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GUIDE Izakaya Dining Guide Your complete guide to Japanese Izakaya

A casual Japanese pub serving drinks and a variety of food

Izakaya are the go-to choice for after-work dinner parties. Similar to an Irish pub or a tapas bar, they are informal, inexpensive and a lot of fun. The typical izakaya serves ice-cold beer and a variety of other spirits and soft drinks. The food served at izakaya is typically made to be shared and goes great with a beer.

How to eat at an izakaya

Food at an izakaya is meant to be shared. You can order a variety of dishes, and when they arrive each guest will be given a torizara. This is a small plate used when choosing the portion you want from the main plate served to the group. For example, if you ordered noodles and karaage (Japanese fried chicken), you would place them on your own torizara before eating.

What to order at an izakaya

Izakaya offer a wide range of foods. Some izakaya specialize in fish or meat while others may feature regional favorites. Some items that are available at most izakaya are sashimi platters, karaage, yakisoba noodles and edamame (green pod soybeans), which pair well with beer and sake. During the colder months, many izakaya restaurants serve nabe, or hot pot, a one-pot dish cooked at the table served from the pot directly. In addition to the standard Japanese fare at an izakaya, you can find a variety of Western dishes available such as french fries and chicken wings.

What to drink an an izakaya

A trip to an izakaya would not be complete without an ice-cold Japanese beer. You could also try one of the many varieties of chu-hi as well. Chu-hi is shorthand for shochu highball, a combination of shochu — a distilled liquor made from potato, wheat, or rice — soda water and a fruit sweetener such as lemon, lime or grape. There is of course sake, or nihonshu as it is called in Japanese, served hot or cold. Another izakaya staple is umeshu, a sweet plum wine that is great on the rocks or mixed with soda. If you prefer soft drinks, melon soda is a favorite of Japanese children and oolong tea is a very calming drink after all that food.

Suggested Izakaya

Izakaya can be found near any major train station in Japan. The izakaya chain Watami can be found throughout Japan and features a picture menu for easy ordering. Uoya Icho is a chain of izakaya from Hokkaido specializing in fish and other Hokkaido foods. Visitors to Kyoto should stop by Waraiya for some charcoal grilled chicken. If you're in Osaka, pay a visit to Ishin in the Tenma neighborhood. Visitors to Tokyo can find izakaya near any of the major stations throughout the city.

* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.

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