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Kichijoji's Iseya serves delicious grilled chicken skewers, or yakitori, for just 90 yen each. Food is cooked-to-order, and all customers feel the shop's warm hospitality. Learn more about this restaurant, why it is favorite of many locals, and why you should eat your next meal at Iseya.
Read more to learn about this restaurant and its exquisite yakitori, popular with residents for decades.
Iseya, which appears in the popular Japanese drama "GTO," and the movie "Ten Ten," starring famous actor Joe Odagiri, is one of Kichijoji's favorite places to eat for residents.
It started out as a butcher shop when it opened in 1928 but later began to serve food. It eventually became a yakitori restaurant upon customer requests.
Iseya stays open year-round, even when there's a typhoon or heavy rain. In fact, many regular customers will visit regardless of the poor weather.
Iseya has three locations in Kichijoji. Due to deterioration, the building that housed the original main shop was rebuilt on the present site. It has the same atmosphere and flavor of the original building. The exterior in particular has been faithfully reproduced.
People of all ages line up in front of Iseya in order to buy yakitori daily. You can also see the hard-working staff members grilling the chicken yakitori, completely focused on the task at hand.
With almost thirty years of work experience at this location, we asked employees what is special about Iseya.
The restaurant manager told us: "Here, everyone treats one another as friends, whether they're staff members or customers. Regular customers are greeted by the nicknames we give them. Many regulars have been coming to Iseya for more than ten years and they tend to drop in at a certain time of day. If they don't show up when they're supposed to, we actually start to worry about them!"
When first-time customers take a look at the shop's menu, they are usually surprised. At other shops, one bamboo skewer of yakitori is usually more than 100 yen. But here at Iseya, all yakitori is priced at 90 yen!
Menus are available in Chinese, English, and Korean, so international visitors can place their orders worry-free.
On this particular visit, we ordered the Mixed Yakitori Plate (4 yakitori varieties for 360 yen). You can also order skewers individually for 90 yen each.
The liver yakitori, which is part of the Mixed Yakitori Plate, has a clean, refreshing taste. Even those not used to liver can enjoy this skewer.
"Furisode," or shoulder meat, is tender but also has a satisfying firm texture. It is flavorful and will keep you wanting more.
The vegetables served at Iseya are grown in Japan. The negi (green onions), which are also grilled on a skewer, have a thin texture and natural sweetness; a charcoal-grilled aroma fills your mouth as soon as you take a bite.
You can choose between salt or tare (savory sauce) for the skewer flavor. The sauce, made on the restaurant premises, comes from a secret recipe.
Each skewer has a great taste that will keep you satisfied bite after bite.
There is a plate-of-the-day available exclusively for regular customers. The Day's Surprise Dish is decided upon each day by the shop staff and features dishes besides yakitori. During the winter, warm, comforting foods and even beef bowls (gyudon) are served.
One of the ways in which regular customers enjoy their Iseya experience is to first sit in their usual seat, then order a cold beer to accompany The Day's Surprise Dish.
In addition, regular customers can personally choose who they would like to cook their food. By doing so, customers can ensure that the flavor of the yakitori they enjoyed on their previous visit, will be duplicated this time as well. There's no additional charge for this service!
Iseya has a friendly environment with residents and many regular customers, and is a welcoming space that even solo diners can feel comfortable visiting.
Take your time and savor this delicious and reasonably-priced food and the restaurant's distinct atmosphere.
*This article was originally written in Chinese (traditional version), then translated and re-edited first into Japanese before into English.