A Japanese pub or drinking house, where one can usually get a broad range of alcoholic drinks and tasty snacks.

Of an evening, izakaya trade from "after work" (say 5pm) and most close by 1am. They can be friendly places where foreigners are usually made to feel welcome.

Handy izakaya survival Japanese:

a o onegai shimass nama birru -or- nama biiru onegai shimasu (I would like a draft beer)

Kampai! (cheers!)

"Izakaya" literally means "sit-down-saké-shop".

Saké dealers in the Edo era set up tables and benches in their shops to serve inexpensive saké by the cup (actually a masu, a small wooden box used to measure rice). Eventually various kinds of sakana (food that goes well with saké) were served as well.

Most izakaya function more or less as clubs in that they have distinct styles and a regular clientele. The patrons assume a seating order based on their seniority as long-standing or newer customers. While anyone is welcome to drop in, the regulars are nomitomodachi ("drinkin' buddies").

Often the mama-san who owns the izakaya will serve very particular kinds of saké.

In Japan these places are frequented during lunch, and usually right after normal working hours. People go there with some friends, and co-workers to let off the steam that has collected during the day.

Students also frequent these type of places after classes, or sporting events as well. The official drinking age is 18, but most have no trouble if they are 16, or with older friends, or dates.

The sake helps break down social barriers, and allows people to talk more freely than they normally would.

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