The Izakaya (居酒屋) is to Japan what the saloon was back in the Wild West – an important place for social interactions, a tavern to get drinks and a restaurant combined in one building. When entering a typical Japanese Izakaya, you will immediately see the menu, written in Kanji, displayed on the walls. Most Izakayas either have tatami flooring, western chair, and table combinations or, the most common, a long counter from where you can watch the staff prepare food and mix drinks.
When you sit down at a table in an Izakaya, the first you receive will most likely be an Oshibori, a towel to clean your hands. The towel is cool and refreshing in summer, and warm in winter.
In the early evening, Izakayas are filled with business people participating in after-work drinking. Even though you can perfectly spend your night just drinking with friends, an Izakaya has delicious food to offer as well, for example, Karaage, Yakitori and much more. Food is normally ordered piece by piece instead of a full course, starting with small dishes such as Edamame and salads.
In contrast to other Japanese dishes, food ordered in an Izakaya is normally shared by the whole group. There are all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink menus as well, resulting in mountains of small plates stacked on each other in front of every guest most of the time.
Sounds fun? Due to their popularity, Izakayas can literally be found everywhere. You just have to look for red lanterns that usually hang above any Izakaya’s entrance.