I’ve been into the habit of posting on every day but Tuesday and Thursday, but this week I’ve decided to make a post every day.  I’m kicking off the week-long series on Drinking In Japan with the most classic of Japanese watering holes, the “izakaya”.

This classic, casual gastropub is the Japanese equivalent of pubs in the west.  Often decorated with red lanterns out front, an izakaya might offer seating on tatami mats on the floor at low tables, or ordinary western tables and chairs.  At-the-bar seating may also be offered.  Snack foods are usually shared at the table, not unlike tapas dining, but usually more substantial.

Sake is of course a primary element, as the word “izakaya” is derived from words meaning “sake shop” and “to stay”, but other popular offerings include beer, shochu, and any variety of cocktails.

When a customer is seated, they’ll often order a beer before they even begin looking at the menu.  Simple dishes are ordered first, like salted soy bean pods (edamame), before moving on to more flavorful things like chicken skewers (yakitori), and finishing off with heartier dishes like pan-fried noodles (yakisoba).

Izakaya are classically thought of as the watering-hole of salarymen after work, but they have also become quite popular with women and students.  Izakaya are common locations for group dates, as the casual atmosphere makes it easy to converse and mingle.

Here’s a fun networking fact!  One of my page’s followers, Japan Oblong, wrote a fantastic article for Matcha Japan Travel Magazine about izakaya etiquette and how to order, especially tailored to foreign visitors.  You can check it out right here.

Come back tomorrow as the series continues with “Tachinomi”, a Japanese bar with no seating!

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