The izakaya is a quintessentially Tokyo experience. When the workday ends, tens of thousands of workers decamp in droves to these Japanese-style pubs to enjoy fabulous food and drink. Think great sake and beer, along with expertly-cooked small dishes and skewers. These could be anything: fresh seasonal raw fish, grilled chicken skewers, inventive vegetable platters, and more.
Izakaya restaurant in Ueno: TokyoVideoStock / Shutterstock.com
Sake specialists and izakaya are pretty much overlapping categories of restaurant; sake specialists just place more of an emphasis on the drink, and often serve sake from just one or two regions of Japan. There are quite literally thousands of izakaya in the city. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of wandering into a place that looks good!
Spending an evening in an izakaya or sake specialist is one of the best ways to experience Tokyo. It’s likely to be one of your fondest memories from your time in Japan. Here’s a list of our favourites in the city.
- En (Shinjuku; mid-range)
Need to impress someone with slightly more upscale surroundings, but also need to keep dinner affordable and delicious? Check out En in Shinjuku, the izakaya that ticks all these boxes and more.
- Hibiki Shinjuku-ten (Shinjuku; mid-range to expensive)
On the 8th floor of the Shinjuku NOWA building, which is just outside the east side of Shinjuku Station, this classy izakaya serves interesting dishes with a bit of a view over the city.
- Shousuke (Shinjuku; mid-range)
For casual yakitori dining in a warm, stylish environment, try Shousuke in Shinjuku.
- Bistro Shirube (Roppongi; mid-range)
For fabulous, inexpensive fare at the friendliest izakaya in town, head over to Shirube in Roppongi.
- Jomon (Roppongi; mid-range to expensive)
For slightly upscale but unpretentious, umami-packed Hakata-style grilled skewers, Jomon in Roppongi hits the spot.
- Kadokura (Ueno; budget to mid-range)
Kadokura in Ueno is a standing izakaya for the people - it has a lively atmosphere, cheap drinks, flavorful small dishes. Set your expectations accordingly and come here for a fun night out.
- Izakaya Kanoya (Ueno; budget to mid-range)
Izakaya Kanoya in Ueno is a crowd pleaser of an izakaya. Like many places in the area, the food is decent and prices reasonable, but the best part is that it opens at 10am - so you can have beer and sashimi even before noon.
- Chanpuru-ya (Ginza; mid-range)
For hearty, homestyle Okinawan cooking, check out Chanpuru-ya, an underground izakaya in Ginza.
- Musshu Mizuki (Ginza; mid-range to expensive)
This basement sake specialist is a great way to work your way through the various types of Japanese sake in pleasant surroundings.
- Sake no Ana (Ginza; mid-range)
It’s not easy to find a sake bar open during the day. Luckily, at Sake no Ana in Ginza, you can have a full sake tasting along with lunch.
- Kushiro (Tokyo Station; mid-range)
Kushiro, an izakaya in KITTE near Tokyo Station, is named for a city in east Hokkaido. The seafood is as tasty as you’d expect - which is to say pretty darn tasty.
- Nakame no Teppen (Marunouchi; mid-range)
Nakame no Teppen in Marunouchi is a lively robatayaki izakaya that’s easy to walk past if you aren’t looking for it. Go for simple, honest grilled fare.
- Akita Pure Rice Sake Bar (Marunouchi; mid-range)
Akita Pure Rice Sake Bar in Tokyo Station is a little tricky to find, but once you do, you’ll be drinking some of the finest sake from north Japan that you’ll find in the metropolis.
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Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals.
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how
- Get essential travel insurance for Tokyo – World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)