But first, what is an izakaya?
Izakaya are where bars and restaurants meet in the middle, think a tapas place, but Japanesey. They serve pre-dinner bites like tempura and sashimi, but the focus is on alcohol. Some of these places have all-you-can-eat or all-you-can-drink deals too. When in Tokyo, most people come straight from work to wind down over drinks and food after a long day. Join in, and you’ll see why izakaya evenings are a huge part of the Japanese lifestyle.
#1 Kotaro 高太郎
This place has a wait list that runs up to a month, so save your seats well in advance (like n0w?). Kotaro is tucked in an alley behind the Cerulean Tower, but it’s no secret that they’re famous for dishing out potesera, a potato salad (to put it mildly) topped with cherry-wood smoked chips and mustard vinaigrette.
Address: 28-2 Sakuragaokacho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0031, Japan
Open from: 6:00pm-1:00am. Closed on Sundays
Two words: raw chicken. Not a meal recommended anywhere else in the world (don’t try this at home, kids) chicken sashimi here is actually pretty delicious! Savour every bite because you may never have it again. The izakaya has good views of sakura trees during the cherry blossom season — can you say sakura and sake?
Address: 2-18-3 Nishigotanda, Shinagawa 141-0031, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
Open from: 5:00pm-11:00pm. Closed on Sundays
They only have sake and beer for drinks here, but that’s not a problem. This izakaya brings in fresh seafood every morning, which pairs excellently with the 10 sakes on the menu that have been specially selected by the owner. Don’t forget to make reservations here too as it’s another hugely popular spot on the list.
Address: 12-2 Maruyamacho Shibuya Tokyo
Open from: 8:00pm-11:00pm
The food menu goes beyond the usual Japanese cuisine, including even fresh foie gras imported from Hungary. Women love this izakaya because they have a “Girls’ Night Course” where you can sample absolutely everything from the menu in tiny portions, and at a set price. Still, it’s not uncommon to see more girls than guys here on any night of the week.
Address: 1-3 Maruyamacho, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
Open from: Hours not available
#5 Shinagawa Highball Bar
Here’s another one with a little international influence. The menu is influenced by French and Italian dining, presenting dishes like beef tendon cooked with red wine, and pork Milanese (so good!). And… they’ve also got a “Girls’ Night Out” menu and a very tempting cocktail list.
Address: 2 Chome-2-10 Konan, Minato, Tokyo 108-0075, Japan
Open from: 11:00am-11:30pm/12:00am, and till 4:00am on Fridays
World, hold on.
Image credit: Main