Business Traveller (India)
A classic Japanese-style bar experience means hitting an izakaya after your meetings
Tokyo’s cultural potpourri is intriguing to say the least. Anyone who’s visited Japan knows that there are certain aspects of its society and tradition that are signature to the Land of the Rising Sun. From the no tipping rule to addressing another individual with the suffix of the respect giving “san”; there are ways to conduct yourself in Japan.
A way of life that’s quintessentially Japanese — and one that’s always caught our fancy — is the concept of izakayas. This is an experience that you must absolutely indulge in on your visit to Tokyo, as being the capital city, it’s the hub of the izakaya culture in all of Japan.
So what is an izakaya, to begin with? It’s essentially an after-work Japanese bar where people get together for drinks, snacks and banter.
What’s special about the concept is that it dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868) when a sake merchant began serving the drink in tasting glasses in a corner of his humble shop. It was in the 1970s that izakayas grew phenomenally in popularity among the working community. However today, there is an izakaya for everyone; from office-goers, students, expats to tourists. The society in Japan is considered to be relatively reserved, and an izakaya is a place where they get together for nomikai (a gathering to drink), often at the bar counter itself, and let go for a while alongside good food, drinks and conversation.
So if this concept interests you and an experience of some true Japanese culture is on your bucket-list on your trip to Japan, here are some options you can consider.
A ten-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Roppongi Station, this rather large establishment is a great choice for first-time izakaya visitors. Popular among international travellers, Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu is famed for being one of the locations for the filming of Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill. It is also open for banquets and dinner, and its old-school ambience brings out Tokyo’s bygone era. From its homemade soba noodles, crispy tempura items, rich collection of sake as per the map of Japan and other Japanese drinks such as shochu (a Japanese distilled beverage) cocktails, Gonpachi NishiAzabu offers a signature Tokyo izakaya experience.
A three-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Roppongi Station, Warayakiya Roppongi is known for using a straw-burning flame frill to prepare dishes from the Kōchi Prefecture (Shikoku island) — such as katsuo tataki (seared bonito). Warayaki means the straw-roasted cooking method that finds its origins in the fishing villages on coast of the Kōchi Prefecture. Some of the other highlights on the menu include seared mackerel, straw-roasted chicken, meats and vegetables. Complementing the unique food is its wide variety of sake and Japanese beer. An interesting selection of highballs ( Japanese whisky soda) and cocktails is also on the menu.
KAIKAYA BY THE SEA
If seafood impresses your palate, Kaikaya by the Sea should definitely be on your list. Located in the buzzing Shibuya district of Tokyo, the seafood at this izakaya is shipped directly from Sagami Bay that lies south of Kanagawa Prefecture in central Japan. On the seafood menu are sashimi platters, grilled fish, fresh fish carpaccio, shrimp and pork dumplings, steaks and more delicious dishes. The sake and shochu list is elaborate and appealing, and the establishment also has a decent collection of wine. The range of desserts at Kaikaya by the Sea includes the likes of kaikaya pudding with earl grey and plum sorbet with wine jelly. jnto.go.jp