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Do As Tokyo Does Izakaya
(Entered Nov. 12, 2006)
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What to do when you want to drink yourselves silly AND have a nice meal? In the West, if you want to get drunk you generally don't go to a restaurant, and if you want to eat, well pubs aren't usually known for serving great food (ok there are some exceptions). Anyway the point is, that when you want to combine these two activites, you head to an izakaya! Truly a great invention, izakaya translates to something like: "be alcohol place" which is a bit misleading since they always have an extensive food menu as well. At an izakaya, you don't order your own meals, but a large variety of dishes which everyone shares. There's always something for everyone at an izakaya be it healthy vegetarian food, or greasy fried meat, Western food such as pizza or Japanese food like sushi.
My Monday class just finished their first term and some of my students and I felt like celebrating. Here we are about to head in, or maybe we had just finished and were leaving? Seeing as how some of us seem to look a bit 'too' happy, I'm tempted to say we were on our way out minus quite a few brain cells. The establishment is called 'Shoya'. Pretty sure it was my first time here, but nothing special in that as there are only about a million different izakaya chains....


Upon settling down at our table we were greeted by our server 'Mika'. Thick skins for female servers at izakayas are are must to be able to deal properly with the hordes of drunken business men that pass through each night. The guys and I chatted to Mika and some of the other female servers throughout the evening but of course we were gentlemen about it.


Here we are in various states of inebriation, having ordered a second round of food and probably a fifth round of drinks. From left to right: Koyama, Mark, me, and Masa. Three other students couldn't make it for business reasons. Going to an izakaya is usually a rare treat for me, I don't go so often these days. The main problem is, you almost always end up spending tons of money. It's not that the drinks or dishes are overpriced, it's that you want to try everything and order like twenty of each, it adds up! Fortunately, the evening was saved by Mark (to my left) who generously footed the bill for all of us. Cheers Mark!


These guys above me are all strong drinkers. Mark and Koyama (on the left) confessed to drinking pretty much everyday. Even though I went through six drinks, they quickly left me behind and must have had about ten each. Were they drunk? Nah... Was I? Well I was pretty buzzed and I had a pretty good hangover the next day. Here's my last drink of the evening, a massive strawberry something or other. The other guys all laughed at my girly drink, while they downed straight whiskey, etc. What can I say? Strawberries are good.


One thing you find out if you go to enough izakayas, there are good ones and bad ones. Some of the bigger chains have locations everywhere and a McDonalds' mentality towards food quality and service. Others cater to only the rich and powerful, a meal here might cost as much as a average priced car. Shoya ranked somewhere in the middle, pretty good food and service, although they didn't have rum and Coke....


Had I enough money, I'd probably open my own izakaya back in Canada, no doubt it would be a sure money maker. Imagine my surprise when I found out that there are already izakayas open in Vancouver and Toronto!? Damn, another idea stolen away....



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