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JP07: Pub-Bar-Izakaya-居酒屋

Frigo, Beer Pub, Shinjuku, Tokyo

We’re not in an izakaya as we record this, but we couldn’t discuss food and culture without talking about these staples of Japan. Time for a bit of nommunication ;-)

  • Japanese pub bears no relation to an English pub or American bar
  • very important part of Japanese office workers’ lives
  • do construction workers go?
  • perhaps teachers wouldn’t go after work
  • perhaps they’d go to karaoke
  • Izakayas have table service
  • drinks always have food available
  • typically finger food
  • sashimi, salads, friend chicken (kara age)
  • fried things on sticks
  • yakitori: grilled chicken or liver on sticks, sometimes a vegetable, like an onion, with some sauce
  • generally drink “nama biru” draft beer, a pitcher
  • large groups may be offered a private room
  • it’s for “nommunication’ (means communication with “nomu”=drinking)
  • relaxed business situation
  • there’ll often be a “nijikai” or second party somewhere else, perhaps doing karaoke
  • food is actually pretty good, surprisingly
  • a bit pricey: not a great place to go just for the food, it’s not meant for that
  • important business stuff happens in the izakaya
  • people can express their real feelings about things
  • if you’re lucky the company pays
  • depends on whether you’re a guest or not
  • used to be that people with higher salaries may put in more money for the bill
  • sometimes the highest level person will pay for the whole thing
  • perhaps then they just expense it
  • 10 people could be ¥50,000
  • they seem to be Mom and Pop operations
  • the owner can be known as the ‘master’
  • cheaper izakayas are usually chains
  • some of them are really small – 5 or 6 seats
  • like in Golden Gai in Shinjuku, tiny places
  • similar places in Shibuya
  • near that park that Nike bought, the one behind Tower Records
  • ‘bottle keep’ is interesting: the customer is somebody who knows the owner and they buy a bottle of alcolhol that is kept on a shelf, labeled
  • is the izakaya an extension of home?
  • why not just drink at home, then?
  • what are the economics?
  • some izakayas, you’re sitting on “tatami” if you’re lucky there’s a well under the table
  • so you don’t lose circulation in your legs
  • it’s not good to leave early, and they don’t usually divide the check
  • Karamoon doesn’t like to go because he doesn’t drink
  • if you’re not involved in the drinking, it actually looks a bit dopey
  • lots of bluster
  • same thing with drugs, actually
  • when you’re on the outside looking at somebody on acid, or Zen Buddhism, the person seems extremely odd -YMMV
  • old izakayas usually play enka, it’s much better quality music than Japanese pop. very little high-pitched, off-key singing
  • be prepared to be there for hours
  • false camraderie is a problem
  • boring people are tough to deal with in those situations, especially if you’re the token gaijin
  • if you work for a corporation, you will doubtless have to go
  • if you’re a tourist it’s a good way to sample lots of dishes at once – go with your Japanese friends
  • rather than a regular Japanese restaurant based on one key ingredient
  • the sausage issue: kind of strange dishes
  • Terri believes none of it tastes like real sausage back home
  • not the kind of place you’d go on your own every night, like a bar
  • the smoke might be a problem
  • UK has banned lots of public smoking; US too
  • in Japan it started at Starbucks, perhaps
  • if you’re in a separate room it might be okay
  • smoking is really promoted highly here because the government gets so much money from Japan Tobacco
  • even if you’re in the non-smoking section, the extractor fan may take the smoke out of the smoking section and into the non-smoking section
  • be careful if you’re allergic
  • there’s so much smoke here, it’s really easy to get sensitive to it
  • you’ll see salarywomen and men smoking outside companies in their little smoking areas
  • make sure you bring your cash to the izakaya
  • and remember, it’s okay to be a little bit loud

Terri records the show on her iPhone4
Tom Toeda of fti studio mixed this show.
image credit: Shinya Ichinohe
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Next show we have a very special guest talking about a concept that you may already know: Gyaru.

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2 Responses to “JP07: Pub-Bar-Izakaya-居酒屋”

  1. this is so weird!!!! but i am chinies so i like it. ULAHHHHHHHHH!!!!