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But I Didn't Order This Appetizer: Otōshi At Izakayas

But I Didn't Order This Appetizer: Otōshi At Izakayas

2016.04.17

Otōshi is the appetizer which accompanies the first drink ordered at an izakaya. First-time visitors might be confused by this practice, that is why we explain it here.

Translated by Lester Somera

Written by Ai Yoneda

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When you order your first drink at an izakaya in Japan, it will come with a food item in a small bowl. This is called otōshi.

Otōshi is a simple dish intended to whet the customers’ appetite before their food arrives and is provided for each person, or is to be shared at the table, without being ordered. The charge for otōshi is added onto the total bill for food, so someone visiting an izakaya for the first time might be confused by this. This article will explain what otōshi is.

The Origins of Otōshi

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Many izakayas will charge an additional fee for otōshi

We will touch briefly on the origins of otōshi. In Japan, leading a customer to his or her seat is called “otōshi suru.” One theory suggests that this is how otōshi got its name.

Well, how did the cultural practice of otōshi begin? First, set the stage in your mind - think about having a drink at a restaurant.

When customers order food, there is a wait before it comes out of the kitchen.

On the other hand, drinks are served earlier, so in the intervening time, customers have nothing to eat while they drink. Otōshi is intended to be an appetizer until the food arrives. In other words, it is a considerate gesture from the restaurant to its customers.

Now, it is standard practice for the cost of otōshi to be included on the bill. Since the practice is thought of as customary, it is not often explained beforehand. In Kantō, it is called “otōshi,” while in Kansai, it is called “tsukidashi.”

Can You Decline Otōshi?

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Can you say “no” to otōshi?

It varies from izakaya to izakaya. In some places, if you tell the staff beforehand that you don’t want otōshi, then they will remove the otōshi charge from the bill. However, in cases where the cost of otōshi doubles as the seating charge, you cannot refuse it. In either case, you should check with the staff. At an izakaya targeted at the general public, the otōshi charge per person ranges from 300 to 500 yen.

Since you know about the system now, you shouldn’t be confused when you go to an izakaya for the first time. We hope this article was helpful for you.

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