Before coming to Japan, I heard so much about the Izakaya. So many people told me, “You should go to an Izakaya.” The number of times it was said and the attention given to it almost made it sound like a myth, a legend of some sort. But I never really looked into it. I would just say to myself that it is on my list of things to do and leave it at that. It wasn’t until I was here in the dorms and one of my Japanese friends invited me to an Izakaya that I actually began my experience.

In short, an Izakaya is a Japanese bar. But there’s more than that. When I walked into an Izakaya, I was greeted with a shout. The employees were chanting thank you as I entered. I went to my table and noticed that I had to take off my shoes as it was in a tatami mat area. We sat on some pillows on the floor. When I took a look at the menu, I was astonished. They had a huge menu dedicated to the different types of alcoholic drinks. On top of that, they have a nomihoudai option, which is basically all you can drink. Now look, I don’t drink but if I did, this would be the place to go.

But I don’t think that my not drinking diminishes my experience. There was still plenty for people like me. They had a variety of snacks, such as gyoza, karage, and dango. The soft drinks were nice too. You have the standard drinks like a coca cola but you also have drinks like melon soda and strawberry milk.

Now, Japanese people tend to be quiet and reserved. But in the Izakaya, it’s a different story. When I went, I had some Japanese people behind me start a conversation that went on for a while. They had so much interest in who I am and where I am from. It was a nice change of pace. After that, we exchanged contact information. When I left, the employees chanted a huge thank you for my time. It felt nice. Like it brought my energy up.

In short, even if you don’t drink, the Izakaya is definitely an experience that you should try out if you come to Japan!