Izakaya (Japanese Style Pub), Gourmet Guide

Many izakayas, or Japanese taverns, open for business in the evening. There you can enjoy simple dishes and different kinds of alcoholic beverages. Because their prices are relatively low, female office workers and businessmen often stop by after work to socialize while having a meal and drinks.

Izakayas near universities are usually full of students. The good thing about izakayas is that you do not have to worry about making too much noise or laughing too loudly. You can just relax. There are major izakaya chains with branches all across Japan as well as cozy, family-run businesses. The prices and types of meals, as well as the number of alcoholic beverages, etc. also differ from bar to bar, but prices at japanese "Izakayas" usually are never too high. Izakayas have a long history and are said to have developed during the Edo Period (1603-1868). "Sakayas," or taverns that only served drinks, gradually started to also offer simple dishes, and continued to expand as "taverns where you can stay to drink." In the past, men would only go to drink at an izakaya alone, but when major chains started appearing in the 1980s, it became popular to go in groups or hold small banquets. There also are places called "koryoriya," which is similar to an izakaya, but the atmosphere is somewhat different. At a koryoriya, you eat and drink quietly with a small number of people, and guests do not usually make a lot of noise. Most izakayas serve typical Japanese dishes and drinks. In recent years, more and more izakayas are putting wine on the menu for women, but the menu still consists mostly of sake, beer, and shochu. When you arrive at an izakaya, you first order a drink. In Japan, there is a set phrase, "toriaezu bi-ru," which means "first of all, a beer." First, you toast with a beer, and then everyone drinks whatever they want. When you order a drink, often a small dish will be served with it that you did not order. This is called "tsukidashi," an appetizer which most izakaya will put on your bill, although they never cost much. There are izakayas that do not charge you for these appetizers and others that do not serve them at all. However, if they are served, you usually do not send them back to the kitchen. The foods that you eat while drinking often resemble home-cooked meals that go well with alcohol, such as Japanese omelettes, edamame (soy) beans, chilled tofu, yakitori (grilled chicken), fried food, oden (Japanese hotpot), or sashimi. You do not have to worry about what you order or in which sequence you order it. You can simply order what you want, whenever you want it. That is how you eat at an izakaya. When you have had enough to eat and drink, just say "Okanjo" to the nearest server to get the check. If there is a cash register at the entrance, you pay there. If there is not, then you pay at your table. You could say that an izakaya is the most suitable establishment to feel the everyday life of Japanese people.

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