!














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