The izakayas in Japan They are something similar to what we know as taverns, but they have their nuance, or rather nuances.
Of course I think they are the best place to have lunch and dinner. They are cheap, you can drink a beer or a sochu, a very common distilled drink to end the nights in the izakayas.
But what we liked the most about the izakayas is getting to see how the Japanese behave after work, how they communicate with each other, and if you are lucky and someone speaks a little English, they will try to ask you, surprised, what you are doing there.
Our experience in the Japanese izakayas (we were always looking for some for lunch and dinner) was very, very good.
Since that izakaya lost in Kyoto, hidden, where they never saw tourists, even the izakayas (some we repeat) next to the apartment we rented in Tokyo.
In that izakaya they made us promise that we would return the next day, but we never could, I don’t know how, but after three hours talking and laughing with a retired Japanese, I jumped in and gave him a hug when we said goodbye, he didn’t seem to care much , or so it seemed to me. After three hours sharing a very extended table, several conversations in English and many laughs, the owner of the izakaya, close to retirement and an excellent cook, did not want us to leave, she wanted to see us again and have a good time with us .
Who said that the Japanese are shy? Lots of people, including myself, but Japanese taverns make them behave somewhat differently. Alcohol unleashes your desire to speak and hides or tries to do so, your shyness.
When we repeated for the third time in an izakaya near the apartment of TokyoThe waiters looked at us smiling, they did not speak English but they looked for us “the usual table, the usual food and the usual drink”. It’s that simple, we felt adopted in the izakaya, and we were sorry not to return, the trips always end.
What do I mean by all this? Well, one way we had to be able to talk to Japanese was in an izakaya. Another way was with the owners of our accommodation in Kyoto.
What to eat in the izakayas
Well, in addition to, perhaps getting to be able to socialize with Japanese, you eat wonderfully. If you’re lucky, maybe the menu is in English as well as Japanese. We find ourselves in both tessitura, and the truth is that it never hurts to ask for something that you don’t know what it is because it is in Japanese.
It is a kind of omelette that is prepared on the griddle that is next to the izakaya bar. It’s delicious. Okonomiyakis are very typical in Hiroshima but they can be found in many other places in Japan.
Okonomiyakis are made with yams, water, a flour base, vegetables, sometimes meat, sometimes squid or shrimp, along with mochi (rice cake) and cheese. The ingredients that they can carry are varied. Basically it is like an omelette, where the base is the same, but the cook decides what his specialty is. In any case, they are delicious.
Another of the top dishes that you can find in an izakaya. It is a very hot soup that has udon noodles, chicken, carrots, chives, boiled egg and ginger. In the same way as okonomiyaki, this recipe can vary as well. It is distinguished by the noise they make when taking it, quite a bit.
Names we don’t remember, or maybe when we asked they were only in Japanese. Grilled meat skewers, tempura (rebozo vegetables) … Of course there was a variety, and also delicious meals.
What to drink in the izakayas
Perhaps the most common drink is beer, but not the only one. Before I spoke of sochu. At first we were not sure what it was, since several beers were served with the sochu, so we thought, in addition to the appearance, that it would be a kind of soft drink. Until we asked for it, and no, it wasn’t a soda that was mixed with beer. It was a distillate that was mixed with beer.
Well, it wasn’t bad. While it is true that the Japanese, at least during the time we shared in the izakayas, had no qualms with alcohol. So much so, that we saw several in different izakayas collapse from the chairs in which they were sitting, yes, drunk a little too much.
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Izakayas not to go to
Yes, there are izakayas that I would never recommend going to, and they are those that appear in travel guides. They have become places only traveled by tourists, all the grace, the authenticity has flown. So if you want to find a real izakaya, look for those doors that look like one, but are not sure about it.
See if there are Westerners, do not look on the main streets, or near the recommended ones.
It can happen, and it is quite probable that it will happen, that when you have arrived at that izakaya that looks so good, the owner does not let you in, or tells you with his arms raised that he will not attend you. I don’t know what the reasons are for this, but among some, the language barrier may be one of them.
The truth is that after traveling through Japan, it is difficult for me to understand the country without izakayas, and the importance they have on a social and gastronomic level. I loved them, and they are in the top ten of the places that I liked the most, and I would repeat without hesitation over and over again.
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