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What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 3

What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 3

Basic Tips for Foreigners about Izakayas: Ordering from Japanese Menus

Solution 2

I recommend remembering common ordering patterns at izakayas. I consider this suggestion to be a 'Basic Tips for Foreigners about Izakayas.'

Many Japanese people use terms like "Moriawase (platter)" and "Kyo no Osusume (today's recommendations)" when ordering. For example, you can say "Sashimi Moriawase(sashimi platter)" or "Sashimi no Kyo no Osusume (today's recommended sashimi)." Other common terms include "Yakitori Moriawase (yakitori platter)," "Oden Moriawase (Oden platter)," and "Kyo Ichiban no Osusume (today's best recommendation)."

What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 3

What Is "Moriawase"?

"Moriawase" refers to a platter of assorted items chosen by the izakaya. Even if it's not on the menu, many izakayas will serve assorted dishes when you ask for a "Moriawase." Examples include "Sashimi Moriawase," "Yakitori Moriawase," "Oden Moriawase," "Zensai Moriawase (appetizer platter)," "Kushiage Moriawase (skewer platter)," "Motsuyaki Moriawase (roast giblets platter)," "Yakimono Moriawase (grilled food platter)," "Tempura Moriawase (tempura platter)," "Agemono Moriawase (fried food platter)," "Wiener Moriawase (Vienna sausage platter)," "Cheese Moriawase (cheese platter)," and "Tsukemono Moriawase (pickled food platter)." You can also ask for "Kyo no Moriawase (Today's recommended platter)."

When ordering a "Moriawase" or "Kyo no Osusume," inform the staff of any foods you cannot eat. Writing it down and handing it over can be helpful if you don't speak Japanese. If you have favorite foods, mention them first, and they may be included in the platter. Expensive items like sea urchins and abalone are rarely included in a "Sashimi Moriawase" and must be ordered separately.

What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 3

What Is "Omakase"?

A similar term is "Omakase," meaning a meal selected by the chef. While common at sushi restaurants, "Omakase" is rare at izakayas due to the wide variety of menus, including seafood, meat, and vegetables.

Issues with Course Meals

In addition to "Moriawase" and "Kyo no Osusume," you can order "course meals." Many chain izakayas offer set courses, such as ¥3,000 or ¥4,000 courses, including all-you-can-drink options. However, if you can't read Japanese, you won't know the course contents. Small groups may also be unable to order course meals without a reservation.

I rarely order "course meals" at izakayas because I prefer privately managed izakayas, where course meals are uncommon except for banquets.

What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 3

Positive Aspects of Ordering "Moriawase" and "Kyo no Osusume"

The advantage of ordering "Moriawase" and "Kyo no Osusume" is that you can order food even if you can't read the Japanese menu by remembering a few key Japanese words like "Sashimi," "Yakitori," "Oden," "Zensai," "Kushiage," "Motsuyaki," "Yakimono," "Tempura," "Agemono," "Wiener," "Cheese," and "Tsukemono."

Ordering "Moriawase" allows you to try various foods in small portions. For example, ordering a "Sashimi Moriawase" for two people lets you sample 3-6 types of sashimi for about ¥1,000 to ¥3,000. In contrast, a single item may cost ¥1,000 to ¥2,000 for 5-10 slices. "Moriawase" is often more cost-effective.

Additionally, this method is commonly used by Japanese people at izakayas, so it will be well-received by the staff and other customers.

What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 3

Negative Aspects of Ordering "Moriawase" and "Kyo no Osusume"

The downside of ordering "Moriawase" and "Kyo no Osusume" is that you won't know exactly what you'll get or the price.

You can expect seafood in a "Sashimi Moriawase," but you won't know the specific items in a "Yakimono Moriawase," "Tempura Moriawase," or "Agemono Moriawase." It may include meat, seafood, and vegetables.

Even Japanese customers don't know the exact contents of a "Moriawase." Part of the experience is the anticipation of what's to come.

If you have dietary restrictions, inform the staff in advance. Ordering without knowing the price can be challenging, but you can often read the price (the numeric part) on the menu. Generally, izakaya prices in Japan are reasonable, so you won't encounter unexpectedly high charges. However, be cautious of high-end izakayas that may have higher prices.

What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 3

Where to Find the Best Scam-Free Area in Tokyo?

Many foreigners might worry about being scammed at izakayas with menus only in Japanese. Therefore, it is important to go to areas where you don't need to worry about scams. Kagurazaka, which I will introduce below, is a safe area where you don't need to worry about being scammed. This is because Kagurazaka has very few foreign tourists, and most of the customers are locals. Scamming regular local customers would drive them away, making it impossible for such establishments to continue operating.

Moreover, Kagurazaka has 209 izakayas (according to Tabelog data as of the end of May 2024). With so many izakayas in a small district, the competition is fierce. An izakaya that scams customers would quickly stand out and soon be forced out of business. Foreign tourists worried about being scammed can feel at ease and enjoy izakayas in Kagurazaka, one of the safest areas in Tokyo.

What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 3

Experience Authentic Izakaya Culture: Guided by Locals in Hidden Tokyo

Our company offers tours where we take foreign tourists to izakayas. We assist those who struggle with Japanese-only menus by providing interpretation services. Our guides also provide fun explanations of foods and menu items unique to Japan. Would you like to enjoy a fun time at an izakaya with an English-speaking interpreter guide?

The places we take you to are located in the heart of Tokyo, specifically in Kagurazaka, a top gourmet area yet little known to many foreigners. Kagurazaka is home to many wonderful izakayas hidden in alleys known only to locals. Why not experience authentic izakaya culture at izakayas frequented only by Japanese customers?

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How to Access Kagurazaka

The Kagurazaka area is conveniently located within 30 minutes from any major station in Tokyo. This is because Kagurazaka is situated in the heart of Tokyo, at the center of the Yamanote Line. Please come and visit this convenient and charming Kagurazaka.


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