When you are looking for a place to drink in Japan it’s often recommended that you go to an Izakaya and that is for a good reason – they are brilliant for having food and drink whilst either socialising or having a date with your significant other or even if you feel like an escape on your own. But where do you start? Well, we’ve got you covered on that part. Here we are going to show you 5 of the best Izakaya chains in the whole of Japan and these chains vary in the kind of atmosphere you may be looking for. So, read on and we’ll help you find the perfect spot for that evening of food, drink and enjoyable conversation on your next evening out.
cover photo credit:ivva
What is a Japanese Izakaya?
First of all, what is an Izakaya, you may be thinking? Well, an Izakaya is a Japanese pub or bar type place that people frequent in a casual manner. It’s a place where you pay for a table and then get a mixture of Japanese food and drinks. Think of Spanish Tapas bars but wholly Japanese in nature. They tend to be small foods that are wide in variety that mix perfectly with your alcoholic beverage of choice. In Japan it’s more common when drinking alcohol to always have food at the same time. The Izakaya is also popular with tourists and travellers alike as there is an eclectic mixture of Japanese culture and food at the base of these places so it’s a worthwhile experience.
Watami is the biggest chain of Izakaya’s in the entire world. I say this with absolute clarity because according to their own website they have two hundred and sixty four spots in Japan alone and have branched so far out world wide that they also have one hundred and four of them overseas. These places stretch from China to Korea to Cambodia and many more in the bulk of Asia. Whilst most Izakaya places are awash with an upbeat hustling atmosphere, this chain is not. They tend to stay on the darker and more quiet side. So, if you are looking for a quieter night with drink and food then this is for you.
Shirokiya is a bright yet relaxing environment and possibly the second biggest chain in the whole of Japan. It’s said that one of the biggest customer bases of this chain is that of groups of women on, what we would call in the west, ‘girls night out’. It’s rather large and was founded in 1983. The average price for a night here is said to be around 2,300 Japanese Yen and it’s clear that the most popular spot is the place located straight across from Nakano station in Tokyo. If you are a fan of the quiet and relaxing environment of Watami but want it a little bit brighter then this is the place for you.
3.Kin no Kura Jr.
Kin no Kura Jr. is one of the busiest and most popular chains in Japan – but especially in Tokyo with tourists and travellers. This place boasts a wide menu and cheap prices. It has a store in every major tourist spot in Tokyo and the greater Kanto area. This food is amazing because people travelling from all over the world who are looking for something familiar such as Italian food then you are catered for, or maybe even a Japanese local that fancies something a little different. Be assured though that this place is an upbeat and metaphorically bouncing place so if you like that then this place is certainly for you.
Hanbey is a Japanese history lovers dream chain. They specialise in Izakaya that are themed around the Showa era. The Showa era in the Japanese timeline would be from the mid 1920’s to most likely the turn of the year 1990. These places are often filled with memorabilia from this era and gives you food and drink whilst you bask in the nostalgia. For anyone coming from abroad interested in learning a little about the culture whilst having their drink and food then this is the place for you. This place often is filled with locals, but tourist do often visit. And let us not forget the amazingly cheap prices. This along with Kina no Kura Jr. is by far the cheapest of all chains here today.
Now, this one is a little different and we’ll explain why. Ikkyu has a membership card that allows its members a discount on various things throughout the year and this membership costs approximately 300 Japanese Yen per year to join. So, here’s where the problem may lay for you, why would you want a year long membership when you are only travelling to Japan for a brief period of time? Well, this may not be for you in that case. It’s primary focus in my eye’s (aside from the locals of course) is that of travellers who have ended up staying in Japan for extended periods of time creating a second home if you will or foreign students studying in one of the many great universities in Japan. This one is definitely for you. We all know how hard it can be to budget as a student so this welcome discount card at a really great izakaya will go down a real treat.
So, there you have it, the best Japanese Izakaya chains in the whole of Japan – and even the world. No matter the atmosphere you are looking for on your next visit to an Izakaya then you are well catered for with this selection. Whether it be an upbeat atmosphere or a relaxed or a bit of nostalgia or even in the case of Ikkyu somewhere to ground your roots whilst you stay for a long time in this magnificent country.
The next time you visit Japan, or even if you are there now, please check out these places and keep them the thriving hotspots that they have been for a long, long time.
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