Izakaya is one of many places I want travelers to Japan to try.
Izakaya (居酒屋) is Japanese style pub where you can enjoy sake, beer and various kinds of appetizers. The origin of Izakaya is liquor shops, sakaya (酒屋) in Japanese.
Back in Edo (Edo is the old name for Tokyo), some sakaya started to serve sake and simple appetizers at their storefront for blue-collar workers at reasonable price. To distinguish those from sakaya who only sell and don't serve sake, they started to call themselves "居酒屋" izakaya by adding "居(i)" which means to "stay" in front of "酒屋(sakaya)" which means "liquor shop".
Male ratio in Edo was a lot higher to female's and there were many males living on their own. For those, izakaya was an ideal place to enjoy both food and sake at reasonable price and it rapidly spread throughout the city.
You can find many izakaya, from authentic ones to modern or fashionable ones, here and there in Tokyo. They often put red lanterns outside so it should be not too difficult for you to find.
Once you enter izakaya, you are expected to order a drink first. I often start with a glass of beer but you can go ahead with other kinds, like sake for example, hot or cold. Not always but often your drink will be served with a dish of appetizer which you didn't order. The dish is called "otoshi お通し" and it automatically comes with alcohol. It's usually charged and it may sounds strange to pay for something you didn't order but it is how it works at izakaya. It's like 200 yen or so per "otoshi" so nothing to be too nervous about I guess.
Then it is time to order foods. Menus vary depending on what kind of izakaya you are in but potato salad, karaage - Japanese deep fried chicken, tamagoyaki - Japanese omelet, hiyayakko - chilled tofu with some condiments, edamame are the classics so why don't you start with those. You can also go with their recommendation or special. It might be yakitori or oden - Japanese stew of veggies and fish cakes. You can stay as long as you like but for me, izakaya is not a place to stay too long. I usually have 2~3 drinks and several dishes of food within an hour or so and I'm done.
Chatting with people next to your table is another way to enjoy izakaya. Tables are very close one another at izakaya or you will be asked to share a table with other groups. Japanese people are shy but they are not when they are drunk and you may make local friends there !
One last note when you go to izakaya. Bring some cash. Some are cash on delivery and some are check at the end but either way, many izakaya only accept cash.
There are many nice izakaya in Asakusa district, just a few minutes walk from TOKYO KITCHEN. Go look for your favorite and drink like a local !!
Hi ! I'm Yoshimi. Here are some updates on TOKYO KITCHEN, Japanese food, Asakusa, Tokyo and more.