居酒屋 Japan's Bar Scene: Why are Izakayas so Great?
JAPANESE WORD OF THE DAY:
居酒屋（いざかや）：Phonetically written, IZAKAYA, means bar, pub, or tavern.
One of the things I never really got into in America was the bar scene. I mean of course I have been to bars, but it's just the same ole, same ole. I feel like in America it's more of a right of passage, then some people grow out of it and some don't. Yes, I think there are good bars out there, but Brittany does not simply drink to get "tipsy". I enjoy the atmosphere, a good drink and socializing with my friend(s) when I go out. An Izakaya is more conducive to my style of enjoyment.
In the states I feel like most bars are just loud and the aim is only to drink and get drunk. However, izakayas in Japan are aimed more at socializing and enjoying your drinks with good food. I appreciate the Japanese mindset when it comes to enjoying your company because they provide services that cater to this idea. Izakayas typically have all you can eat (食べ放題) and all you can drink (飲み放題) deals, which means you pay a set price and can eat and/or drink all you want on average for about 2-3 hours. One additional comment I would like to add is the waiters don't continuously come to your table and bother you. Unless you call a waiter over or you press the button for assistance that is at your table, they are going to leave you in peace.
Izakayas..... Typically when you are out and about in Japan people keep to themselves, but not in izakayas. These are places where you can be very social, talk with strangers, waiters or waitresses, everyone seems to be very friendly here. I would like to warn foreigners that they most likely won't have English on the menu. Izakayas typically tend to accommodate to the locals. So now is your chance to practice your Japanese or hope someone there knows a little bit of English. Typically when you order food at izakayas it will be inexpensive and the portions will be smaller sizes. This is so that you can share with your table and try all the food together. You'd be surprised at what you like! One of my favorite Japanese dishes is tako wasabi (たこわさび) which is octopus chopped up and placed in a wasabi sauce blend. I never would have tried this if a Japanese person I was with hadn't ordered it and shared with me!
Japan's drinking culture? Yes, Japan's society is very open to drinking alcohol. There is so much to say about that so I'll save that for its own post. However, just a snippet of info... Japanese people will get together for "drinking parties" with colleagues, not just a few times per year, but on a regular basis (side note: typically the parties are mandatory). They also do a drinking party at the end of every year called bōnenkai (忘年会) which means, forget the year party. Drinking is very embedded into their culture in many ways and it isn't a shameful action as long as you keep it together and know your limits. Like I said before there is so much to be said about Japan's drinking culture so I'll save that for a separate post.
If you have any questions or comments, you know what to do...