Japanese pubs known as Izakaya are now dominating the night food scene in Japan and overseas – where co-workers, friends and couples meet here for drinks and food. Gone are the days of elaborated and sophisticated Japanese fine dining at sushi bars that comes at a hefty price. Izakaya are everywhere especially around train, subway stations and food alleys. Izakaya are also known as akachochin which literally translates as red lanterns that are hung outside these shops.
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Most izakaya menus are filled with pictures making it easy to order. Unlike traditional Japanese fine dining, you could choose a couple of different items from the menu to be shared by everyone at the table. The dishes served are relatively small and inexpensive. You could find almost everything on its menu from simple salads to highly innovative creations all served in plate sized.
Izakaya food focuses mainly on fried and salty food that can be shared in a group. Rice and noodles are often not listed in the menu. Its common menu item includes yakitori (grilled chicken on skewer) and oden (eggs, raddish, fish cakes and other ingredients in dashi broth). Some izakaya especially in downtown areas offer continuous flow of food and drinks for a fixed set of price per person within a time limit of a few hours.
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There are many different types of izakaya from small independent ones with just a few seats to large size chain izakaya to cater for large crowd. There are also themed izakaya such as the Ninja Akasaka at Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo with ninja styled interior and a maze layout plan to avoid customers getting lost.
House parties or backyard gatherings are not common in Japan. Japanese usually gather at izakaya to celebrate. Izakaya are friendly and sociable places where it is easy to strike a conversation with total strangers over a couple of drinks. Sake (nihonshu), beer (biiru) and Shōchū (distilled beverage) are always on the menu list.
Photo by clintonintokyo