What is Traditional Izakaya?
Izakaya is a type of Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food. The word "izakaya" literally translates to "stay-in sake shop", as it is meant to be a place where people can gather to drink and eat in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Traditionally, izakayas were small, local pubs that served primarily men, but today izakayas have evolved to cater to a wider audience. They are now found all over Japan and offer a wide variety of dishes, from traditional Japanese fares like sashimi, yakitori and tempura, to more contemporary options like pasta and pizza.
Izakayas are known for their lively and convivial atmosphere and are often crowded with groups of friends, coworkers and families. Drinking is an important part of the izakaya culture, and most izakayas serve a variety of alcoholic beverages, including beer, sake, shochu and whiskey. When you visit an izakaya, expect to be greeted with a warm and friendly atmosphere, enjoy a wide variety of Japanese dishes and drinks, and be surrounded by locals who are out to have a good time. It's a great way to enjoy Japanese culture, good food and drinks, and make some new friends.
Explore the Izakaya Culture in Tokyo
Exploring the izakaya culture in Tokyo is a must-do for you if you are looking to immerse yourself in the local experience. The izakaya is a casual drinking establishment that serves food and offers a great way to experience the country’s famous social atmosphere and taste the different local food and drinks. Tokyo is home to a wide variety of izakayas, from traditional, family-run establishments to modern, trendy bars. Some izakayas focus on a specific type of food, such as yakitori or seafood, while others have a specific type of drink, such as sake or whisky, in which they specialise.
Many izakayas have an extensive menu that includes not only traditional Japanese dishes but also a selection of western food. Some izakayas also have standing-only areas where you can grab a quick drink and meet the locals who are also on a break from work or looking for a casual hangout spot. When ordering, most izakayas have an English menu available or staff who speak enough English to guide you through the menu. It is common to order a few dishes to share, and it is also customary to pour drinks for others and to be poured for. It's a great way to make new friends and experience the convivial atmosphere that izakayas are known for.
Top 10 Izakaya Tours in Tokyo
1. Izakaya Food Tour in Shinjuku
This tour offers an opportunity to explore the bustling area of Shinjuku in Tokyo while trying a variety of Japanese foods and drinks. You will visit two popular izakaya restaurants, learn about their food culture and history, and have the chance to connect with other food enthusiasts. Additionally, there is an optional sake-tasting session featuring more than 5 different types of craft and seasonal sake at a sake bar in Shinjuku. It is important to note that the tour involves a significant amount of walking, so comfortable shoes are recommended. You should also inform the guide of any food restrictions or allergies before the tour. The maximum number of guests is 10, including those from other platforms. The tour includes full-size dinner samplings and two drinks of your choice. The food tour can be purchased for US$ 96 (about ₹ 7,876.00) from Airbnb.
2. The Shinjuku Izakaya Tour
The Shinjuku Izakaya Tour offers a classic Japanese experience with fresh local food and drinks as you get to explore the busiest area of Tokyo in Shinjuku. The tour lasts for 3.5 hours and includes dinner and drinks. The minimum number of participants is 2 and the maximum is 10 per tour. The tour also offers an optional mini sake-tasting course before the tour starts. You can enjoy 7+ delicious Japanese food tastings, enough for a full dinner meal, served from 3 selected restaurants. This tour is extremely popular among first-time visitors. Drinks to accompany the izakaya-style dinner are included, with a choice of beer, sake and other drinks. You will explore Shinjuku, visiting famous must-see spots as well as hidden gems. You will also enjoy unique views of Tokyo's neon town, Kabukicho. The tour costs US$ $87 (about ₹ 7,100.00) per person and can be purchased from Ninja Food Tours.
3. Shinjuku After Dark Izakaya Tour
The Shinjuku After Dark Izakaya Tour offers a one-of-its-kind experience of discovering the best local restaurants and bars in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. Guided by a knowledgeable local tour guide, you will be taken to some of the most authentic izakayas, including standing bars and Yakitori (chicken skewer) bars, and will avoid the tourist traps. Throughout the tour, you will have the opportunity to enjoy traditional drinks such as sake, beer and more. The tour will also take you through the Kabukicho red-light district, providing an inside look into Japanese nightlife culture. Additionally, you will visit a famous drinking district dating back to the 1940s, where over 200 small bars are located in a small area, providing a truly unique experience.
You will have the opportunity to visit 1-2 bars and will receive recommendations for other bars to check out after the tour is over. The tour includes 4 dishes of Japanese meat, fish, and vegetable dishes, as well as at least 4 kinds of Japanese deep-fried skewers, and a total of 3 drinks, including 1 complimentary drink at each of the first two Japanese restaurants and 1 in the bar. The night tour can be purchased for US$ 118 (about ₹ 9,600.00) from ByFood.
4. Kabukicho Izakaya Food Tour
This tour takes you through the vibrant districts of Shinjuku Golden Gai and Kabukicho in Tokyo, known for their abundance of bars and restaurants. A guide leads the group on a walking tour, highlighting the best food stops and delving into the area's rich history. You will get to try delicious Japanese dishes like ramen and yakitori and explore the famous entertainment area of Omoide Yokocho. You will also visit the largest and safest red light district in Asia, Kabukicho, and conclude the tour in the Golden Gai neighborhood, famous for its nightlife with over 200 pubs, stalls and karaoke bars. Fianlly, you get the opportunity to sample different local and seasonal dishes at different food stops and end the tour with a cool drink at a local bar. This intimate and unique experience can be purchased for US$ 194 (about ₹ 15,700.00) from Viator.
5. Hidden Izakaya and Sake Pub Crawl Tour
This tour takes you to some of Tokyo's best-hidden izakaya pubs where you can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of Japanese-style pubs. The tour is a wonderful way for you to spend the evening and see the real nightlife of Tokyo. The tour guide is an expert in finding fantastic pub locations in Japan, including hidden taverns that only locals know about, as well as popular tourist attractions. The tour will introduce you to local pubs such as the traveler-friendly Loco Pub and the Self-Employment restaurant, which has been around for decades but is not known to many. If desired, the guide can also take you through famous tourist places in Tokyo such as Akihabara, where you can experience the pulse of anime dance music on the streets and enjoy watching cartoons at Moe Moe Kyun Maid Café. The tour can be purchased for US$ 44 (about ₹ 3,600.00) from Rakuten Travel Experiences.
6. Private Tokyo Food Tour - Retro Akabane Izakaya Experience
This private Tokyo food tour takes you to the residential neighbourhood of Akabane in Northern Tokyo, a popular evening destination for locals. An English-speaking guide will walk you through the narrow alleys of Akabane, which are lined with red paper lanterns, and also take you to 3 traditional izakayas. You will get to experience the nightlife in a relaxed way and get an opportunity to try at least 10 Japanese delicacies and 3 drinks like sake, shochu and hoppy. You will visit Akabane's Ichibangai Street which consists of many places to eat and drink, and the guide will recommend the best dishes to try based on your palate. You will get to stop by a raucous local standing bar, enjoy traditional 'oden' at an Akabane institution and brush shoulders with locals at a traditional izakaya before grilling seafood at a specialty seafood grill. This tour provides a chance for you to experience traditional food and drink in an off-the-beaten-track neighbourhood for US$ 235 (about ₹ 19,300.00) and can be booked from Viator.
7. Japanese Sake Lesson & Tasting at Izakaya Pub
This Japanese Sake Lesson & Tasting Tour experience is perfect for those of you who enjoy drinking and are interested in trying Japanese sake. The guide is an expert in sake and food. The tour will take place at a local izakaya restaurant known for its tasty Yakitori (grilled chicken skewer), located just 4 minute's walk from Shinjuku Station. During the lesson, you will learn about how sake is made, the different types available, the strong points of each brand, and their taste preferences. After the lesson, you will have the opportunity to taste 2 types of sake chosen by the guide and then choose one more to taste it yourself. The tour includes 3 appetizers to enjoy with the sake. This tour can be purchased for US$ 56 (about ₹ 4,600.00) from Viator.
8. Tokyo Food and Drink: Izakaya Tour
This Tokyo Food and Drink: Izakaya Tour offers an opportunity for you to experience the classic Japanese tapas-style drinking and dining culture. The tour is led by local experts who will help you navigate the often Japanese-only menu and decide what to try. The tour operates in the Ueno, Shinbashi, or Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo. You will be able to discover the best izakaya in town and enjoy different kinds of delicious food and drinks. This tour is a great way for you to immerse yourself in the local culture and make the most of your time in Tokyo. The tour can be purchased for US$ 94 (about ₹ 7,700.00) from Tokyo Cheapo.
9. Fun Izakaya Tour: Drink & Bites in Tokyo by Night
The Drinks & Bites in Tokyo Tour is an exciting way to discover the nightlife while tasting typical local drinks perfectly paired with delicious native bites. Join a local nightlife expert and discover how the locals unwind in Tokyo. This tour includes a private guide, 3 snacks, 3 drinks (non-alcoholic options available), and vegetarian alternatives. The tour is perfect for you if you are looking for a fun night out in Tokyo, visiting vibrant hotspots favoured by locals, and getting the perfect nightlife introduction to the city. Join the tour and fall in love with the night atmosphere of Tokyo, and it's best nightlife hotspots in the Kichioji district for US$ 99 (about ₹ 8,000.00) from Withlocals.
10. 3-Hour Food & Cultural Tour - The Best of Izakaya
This Izakaya Food Tour in Shinjuku offers a unique opportunity to experience Tokyo nightlife like a local. Led by a guide, the tour takes you through the Shinjuku district, known for its many izakayas, which are informal Japanese pubs. The tour visits at least 3 different izakayas where you can enjoy at least 7 classic Japanese dishes, accompanied by drinks. The tour is limited to a small group of 10 people, ensuring an intimate experience. The tour starts in Nishi Shinjuku, continues through the Kabukicho district, known for its downtown atmosphere, and ends in the Shinjuku Golden Gai neighborhood, famous for its nightlife. Along the way, the tour also visits Omoide Yokocho, an iconic alley of Shinjuku. The food and cultural tour can be purchased for US$ 114 (about ₹ 9,400.00) from Viator.
11. Tokyo Bar Hopping Night Tour in Shinjuku
This Tokyo Bar Hopping Night Tour in Shinjuku is unique because it offers a pub crawl of the hidden bars in Shinjuku that are typically difficult for tourists to find out at night. The tour includes local street food and drinks that are highly recommended by locals, and all the food and drinks are included in the tour price. The tour also includes a friendly local guide who will lead the group to 3 hidden local bars and pubs, and take photos during the tour. Izakaya are exclusive to Japan and are known for being small, cozy bars or pubs that serve small plates of food and alcohol to be enjoyed together. On the tour, you will have the opportunity to try a variety of delicious and authentic local foods such as Yakitori, Gyoza, Fried Tofu and more. You will also be able to sample Japanese sake, cold beer and other local drinks that can only be found in Japan. Additionally, the tour offers a choice of a vegan menu for the included dinner meal. The tour guide will lead you to the favourite spots and give you a unique experience of Tokyo's culinary scene for US$ 94 (about ₹ 7,700.00) from Magical Trip.
Manners and Etiquette to be Followed During Izakaya Tours
When on an izakaya tour, it is important to follow certain manners and etiquette to ensure a pleasant experience for all involved. Some key manners and etiquette to follow include:
- Arriving on Time: Make sure to arrive at the designated meeting place at the agreed-upon time. Being late can cause inconvenience to the tour guide and other participants.
- Dress Code: Dress appropriately for the occasion, keeping in mind that izakayas are often casual places. Avoid wearing too formal or revealing clothing.
- Ordering and Paying: Wait for the tour guide to give instructions on how to order and pay for your food and drinks. Follow their lead and do not order or pay for anything without their guidance.
- Sharing Food: Many izakayas serve dishes that are meant to be shared among the group. Be sure to take turns and only take what you can eat.
- Drinking and Smoking: Follow the rules of the izakaya regarding drinking and smoking. Some izakayas may have specific rules or designated smoking areas.
- Being Respectful: Show respect to the tour guide and other participants by being courteous and polite. Avoid loud or disruptive behaviour that can disturb other patrons or the staff.
- Tipping: Tipping is not expected in Japan, but a small gesture of appreciation can be given to the tour guide at the end of the tour if you feel he has done a good job.
Plan and Book Your Izakaya Tour in Tokyo Well in Advance
As you would have realised by now izakaya tours are extremely popular in Tokyo. Most of these tours are small group or private tours with limited number of guests per tour. It is therefore important that you make your reservations well in advance and don't miss out on the tour of your choice. We hope this BP Guide would have helped as a good starting point for your next izakaya tour in Tokyo. Share your experiences with us and stay connected for more such engaging content.