Izakaya comes from the word I and sakaya which means to stay and sake shop respectively. Thus, it refers to a sake shop where you can go sit down and enjoy your drinks. Nowadays, they are also serving food to go with your drinks. So basically, they are just like your pubs, bars, taverns and salons, just the Japanese way. If you want to go to a place where you can eat and drink with your friends, this is definitely the right place to go to. Normally, the Japanese people go here with their officemates to relax and enjoy some drinks and food.
Etiquette is imporant
When you are at a foreign land, it is very important to know their culture and how they do things. For example, as izakaya caters mostly local people, some of them might not have their menu in English. It is only proper to know follow some of the common traditions that they do at this type of place.
Taking off your shoes before you enter
There are some izakaya where you might need to take off your shoes at the entrance while there is also one where you can store it in their locker. There is also somewhere you can actually enter with your shoes on. It would be wise to know this so that you would not be shocked but worry not because a member of their stuff will inform you ahead and you need only to follow their instructions.
The first thing you may want to order would be a beer and if so, you should raise your hand and say out loud, “onegaishimasu”, which means “please” to get the attention of one of the staff. If beer is what you want to order you may say “nama biru kudaisai”, adding the word “kudasai” when ordering will make it seem more polite, so do not forget this.
Interact with others
If you are lucky enough and the menu has some pictures, you can definitely work with that but if by chance it doesn’t, do not be afraid. Izakaya is a place where you can enjoy the lively atmosphere and interact with total strangers. Japan might be known to be a reserved and polite country but they are also entertaining and friendly. You can ask someone near you to recommend you something by saying “osusume wa nan desuka?” On the other hand, if you see something good being served on the next table you can alternatively ask them what that is by saying, “sumimasen, sore wa nan desu ka?”
There are a lot of delicious foods and you just have to take the experience as a whole and enjoy every moment inside of the place. You might even get to make new friends out of it. Once you are full, you should be on your way to pay your bill by saying “okaikei onegaishumasu”, hoping you still are not drunk by this time and then just say thank you or “arigato gozaimasu” as you hop out of the place.
Top food picks to try out
There are a lot of foods on the menu and you will definitely want to try them all out but during your first time, they may only seem to confuse you because you are still unsure of what you want. Do not panic, here are some of 3 best picks you should try out.
Indulge yourself in the pleasure of having the choice on what to put inside your pancake-like food as you can basically put anything you like in it. This is one of the most popular dishes in Japan and you will see it at every corner and every izakaya out in the country. You can have pork, shrimp or even squid inside of it. It is a crispy meal that is topped with mayo, cabbage and tonkatsu sauce.
Basically, this is fried chicken wrapped in potato starch but the texture is a whole lot lighter than what western cooking tastes like. Go ahead and try out this delicious looking fried dish.
This is one of the best choices of an appetizer when it comes to drinking it together with beer. It is a skewered piece of chicken together with vegetables and it has a sauce for dipping it. This one is definitely worth the try.
Whether you just want to drink with your friends or to try out something new and refreshing, going to an izakaya is definitely one of the highlights of your trip that you can talk about when you get home. You might even get invited to a drinking party on your next visit when you have made friends with some locals.
Alecksandra is a food hobbyist and otaku who has a deep interest in Japanese culture and cuisine. She likes knowing how every food out there in the open came to be, the meaning of their very names, why they taste the way they do and the diverging concepts that are behind every dish. One day she will travel to different countries to go restaurant hopping and share her food adventures to the world.