It’s no secret that the Japanese love to relax with a drink after a hard day’s work – and they’ve created the most delicious culture within a culture dedicated to just this – the Izakaya. They may seem as simple as food + beverage + atmosphere – but an Izakaya is so much more, and no two are the same.
We chat to a local Edokko with a passion for Izakaya, and about bar hopping in Tokyo with a local – Kanpai!
1.What makes the small bar scene in Tokyo so unique?
Izakayas are very different from traditional bars – the atmosphere is completely intoxicating. There’s a buzz in the air created by the people and their love for the diverse drinks and snacks on offer, and it’s all mixed in with the glow of ending a hard day’s work. And with so many Izakaya squished in together – it’s like a mini celebration every night on the streets of Tokyo.
2. What’s one thing you recommend to all of your guests?
Try something new! Tokyo’s bars serve up some delicious concoctions you won’t find anywhere else… My favourite is the Green Tea Hai – its a mix of green tea and shochu. The blend of the two really work well together and the sake almost hides itself in the drink. Each Izakaya generally has its own signature snack so of course, you’d be crazy not to try each one! Izakaya is not about staying in the same one all night – bar hop my friends!
3. It’s been a long day, you want to grab a drink on the way home – where do you go?
Kichijoji Harmonica Alley. It’s a bit out of the main tourist scene, but an awesome spot to go to for drinking, relaxing, and chatting with the neighbours. There’s over 100 bars here to choose from!
4. Favourite bar for pondering? Favourite bar for partying?
A bar for pondering… I’d pick any Izakaya that’s willing to let me sit down and relax and let me sip on my drinks while chatting with the other guests – I always try to pick the Izakayas that only fit 8 -12 people. You never know the story of the person right next to you. For partying, I go to the hub. It has something for everyone and so the area is so diverse which makes for a really fun night. I’d also recommend Harry’s Sandwich in Harajuku for amazing food and drinks. It’s near Shibuya and is a great spot for pre-partying.
5. Tokyo is famous for delicious bar snacks – what do you recommend?
Torikizoku is great for bar food. Everything is 300 yen and you can get a variety for the price. Yakitori is their specialty so any of the options is good. For any other bar snacks, I recommend karaage, edamame, tsukune(meatballs), kawa(chicken skin), buta-bara (pork belly). The list is infinite so just about anything is great to try at any bar. Don’t be afraid to push your boundaries!
6. After spending the day drinking beer at the rugby, where would you recommend one goes for a bowl of ramen?
Japan has so many ramen shops, it’s really hard to pick and choose my top ones. I do have a few favourite spots in Tokyo though. One being in Nakano broadway, called miso-Ichiban. Its miso-based ramen but the flavours are rich and juicy – it’s my go-to. Another spot is actually in Shibuya at the Ramen tower! Go to any floor of the tower and grab something amazing to try. I always get the Hokkaido ramen because they put a lot of flavours in it like butter, corn, cabbage, and a lot of meat! But there are five floors to choose from so you could really spend a long time here!
If you haven’t been to Tokyo before, I’d absolutely recommend a bar hopping tour! They’ll show you the secret haunts, as well as the really popular ones. It gives you a really good idea of what to look for and boosts your confidence so the next night you can explore even more.