Keeping it Low Key at an Izakaya

Although some Japanese restaurants have the reputation of being formal, structured, and traditional, there's a flip side to Japanese cuisine that's casual, fun, loud, and alcohol filled. Those are the places to go when you need to wind down after a long day of work and that's where Japanese izakayas (居酒屋) come in. An izakaya is similar to a tavern, providing an informal and enthusiastic atmosphere for customers to eat and drink. Comparable to your local pubs, izakayas serve many different kinds of smaller dishes that pair well with cold beer, sake, and highballs.In Japan, an izakaya is usually marked with a red paper lantern hanging outside to denote an establishment with reasonably priced food and alcoholic beverages. The restaurant may have traditional tatami mats where guests sit on the ground or standing tables to encourage a casual yet quick turnaround. The experience is meant to be relaxing and often interactive as customers are seated (or standing) in close quarters and drinking is encouraged.The food served at izakayas is diverse, with everything from noodle and rice dishes to sashimi, yakitori, and tempura. Alcoholic beverages often include draught beer, shochu, Japanese whisky, and sake. In Japan, izakayas are frequented by businessmen after work since bosses sometimes take their employees out for an after shift drink, but they are becoming more and more popular with females too.