From Virtual Japan

Jump to: navigation, search

An Izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food. In the Western world, the Izakaya would be thought of as a Happy Hour house, where people come after work for cheap food and drink to relax after a day at work. Izakayas are incredibly casual, and their sole purpose is to provide an inexpensive place to relax either alone or with friends and eat.

Izakaya translates to “Taverns.” But the food that Izakaya offer is generally more filling than what one would find at American bars or snack bars. Their name also implies that they serve wine (Sakaya translates to Sake House) but they are also known to serve regular liquors and beer.



Izakaya date back as far as the Edo period. They began as simply liquor shops, where one could buy a bottle of sake and sit to drink it. Eventually food began to be added to menus and the drink lists started expanded with the introduction of foreign liquors. By the 1970’s, the Izakaya had almost completely transformed into drinking areas for Japanese businessmen and women.

The cheap prices of the Izakaya add to the location’s popularity, but the relaxed atmosphere that is usually complemented by a casually decorated building is one of the reasons they have become a hangout spot rather than simply a meeting place for drinkers.


Izakaya do not charge an entry fee. However, it is customary that you are provided with a warm wet towel and a tiny bit of food before you begin eating. They are then charged on your bill and you are essentially paying an entry fee by covering the cost of these mandatory customs. While much of Japanese food is served on an individual level (which differs from Chinese customs, where people generally share every meal), most food served at the Izakaya is meant to be shared, and as people continue to order throughout the afternoon, the bill is tabulated over time.

Most patrons are generally businessmen and blue collar workers, due to the cheap prices. Some youth that have reached drinking age enjoy them as well because of their low prices, but many choose to go to dance clubs instead.

Izakaya are often symbolized by a red lantern.

Typical Food

As far as drinks are concerned, there are several available and they vary by location. However, beer, cocktails, sake, standard wine and whisky are very common.

For food, the Izakaya almost always have grilled chicken on skewers. Many also have other skewered and grilled meats and vegetables. Fried chicken, fish, and edamame are not uncommon, and though some of the restaurants choose to serve their own food in order to add to their niche, the preceding foods are generally considered staples.

External Links

Pop culture / Travel / Forum / Gallery / FAQ/Help / Submit

Copyright 2008, VirtualJapan.com. All Rights Reserved.