Izakaya alley in Tokyo, courtesy of Japan FORWARD

Visiting Tokyo? Check out the ultimate guide for izakaya hopping

In the same way as Irish pubs or tapas bars, izakaya are informal, inexpensive, and fun places you can’t miss when visiting Japan.

By Shaun Fernando / Japan FORWARD

The concept of an izakaya is more akin to a tapas bar than a regular Western style bar, where patrons can pick from beer, whiskey, sake, and a variety of other food, spirits, and soft drinks.

At the same time, there is typically a lot of chatter in izakaya. For that reason, they may not be the best option for a romantic dinner.

When you're on your way from sightseeing or shopping, consider stopping at an izakaya to relax and meet some local people.

What is an Izakaya?

A literal translation of "居酒屋" is "stay saké shop", a place where people can relax and drink.

Different from bars, diners in izakaya are always seated at tables and not designed for generally mixing with other customers.

Depending on where you go, you might find counter seating, Western-style tables, low Japanese style tables on tatami mats, semi-private compartments, or for an extra fee, the option of a private room.

Some izakayas enforce a two-hour stay limit for customers when they get crowded on weekends. Be sure to ask when you enter the establishment.

Top Three Izakaya Alleys in Tokyo

1. Omoide Yokocho (思い出横丁)

Omoide Yokocho is a narrow alley near Shinjuku Station West Exit with over 50 small restaurants and izakaya. The majority of izakaya have only a kitchen counter with five to ten seats. As a result of the red lanterns and the smoky street, this location has become one of Tokyo's most popular tourist attractions.

2. Ameya Yokocho (アメヤ横丁)

Known as Ameyoko, is an open-air market near Ueno station. Along the long market street, there are many izakayas with outdoor tables and chairs where people drink during the day.

3. Hoppy Dori (ホッピー通り)

Hoppy Dori is located off the main street of Sensoji temple in Asakusa, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo. It is a great spot where you can grab a drink and a snack during the day.

The street is named after the famous alcoholic beverage “Hoppy” which is served often in this area.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.