Experience izakaya culture

For many Japanese people, an izakaya, or a Japanese-style pub, is the perfect place for casual dining with friends or colleagues. One of the highlights of izakaya culture is that everyone gets to pick and then share a variety of dishes, from appetisers to entrees, while ordering rounds of drinks at their own pace. At least once during your trip, you should stop in at an izakaya and eat like a local. Here are a few pointers to help you along…

1. Table reservations

If the izakaya is large with plenty of seating, you should have no trouble getting a table without a reservation, whether it’s a weekday or the weekend. Still, Fridays and Saturdays tend to be crowded with people who have just finished work, so if there is one specific izakaya you want to try out on the weekend, it’s safer to make a reservation.

2. The welcome ‘gifts’

When you arrive at the izakaya, tell the waitron the number of people in your party (or your name if you have made a reservation), and they’ll guide you to your table. As you sit down, you’ll be handed a complimentary ‘oshibori’(small wet towel). You will also be served an appetiser called ‘otoshi’, which is normally around ¥300 per person (it’s compulsory so don’t refuse it). The otoshi gives you something to nibble on until your first round of orders arrives.

3. Order drinks first

When you’re handed the menu, it’s a good idea to order a drink straight away, to loosen up the mood. Japanese people at an izakaya often start by ordering a round of beers.

4. Two ways to order

You can either tell the waitron what you want directly, or use the touch-screen ordering machine on the table to place your order (not available at all izakayas).
Diners commonly order a number of dishes to share with the table. You don’t have to order all the dishes at once, either – if you’re still hungry after the first round of food, you can always put in another request.

5. Paying

Before you leave, ask your waitron for the ‘o kaikei’ (bill). You can either pay at your table or at the cashier’s desk. Lastly, remember that in Japan, tipping is a no-no.

There are many Izakayas in Japan.

Please search for Izakayas from here. Multilingual menus available and reservations can be made in English.


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Useful Japanese phrases in Izakayas.

Sumimasen = excuse me

Kore wo kudasai = I would like this
(As you point to the items you want on the menu…)

Kanpai! = Cheers!

Itadaki-masu = This is what people say when beginning a meal

Gochisosama-deshita = And this is what we say at the end of a meal

Check here for other useful Japanese phrases.

Convenient sample sentences to use at your destination. Communicate easily in different situations by means of the useful phrases shown here.

For meals (including izakayas)

For other situations