Izakayas in Tokyo are some of the best places to go to get a real feel for the city. Often overlooked by tourists, during the week you’ll find them filled with groups of co-workers out on a work party or ‘nomikai’, whilst groups of friends will often head to an izakaya over the weekend. Izakayas are Japanese style pubs, where you can also order small dishes to share ranging from meat skewers to deep-fried tofu. Izakayas in Japan come in chains, but many are also independently owned, so you’ll find the style and atmosphere vary greatly depending on where you go. Our advice would be to make friends with locals who can take you to all the off-the-beaten-path places that you won’t find by searching on the internet, but here’s also a few of our recommendations to get you started!
Did you know if you download the OodyMate app you can meet up for free with locals in Japan who know where to eat in Tokyo and can take you to all the hidden gems you won’t find on sites like TripAdvisor! Download it here now and join the meetup group here to find out about future events.
1. Punk Rock Izakaya in Daikanyama
Daikanyama is a trendy neighborhood in Tokyo, within walking distance of Shibuya station. The basement located Tatemichiya is a Punk Rock Izakaya popular with non-Japanese expats and locals, whose walls are lined with band posters of groups such as The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. Menu items include charcoal-grilled chicken skewers and avocado steaks.
2. Hanbey in Shibuya
Hanbey is a chain of retro Showa era themed izakayas with locations in Shibuya, Ueno, and Shinjuku amongst others. If you’re looking for cheap izakayas in Japan, Hanbey is a no-brainer. They’re extremely popular with younger crowds and you’ll often find groups of college students dining here thanks to the budget-friendly menu. Many items on the menu will cost 100 yen with drinks prices averaging around 300 yen each. Also, if you’re female, you can get a free dessert item!
3. Gonpachi in Nishi-Azabu
Gonpachi is a well-known slightly more upmarket izakaya chain than the likes of Hanbey. The most famous of all the branches is the one in Nishi-Azabu, which is said to be the inspiration for the restaurant where the Crazy 88 gang attack Beatrix in the movie Kill Bill. This restaurant has even played host to former US presidents so you can be assured of the high quality of the food. Most people come here for the atmosphere and the photo opportunities, but they are also known for their homemade soba noodles so be sure to give them a try!
4. Torikizoku in Shinjuku
Another popular izakaya chain is Torikizoku, who specialize in yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). If you’re feeling brave you can try the chicken liver or cartilage skewers, which are both common yakitori menu items. Like Hanbey, Torikizoku is very easy on the wallet, every item is priced at just 280 yen, including alcoholic drinks. Torikizoku has over 100 locations in the Tokyo region alone, so wherever you’re staying, there’s sure to be one nearby!
5. Isomaru Suisan in Ueno
Our final recommendation for izakayas in Tokyo is a seafood specialist izakaya chain, Isomaru Suisan. This chain specializes in hamayaki, which is the style of cooking where you can grill fresh fish right at your table. The décor is beach house inspired featuring fisherman’s flags and paper lanterns. Isomaru Suisan is a good option if you want to try a variety of Japanese seafood at a reasonable price. They also have an English menu online that you can check out here.
Now that you have an idea of what izakayas are all about why not download the OodyMate app here and meet up with locals in Tokyo who you can share your izakaya experience with!