Tokyo’s Best Izakayas


It’s time to dive into the vibrant nightlife of Tokyo — but not where you might think. Forget the neon-clad skyscrapers and karaoke bars (or at least forget about them ‘till we get into it in another article.)

The heart of Tokyo nightlife lies hidden in the narrow alleys and traditional districts. Nestled amid the bustling cityscape are Izakayas, the soulful Japanese pubs offering more than just drinks. Think of these spots as Tokyo's best-kept secrets, where locals and in-the-know tourists come together for sake, yakitori, and all things delicious.

Whether you’re already a fan of the homey British variety of pubs or are just looking for a new way to embrace a night out in Tokyo, Izakayas are the one. It's time to unravel the magic behind these inviting lantern-lit havens. They may be Tokyo’s best-kept secret — but not for long.

What Is an Izakaya?

It's time for a little culture 101. An Izakaya, in simplest terms, is a type of informal Japanese pub. However — and trust us on this one — it's so much more than just that.

Izakayas are the epicenters of Japanese social life, offering a cozy atmosphere to unwind after a day's work. They offer a warm, welcoming space to gather with friends, family, and even colleagues.

The walls are adorned with eclectic decor, the menus offer an array of mouth-watering dishes, and the comforting hum of friendly chatter makes you feel right at home. But the heart and soul of the Izakaya are its food and drink — the stars of the show.

Izakaya cuisine is a wide-ranging wonderland, from sizzling yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and fresh sashimi to crispy tempura and simmering hot pots. And to wash it all down, there’s sake, beer, shochu, and a myriad of other drinks. The beauty of it all is the shared experience.

Everyone grabs what they fancy from the center of the table — no need for the formality of individual plates here. It's all about camaraderie and the celebration of food and friendship.

An Izakaya is the embodiment of Japanese "omotenashi" — a word that encapsulates the country's spirit of selfless hospitality. It’s not just about food and drinks — it’s about providing a space where people can let loose, share stories, and create memories.

But hey, don't just take our word for it. The magic of Izakayas can’t truly be captured by mere words — it’s something you have to experience yourself. If you’re ready to explore the wonderful world of Tokyo’s izakayas, we’ve put together some top picks to help guide you.

Don’t worry, dear reader. We’d never let you enter this scene without some expert advice to guide you.

Our Top Picks for Izakaya Hopping in Tokyo

We've hand-picked the finest establishments that perfectly capture the spirit of these Japanese pubs. This ain't your average restaurant crawl — it's an adventure full of laughter, clinking glasses, and fabulous food.

Ebisu Yokocho, Shibuya

Our first stop is the bustling Ebisu Yokocho, a fabulous indoor alleyway filled with delightful Izakayas. It's like stepping into a time machine and zapping right into the heart of old Tokyo. Don't be fooled by the humble exterior — this is a haven for foodies who thrive on diversity and a touch of nostalgia.

Each tiny stall offers its own specialty, creating a symphony of tastes. From succulent yakitori and sizzling monjayaki (Tokyo-style pancake) to refreshing highballs and locally brewed sake, Ebisu Yokocho has it all.

And the atmosphere? Electric, baby! With patrons exchanging laughs and kanpai, the whole place buzzes with pure joy. We only ask one thing of you: make sure to try the maguro sashimi at Tsukushi — it'll make your taste buds sing.

Torikizoku, Shibuya

Home to Tokyo's trendiest, Torikizoku is a chain Izakaya that's managed to win over many, many hearts and bellies. Famous for its yakitori, this place turns simple chicken skewers into a culinary delight.

Here's a little insider tip: don't miss the negima (chicken and leek) and tsukune (minced chicken) skewers. They're grilled to perfection — tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, and full of deliciousness.

Pair these top-notch nibbles with a frosty local beer or the house-special yakitori sauce, and you've got yourself a match made in heaven. What makes it even more heavenly is that it's all reasonably priced, so you can feast to your heart's content without breaking the bank.

Gonpachi, Roppongi

It’s time to amp it up a bit and head to the Izakaya that made Hollywood history — Gonpachi, fondly known as the "Kill Bill" restaurant. The second you walk through its doors, you'll understand why Quentin Tarantino drew inspiration from this place. The rustic interior, the central stage for chefs, and the lantern-lit surroundings all make for a cinematic charm you can experience for yourself with an ice-cold drink in hand.

But the real showstopper here is the food. The star of the menu is the kushiage. Imagine juicy pieces of meat, vegetables, or seafood coated in breadcrumbs, then deep-fried to golden perfection. Pair it with a glass of incredible Japanese whiskey on the rocks, and you've got a knockout combo.

Gonpachi also prides itself on its handmade soba noodles. The chefs whip these up in-house, providing diners with an unforgettable taste and texture.

Sure, British pubs offer soggy fish and chips (sorry, your highnesses) and the classic roast, but they’ve got nothing on a dish made from handmade soba noodles. We cannot emphasize the comfort you can get from the cozy setting of this izakaya, a refreshing drink, and a pile of these chewy, savory noodles after a long, hard day.

Ippo, Ginza

As we swap the hustle and bustle of Shibuya for the glitz and glamor of Ginza, we find ourselves at the doorstep of Ippo. In this upscale neighborhood, Ippo stands out as an Izakaya with a touch of refinement.

Here, the ordinary becomes extraordinary as each dish is meticulously prepared and presented like a work of art. Think Gastropub, but make it Tokyo.

Ippo's sashimi is a feast for the eyes and the palate. Each piece is cut with precision, creating a delicate balance of flavors that melt in your mouth. It's like having the ocean right on your plate! Pair this with a glass of their finest sake, and you have a match made in heaven.

Be sure to indulge in their seasonal hot pots that comfort the soul with every spoonful. And if you’re looking for a communal experience to help you bond with some new friends you’ve made in Tokyo or to catch up with old friends over, hot pot is the sharing meal to end all sharing meals.

A boiling pot of rich, delicious broth and stacks of goodies to cook in it, right at your table? It’s food made into a social event, and it’s unbelievably delicious. Ippo takes you beyond the traditional Izakaya experience, offering a feast that engages all your senses.

Uoshin, Nogizaka

As with any good pub crawl, you should always venture off the beaten path to find some really special places. To that end, don’t miss out on Uoshin in Nogizaka. A paradise for seafood lovers, Uoshin is a culinary gem that encapsulates the taste of the sea in every dish.

The star attraction here is the Kaisendon — a bowl of fluffy rice generously topped with a colorful array of the freshest sashimi. Each mouthful bursts with flavors that are a perfect symphony of sweet, salty, and umami. To complement your meal, sip on a chilled glass of Japanese beer.

But don't let your seafood adventure end just yet. The grilled fish is an absolute must-try, and the uni (sea urchin) will melt in your mouth with its rich and creamy texture. Uoshin is a seafood haven that promises a memorable culinary journey, whether you’re a seafood aficionado or are just having your mind opened to the wonderful opportunities Tokyo’s thriving izakaya scene offers your palette.

Last Call

There you have it — a fabulous tour through Tokyo's most enticing Izakayas. From the lively ambiance of Ebisu Yokocho and Torikizoku's irresistible yakitori to the cinematic charm of Gonpachi, the refined elegance of Ippo, and Uoshin's mouth-watering seafood, we've experienced Tokyo's nightlife at its best.

But this is just the beginning of your Izakaya adventure. When you're in Tokyo, let the glowing lanterns guide you into the warm embrace of these beloved Japanese pubs.

Savor the delectable dishes, soak in the vibrant atmosphere, and let your Tokyo nights unfold in the most delightful way. Until our next culinary journey, keep exploring, keep feasting, and keep falling head over heels for Tokyo's enchanting food scene. Frankly, it’s impossible to avoid with so many incredible options throughout this magical city.

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