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What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners Part 5


What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners


3. What is the original system of Izakaya? "Otoshi (Appetizer)" Problem


What is the original system of Izakaya? When you go to an izakaya in Japan, you may encounter the "Otoshi" or "Tsukidashi" system. An izakaya is a type of informal Japanese pub where people gather to enjoy drinks and a variety of dishes. "Otoshi" is mainly in eastern Japan, while "Tsukidashi" is mostly in western Japan. Both refer to small dishes served regardless of the customer’s order. Foreigners unfamiliar with this system may find it confusing or frustrating.


These appetizers are usually served to customers who order alcohol but not to those who don’t. This can be puzzling and sometimes dissatisfying for foreign visitors.


What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners


The "Otoshi" and "Tsukidashi" system has three main issues:


It is a violation of the contract to serve food without order and collect the charge.

It is not always delicious.


Allergies and religious dietary restrictions can make the food inedible for some.

Violation of the Contract to Serve Food Without Order and Collect the Charge

For foreigners from countries with strict contract societies, serving food and charging without an order can be unacceptable. To resolve this, izakayas should either eliminate "Otoshi" and "Tsukidashi" or clearly inform customers about the charges upfront.


If izakayas rely on these charges, they should consider raising the prices of food and beverages instead. Japanese izakayas are generally affordable, so a slight price increase may not deter customers.


Another approach could be offering "Otoshi" and "Tsukidashi" for free while raising overall menu prices. This can improve the initial impression and overall experience for customers.


In French cuisine, "Amuse" is a similar concept, often provided for free, enhancing the dining experience. Izakayas can adopt a similar strategy by providing "Otoshi" and "Tsukidashi" free of charge and adjusting menu prices accordingly.


What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners


It is Not Worth the Fee


Customers often complain that "Otoshi" and "Tsukidashi" are not worth the charge. Some izakayas serve excellent appetizers, but many, especially chain stores, offer simple or unremarkable dishes.


What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners

For example, in a rural izakaya, I was served "Otoshi" with five types of knobs, but the price was ¥800, which felt overpriced, as shown in the photo above. On the other hand, another izakaya served a large amount of sashimi for ¥500, which was a pleasant surprise and made the customers happy. Can you believe that the photo below shows a ¥500 Otoshi?


What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners


Depending on the quality of "Otoshi," the negative perception can be turned into a positive one.


Served Foods Cannot Be Eaten Due to Allergies or Religious Precepts

To address this issue, izakayas could either eliminate "Otoshi" and "Tsukidashi" or allow customers to choose their contents. High-end izakayas and sushi restaurants often ask about allergies and dislikes, and this practice should be adopted more widely.


The reason for providing "Otoshi" and "Tsukidashi" varies:

A) To make a profit.

B) Out of tradition.

C) To please customers.


For reasons A and B, eliminating these appetizers and raising prices is the best solution. For reason C, considering customers’ allergies and dietary restrictions is crucial.


What Is Izakaya? Basic Tips for Foreigners


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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