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Izakaya Basics: A “How-To” Of Ordering And Etiquette In Japanese Bars

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A "how-to" guide for English speakers when visiting an izakaya in Japan. Learn what an izakaya is, how to order, what are the etiquette rules and how to make the most of your experience.

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When visiting Japan, it’s only natural that you might want to enjoy the Japanese dining experience and get a taste of living like a local. Sure, there’s plenty of dining options in the busy tourist areas with staff who have enough English to save your frustration or embarrassment, and of course, if you say “Big Mac” enough times at the Golden Arches, then you won’t go hungry. But that’s not why you’re visiting Japan, right?

What Is An Izakaya And Why Should You Visit One?

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The second part to that question could perhaps be rephrased to “…why should you visit as many as you can?” Once you get the hang of it enough to discard those initial feelings of intimidation, you’ll almost certainly be visiting more than once. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Literally translated into English, “izakaya” means "dine-in sake shop". It’s an informal affair where you order drinks alongside small dishes of food. It's all about eating, drinking and being merry – Japanese style. This is the place where friends meet up or for co-workers to get together. It’s a place for an office worker or “salaryman” to loosen both tie and tongue. Basically, it’s a uniquely Japanese take on a bar or pub.

If it sounds great, that’s because it is! However, for a non-Japanese speaker to get the most out of the experience there are a few pieces of information you’ll want to arm yourself with before stepping inside.

Next Page The first steps, on the next page.

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