Japanese Language Blog

Izakaya Posted by on May 11, 2009 in Culture

Izakaya (居酒屋) is a place that serves food and drinks. I wouldn’t go so far as to call an izakaya (居酒屋) a restaurant. It’s more of a mini bar that serves food. It’s a place frequented by a lot of office workers called saraii man (サラリーマン) or salary man. It’s packed in the evenings. Workers go there to unleash all the stress they’ve repressed at work. Sometimes co-workers go there to complain about their boss and some heavy drinking may follow afterwards.

Izakayas (居酒屋) are noticeable by the paper lanterns that hang just outside the store. Some of the lanterns are red, and are called akachoochin (あかちょうちん) or red lanterns. The lanterns are meant to attract people to the store.

Some izakayas (居酒屋) are traditional and have tatami (たたみ) mats as seating. A tatami (たたみ) is a mat made by strips of straw woven together. Others are more Western and have stool chairs seen in Western bars.

Before you order, you’ll be offered a oshibori (おしぼり). An oshibori (おしぼり) is a moist white towel to wipe your hands before you eat. It’s a standard service offered at many izakayas (居酒屋). Typically a steaming, hot oshibori (おしぼり) is served in the winter, and a cold one is offered in the summer. Here’s an etiquette tip: don’t use the oshibori (おしぼり) to wipe the sweat off your forehead. I know it can get really hot in the summer, but it’s considered bad manners to wipe your forehead when you’re about to eat. If you really have to wipe off some sweat, bring your own handkerchief and dab your forehead gently.

Before I go, I just want to mention how convenient the menus are for foreign customers. The menus have pictures of the dish. This way, you know what you’re getting. A lot of the dishes are offered in larger quantities at discount prices. It’s a great place to go with a group of friends and share a large bowl of each food you’ve ordered.

Ok, got to go. Jaa ne (じゃあ)! See you then!

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