From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
An izakaya in Gotanda, Tokyo

An izakaya (居酒屋?) is a type of informal Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany the drinks. They are casual places for after-work drinking.


"Izakaya" entered the English language by 1987.[1] It is a compound word consisting of "i" (to stay) and "sakaya" (sake shop), indicating that izakaya originated from sake shops that allowed customers to sit on the premises to drink.[2] Izakaya are sometimes called akachōchin (red lantern) in daily conversation, because these paper lanterns are traditionally found in front of them.

Dining style[edit]

Izakayas are often likened to taverns or pubs, though there are a number of differences between these venues.[3][4][5]

Depending on the izakaya, customers sit on tatami mats and dine from low tables in the traditional Japanese style or sit on chairs and drink/dine from tables. Many izakaya offer a choice of both, as well as seating by the bar.

Usually, the customer is given an oshibori (wet towel) to clean their hands with; next an otōshi or tsukidashi (a tiny snack/an appetizer) will be served. This is local custom and usually charged onto the bill in lieu of an entry fee. In the Kantō region it is called otōshi; Kansai people call it tsukidashi.

The menu may be on the table, displayed on walls, or both. Picture menus are common in larger izakaya. Food and drink are ordered throughout the course of the session as desired. They are brought to the table, and the bill is added up at the end of the session. Unlike other Japanese styles of eating, food items are usually shared by everyone at the table as in Spanish tapas.

Common formats for izakaya (as well as much other) dining in Japan are known as nomi-hōdai ("all you can drink") and tabe-hōdai ("all you can eat"). For a set price per person, customers can continue ordering as much food and/or drink as they wish, with a usual time limit of two or three hours.

Izakaya dining can be intimidating to non-Japanese with the wide variety of menu items and the slow pace. Food is normally ordered slowly over several courses rather than all at once. The kitchen will serve the food when it's ready rather than in formal courses like Western restaurants. Typically a beer is ordered when sitting down before perusing the menu. Delicately flavored dishes such as hiyayakko or edamame are ordered first, followed with progressively more robust flavors such as yakitori or kara-age, finishing the meal with a rice or noodle dish to fill up.[6]

Typical menu items[edit]

Mock-up of an izakaya style menu

There are a wide variety of izakaya offering all sorts of dishes. Items almost always available are as follows:[citation needed]

Alcoholic drinks[edit]


Main article: sakana

Izakaya food is usually more substantial than tapas or mezze. Many items are designed to be shared.

Rice dishes such as ochazuke and noodle dishes such as yakisoba are sometimes eaten at the end to round off a drinking session. (For the most part, the Japanese do not eat rice or noodles (shushoku - "staple food") at the same time as they drink alcohol, since sake, brewed from rice, traditionally takes the place of rice in a meal.)


Izakaya were traditionally down-to-earth places where men drank sake and beer after work; this trend is complemented by a growing population of independent women and students. Many izakaya today cater to a more diverse clientele by offering cocktails and wines as well as improving the interior.

  • Chain izakaya are often large and offer an extensive selection of food and drink, allowing it to host big, sometimes rowdy, parties.
  • Cosplay izakaya became popular in the 2000s. The female staff wears the costume and wait on customers. Sometime the cosplay izakaya run shows.[citation needed]
  • Yakitori-ya specialise in yakitori. The skewers are often grilled in front of customers.
  • Robatayaki are where customers sit around an open hearth on which chefs grill seafood and vegetables. The fresh ingredients are displayed for customers to point at whenever they want to order.
  • Establishments specialising in oden are called oden-ya. They usually take the form of street stalls with seating and are popular in winter.
  • Izakayas are often called akachōchin ("red lantern") after the red paper lanterns that are traditionally displayed outside. Today the term usually refers to small, non-chain izakaya.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Does English still borrow words from other languages?". BBC News Online. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-05. Some examples that the Oxford English Dictionary suggests entered English during the past 30 years include tarka dal, a creamy Indian lentil dish (1984, from Hindi), quinzhee, a type of snow shelter (1984, from Slave or another language of the Pacific Coast of North America), popiah, a type of Singaporean or Malaysian spring roll (1986, from Malay), izakaya, a type of Japanese bar serving food (1987), affogato, an Italian dessert made of ice cream and coffee (1992). 
  2. ^ * Hiroshi Kondō (1984). Saké: a drinker's guide. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-87011-653-7. Literally translated, the word izakaya means a "sit-down sake shop." 
  3. ^ Moskin, Julia (9 April 2013). "Soaking Up the Sake". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Coghlan, Adam. "Introducing izakaya: the new breed of casual Japanese restaurant". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Phelps, Caroline (2 January 2013). "The Advent Of Izakayas". www.huffingtonpost.com (The Huffington Post). Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  6. ^ How to Izakaya - Kampai! : Kampai!. Kampai.us. Retrieved on 2014-05-24.

Further reading[edit]

  • Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook (2008) by Mark Robinson, Photographs by Masashi Kuma, ISBN 978-4-7700-3065-8, Kodansha International [1]