Dining in izakayas is very popular among both Japanese people and foreigners. Izakayas are traditional Japanese bars and are casual places where you go to drink and eat. They usually have huge menus, consisting of mostly Japanese food. Most items come in small portions, similar to tapas, that everyone shares.  Many companies host their company dinners or after-work drinking sessions in izakayas, and it’s also a popular spot for groups of friends.

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If you’ve ever strolled through the bustling streets of Shibuya or Shinjuku and found yourself beckoned by someone waving a small menu, chances are you’ve stumbled upon an izakaya.

There’s a variety of izakayas to explore, from well-known chains to quaint local spots, upscale establishments, and even fusion joints.

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Street lights

Why do people love going to izakayas so much? 

So, why are izakayas such a hit? Firstly, they’re all about sharing. The portions are usually small, ideal for sampling a range of dishes, unlike traditional restaurants where everyone orders their own meal.

Moreover, izakayas won’t break the bank. You can find plates for as little as 300 yen (around £2). Imagine indulging in skewers, gyoza, a piping hot bowl of rice, noodles, and a refreshing beer, all for just 300 yen each!

The best places and everything about all-you-can-eat, Tabehoudai izakaya in Japan torikizoku yakitori

Unlike many other eateries in Japan, izakayas are lively places where you can let loose without worrying about disturbing others. It’s not uncommon to see merry groups of locals chatting and laughing raucously. Plus, many izakayas offer private rooms, perfect for a more intimate gathering—especially handy in a country where spacious apartments are a rarity.

Once you’re in, time seems to slip away effortlessly in izakayas. The snug seating and welcoming atmosphere make it easy to lose track of hours. Even during peak times, you’ll usually have a generous two to three hours to savour your food, sip your drinks, and soak up the lively ambience.

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Here are some of the must-try food and drinks in izakayas. 

Must-Try Izakaya Drinks

You’ll be surprised how many drinks there are on an izakaya menu, so here are a few classic options. You’ll find both Western and Japanese beverages. If you aren’t familiar with Japanese alcohol, check out our list of all Japanese alcohols. Check out Japanese beers, and also the incredible Strong Zero here.


Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Beer

Izakayas typically offer a selection of beers to choose from, which is often the go-to option for visitors.

Nihonshu (Sake)

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While many izakayas don’t specialize in nihonshu, you can still dip your toes into the scene and find a decent selection.


Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Highball

One intriguing choice is the highball, a blend of whisky and soda often served on tap, gaining popularity in recent years and definitely worth a try!


Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Shochu

Shochu, akin to Japanese vodka, is commonly served with water, either chilled or warm. Feel free to ask the servers for recommendations if you’re unsure.


Umeshu, japanese plum wine

If you’ve never sampled umeshu, you’re missing out! This plum wine offers a sweet yet subtly tangy taste, perfect on the rocks for a refreshing treat that can catch up with you quickly!


Close up image of people drinking cocktails

For those craving familiar flavours, izakayas also serve up Western cocktails like gin and tonic, Moscow mule, or rum and coke. Just don’t expect them to pack a punch, as they often contain a modest amount of alcohol.


Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Cassis

Cassis is a popular choice for those with a lower alcohol tolerance or a preference for sweeter drinks. Made from blackcurrants, it pairs well with orange juice or soda, making it a refreshing option to cap off your night out.

Must-Try Izakaya Eats


Japanese things you can do during lockdown, Japanese food and drinks gyoza

In izakayas, you’ll often find grilled or pan-fried gyoza, typically stuffed with a mixture of pork and vegetables. They usually come in servings of five or six pieces, with the option to order more if you’re hooked.


Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki, a Japanese omelette, might seem simple, but trust me, it’s incredibly tasty and a popular choice at izakayas. Some places even offer different variations, adding an extra flair to this classic dish.


Top 8 healthy Japanese food Edamame

Similar to chips, edamame is an irresistible snack at izakayas—steamed or boiled bean pods sprinkled with salt. Simple yet delicious!


The best places and everything about all-you-can-eat, Tabehoudai in Japan izakaya with fried chicken

For izakaya aficionados, deep-fried chicken is a must-try—lightly coated in flour or potato starch and expertly fried to perfection, it’s a crispy delight unlike Western fried chicken.



Chicken wings, known as tebasaki, are another izakaya favourite, prepared in various styles such as fried with soy sauce or deep-fried with salt, offering a tantalising range of flavours.


The best places and everything about all-you-can-eat, Tabehoudai in Japan all you can sashimi

Many izakayas offer tempting sashimi plates featuring a selection of fresh fish, perfect for those eager to explore different types of sashimi.


Jimami Tofu

Surprisingly, tofu is also a star at izakayas, served plain or deep-fried with soy sauce, radish, ginger, green onion, and fish flakes, offering a burst of textures and flavours.


Yakitori collection

Yakitori, a staple of izakaya dining, offers a variety of skewers to mix and match, making it perfect for sharing and exploring different flavours. Check out our list of all the different types of yakitori you can try! We personally love yakitori so much, we’ve put it on our list of must-try Japanese foods!


Cabbage is a common complimentary dish served at izakayas, often accompanied by miso or sauce on the side, making it a simple yet satisfying accompaniment to your meal.


Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya yakisoba

And to end your feast on a high note, indulge in some yakisoba—fried noodles with meat, vegetables, and soy sauce—a popular Japanese dish that’s a must-try at any izakaya.

Savouring the Izakaya Experience: A Culinary Adventure in Japan

As you delve into the vibrant world of izakayas in Japan, you embark on a culinary journey filled with tantalising flavours and delightful discoveries. From the sizzle of grilled gyoza to the comforting warmth of tamagoyaki, each dish tells a story of tradition and innovation.

Whether you’re savouring the simplicity of edamame or indulging in the complex textures of yakitori, every bite is a celebration of Japanese culture and hospitality. So, next time you find yourself wandering the streets of Japan, be sure to step into an izakaya, where unforgettable memories and mouth-watering experiences await.

Cheers to good food, good company, and the joy of exploration!

Check out every Japanese food you should try, fusion dishes, types of ramen, ramen chains, yakitori, food and drinks at izakaya, fast food chains in Japan, and healthy food in Japan!