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Tips for Experiencing Izakayas in Tokyo, Japan

John Rayner

John Rayner
Hailing from Sherwood Forest, Little John has been occupying space in the Far East for 10 years. His obsession with food and drink is only rivaled by his dedication to his beloved Saitama Jets.



Tokyo Nightlife - Experience the Izakaya

The izakaya, or Japanese style pub, is a Japanese institution. These lively establishments are many Japanese employees’ first stop after work. Below are some tips to prepare you for the experience.

Tips for Izakayas


Upon being seated at your table, you will usually find a small rolled up white towel, called a "shibori", that should be used to wipe your hands with before eating. Some establishments will even offer hot ones and bring them personally to your table.

Paid Appetizer Otoshi

A lot of restaurants and bars in Japan will automatically serve you a small appetizer when you are first seated. This is a custom dating back many generations, and although you have to pay a small charge for this dish, consider it instead of a tip, which is not expected or usually even accepted. Sometimes it may be edible, sometimes not, just go with the flow!

Shoe removal

Remember that a lot of izakayas will have tatami areas. Don't be a baka gaijin (silly foreginer), instead be sure to remove your shoes before stepping on the tatami mats. Many places will have a locker with wooden keys - make sure you note exactly where your locker is as the keys often only have kanji written on them!

Oyaji Gags

No trip to an izakaya can be complete without trying out some oyaji gags (old geezer jokes). Here is simple one to get you started: as attempting and failing to pick up some fried chicken with your chopsticks state, "Kore wa tori-nikui" (literally this is hard to pick up). The play on words is that the word for "chicken", toriniku, is included in tori-nikui, "hard to pick up". ahahahaa.

Share and share alike

Unless you are on your own, it is traditional to share the dishes ordered with some or all of your group. When you first enter each person should select a couple of dishes and then order as a group, sharing each dish by taking small portions and placing onto your kosara (small plate). This ensures a lively table atmosphere and will allow you to sample many different dishes (and give everyone a chance to berate the guy who ordered raw intestines).

Serving Others

At Izakayas it is common practice to order drinks by the bottle (beer, shochu and sake) and pour drinks for your table companions. When receiving, it is polite to hold the glass with both hands, one underneath and one on the side. Once you have received your top up, ask the pourer for the bottle and return the favor, or alternatively take it in turns to "pour rounds".


Popular Izakaya Restaurants in Tokyo, Japan

Doma Doma

Doma Doma Izakayas Doma Doma Izakayas (Japanese only)



Hibiki Izakayas Hibiki Izakayas


Hibiki's dining concept is to start your meal with a special Kawashima Tofu from Saga prefecture and end the meal with Niigata Koshihikari rice baked in an "ishigamataki" (stone grist mill). In between indulge in sashimi, udon, sukiyaki and even teppanyaki.

Map & Access for Hibiki Izakayas (Japanese only)


Ginza Lion & Group Izakayas

Ginza Lion Izakayas: Beer Hall Lion - Ginza 7 Chome Branch interior. Ginza Lion Izakayas: Sapporo Draft Black Label


The Sapporo Lion group manages "Beer Hall" type restaurants, like the image above of Beer Hall Lion - the Ginza 7 Chome Branch, Izakayas featuring Japanese and international cuisine, and Irish pubs. Try the very popular Sapporo Draft Black Label "Dai Jocky"(about the size of a pint.)

Address: Ginza Lion Building 1F 7-9-20
Ginza Chuo-ku,Tokyo
Tel: 03-3571-2590 (Japanese only)




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