On Monday, everyone who is taking a Japanese class at ICU had their final exam. For a lot of my friends, this meant that they were done for the semester. What to do with our time?
So here’s a brief guide to some of the Izakayas I have been to in Tokyo.
The Classy Izakaya: Bakawari – 1 Chome-10-22 Kichijoji, Kitamachi, Musashino-shi, Tokyo-to
I talked about Bakawari a little bit in a previous post. Apparently some pretty famous YouTubers called Simon and Martina posted a video about it called “our favorite Izakaya.” Since then, Bakawari has seen an uptick in international customers, like my friend A, who brought me and another friend along. We knew that if we want to have great fun and conversation before we *sniff* never saw each other again, this was a great place to do it.
The Izakaya is a little hard to find, but it is always crowded so its best to make a reservation. For example, even though it was only Monday, we were not alone in the bar, and by the time we left at about 8 it was pretty cozy.
I think the thing that makes this particular izakaya so fun is the staff. When my friend made the reservation, they opened with a super enthusiastic “konnnnnnNICHIWA!” And that kind of sets the vibe for the entire visit. We were served by a really sweet girl who was our age, and enthusiastically asked us about our time abroad and our time studying Japanese, and even more enthusiastically brought us plates and plates of super delicious food.
Because let’s be real – nice staff is one thing, great food is a whole ‘nother ball game.
We had Hokkaido pork that was steamed for 10 seconds on each side – basically rare, basically delicious. Chicken heart. Sashimi. Hand rolled Tuna sushi. Tompeyaki. Edamame. All accompanied by really great alcohol. Obviously they have beer on tap, but if you go, you should follow my Japanese lesson for today.
If you ever want to ask what a recommendation (Osusume) is, just say “何か、おすすめありますか。” “Nanika, osusume arimasuka?” Do you have a recommendation for something?
I did exactly that and ended up with nihonshu (what we think of as sake) from our servers hometown, and another glass from Shizuoka. The alcohol flows here – literally. They will pour until your glass overflows and then empties into a thing that looks a bit like an ash tray. They also have hot nihonshu, soju, umeshu, fruit based drinks… really this is the best type of izakaya.
Bakawari has two downsides. First, is that there is no English menu, and the Japanese menu is… artistic. And changes every day. So its a little hard to read. But the staff are super helpful and really nice, and will definitely physically show you (or just bring you) whatever you want.
Of course, all of this niceness and deliciousness comes at a price. This place will run you about 3000 yen a head – as someone who is just entering adulthood and still doesn’t have an actual income, that hurts a little. But for that price you get to go behind the grill and flip your own tompeyaki, jam out to rock ghibli tunes, and eat your fill. Also get a little tipsy, and afterwards go sing karaoke disney songs. Or maybe that’s just us.
The Meatlovers Izakaya: Torikizoku – Literally Everywhere
So Bakawari is charming, and a great place to just go out. What’s a gal to do if she wants to get drunk for cheap, have a few snacks to stave off the alcohol poisoning, and go out on the town? Torikizoku is that place.焼鳥屋（居酒屋）焼き鳥なら鳥貴族 (note: website is in Japanese)
Nearly everything on the menu is 280 yen. For that you get like, three sticks of meat, but who can complain when its that cheap? The alcohol is also all around 280 yen, so drink and eat to your hearts content.
My friends and I normally end up spending 1000 – 1500 yen here, but if you do want to go hard with a lot of people they have an 8 person and up tabenomihoudai (remember the last lesson?) for 2800 yen. That seems like a steal, especially when you consider you’d spend something similar at a normal izakaya, but honestly its hard to eat and drink that much in one sitting. You basically have to be pounding back drinks and food to get your money’s worth. Better to get to 2800 leisurely and be just as drunk and much less harried.
The Cheapest of the Cheap’s Izakaya: 居酒屋一休
So this place is the place where you go on a Thirsty Thursday to get pretty drunk with your friends and relatively cheap alcohol. Now, I will go with the disclaimer that overall this place is more expensive than Torikizoku. So why is it under cheapest of the cheap?
Discounts, my friends, discounts.
For 300 yen, you can buy a group card, which will give you access to this place’s “special days.” Which is basically every day. Tuesday is Ladies night, so half off for women. Any day that ends in a nine (the place’s name is ikkyuu, and kyu is nine in Japanese) is half off. Fridays and Saturdays food is 20 percent off. Then come the coupons. Really, this place is the Kohls of izakayas. Yes, the clothes are expensive on their own, but if everything is always on sale and you can get a sale on the sale… whose counting?
For example, take this decanter of nihonshu. This is enough for two shots per person for eight people. We got the large one for the table, much to the surprise of the waiter who served us who thought that a) we couldn’t handle it, and b) that foreigners don’t drink nihonshu. I am pretty sure what ends up happening is most people who visit Japan don’t speak great Japanese and end up ordering beer because its familiar and non-scary but I digress.
Any way that entire decanter was only 200 yen. Was it the best nihonshu I have ever consumed? Of course not. Will it get job done? Oh yes. I was pleasantly drunk (and full – I hadn’t eaten dinner prior to this) by the time we left, all for 1200 yen.
Not bad at all.