FOOD and DRINK are the highlights during Japan trips. There are a crazy amount of choices to eat in Japan but not everybody can go to fancy restaurant every night.

So, where do the normal Japanese workers go for reasonable dinner and nice selections of the drink? The Answer is “Izakaya Restaurant”.

In Japan, “居酒屋(izakaya)” is a very common and popular place to eat dinner. It is Japanese style pub. Adults can enjoy a drink and options commonly include rice wine and reasonable small Japanese (or any kind of) dishes.

Typically, there are so many izakaya restaurants around train stations in the cities for Japanese office workers, just like the main character Kobayashi went to for a popular anime “Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid”. She sometimes drink with coworkers or by herself after work.

Let’s learn about the Japanese Culture at restaurants from the show!

What is the Cloth Over the Entrance of Japanese Store or Restaurant?

Japanese Culture Izakaya

This is the entrance of izakaya Restaurant that Kobayashi goes. It looks very local and I can tell they serve mainly Japanese food.

The red rectangle cloth over the door called “のれん(noren)”. Originally Noren is used for shading, but the one at the entrance of a store or a restaurant indicates whether it’s open or not. Noren is taken away when they close everyday.

Noren is old Japanese culture but so many stores have it even today. When you go in, use your hand to part the noren cloth and avoid hitting your head on it. Then open the door.

Japanese Culture Noren

And also you may see the prices and how those dishes look like at the entrance. Showing plastic food sample is a big Japanese Culture.

Fake Plastic Food Samples at the Entrance of a Restaurant in Japan
Fake Plastic Food Samples at the Entrance of a Restaurant in Japan

Meanings of Kanji Signs around the Entrance

Back to the entrance of izakaya Restaurant that Kobayashi goes.

Japanese Culture Izakaya

The top sign says “酒処 酔龍洞(sake-dokoro Sui-ryu-dou)”. Each kanji means 酒(sake, alcohol), 処(place), 酔(drunk), 龍(dragon), 洞(cave)…so, this izakaya’s name is like “Bar – Drunk Dragon Cave”.

“ごはん処(gohan-dokoro)” is one of the ways to say a “restaurant”. Now we are sure that we can enjoy not only drink but also food here. “レストラン(restaurant)” or “お食事処(osyokuji-dokoro)” are more common words that mean restaurant.

“地酒(jizake)” means “Local Rice Wine”. There are so many local breweries in Japan.

The vertical sign says “商い中(akinai-chu)”. That is one of the old ways to say “OPEN” in Japanese. I see “営業中(eigyou-chu: open)” sign more often in Japan.

And “準備中(junbi-chu)” means CLOSED.

Japanese Culture
営業中(open) Sign

Counter, Table or “Zashiki” in Japanese Restaurant

Japanese Culture Izakaya

Depend on the Restaurant, you might choose seat from 3 categories, Counter, Table and Zashiki. I see the counter seats in the picture above. Table is regular table seats, but do you know Zashiki seat?

Zashiki seat is a type of table seat on the elevated floor. You have to take off your shoes to go into your booth and sit down on the zabuton cushion(There are no chairs!).

If your feet are in stinky danger, you should avoid it to protect your reputation, especially when you are on a date.

Japanese Culture zashiki
座敷席(zashiki seat)

What’s Happening Next?

When you seated, your server will place a glass of water and a wet napkin. Usually, this water is tap water but very drinkable. And the wet napkin could be disposal.

water and napkin at restaurants in Japan
Glass of Water and Wet Napkin at a Restaurant in Japan

Japanese people clean their hands, take a sip of water, see the menu and place the order. Some Japanese restaurant set 割箸(waribashi: Disposal Wooden Chopsticks) on the table, so take one when you need them. Crack half!

Japanese Culture
割箸(waribashi: Disposal Wooden Chopsticks)

How to Pay at Restaurants in Japan

When you are done, you can tell your server “おあいそ、お願いします。(oaiso onegaishimasu) or “お勘定、お願いします。(okanjou-onegaisimasu)”. Both of them mean “Check, please”.

Then, most of restaurants ask you to pay at the cashier around the entrance. So, grab the slip and go to the cashier. And remember that you don’t have to pay tip in Japan.

If they have some fees like a “table charge(テーブルチャージ)” for every customer, the flat rate must be already in the slip.

However, if you see something like a “TIP” in your slip, you should ask about it. Because restaurants rarely but surely exist, which try to obtain unnecessary fees only from foreigners !(-_-) How rude.

Are Kids Allowed to Go in Izakaya Restaurant?

Technically kids can go in izakaya restaurants as long as they are with adults. But some customers tend to dislike the idea. So, I recommend chain izakaya restaurants for families.

They have a beautiful printed(not hand-written) menu at the entrance, and you can ask if they accept family with kids or babies.

Today’s Japanese Kanji T-shirt is “初来日(hatsu-rainichi: Visiting Japan for the First Time)”! Enjoy your trip!

Japanese Kanji T-Shirt
Visiting Japan for the First Time

If you want to know the meanings of any Japanese kanji that you don’t see English subs for in a particular animation or live action movie, tell me “Name of the Show”, “Season and Episode #” and “the Exact Moment (Minute: Second)”!

If it’s just Japanese kanji that you see around you, like a shop sign or a tattoo, you can send me the photo as long as you are allowed to take picture of it.

I can’t promise to reply to everyone but I’ll try my best!

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