A Guide to Ordering Meals and Paying at an Izakaya

Find out what otoshi means.

There are different rules in Japan and even in the izakaya industry alone. It’s one of cultures that was born in the process of establishing countries and industries. Today, let's learn more about a system called "
Otoshi," which is one of such rules at an izakaya. This is how to order meals and pay at an establishment.

For the purpose of this tutorial, we will be using Sakura Suisan - Harajuku branch.

Sakura Suisan
B1/F Harajuku Ash Bldg., 1-19-11 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo
Contact: +81 3-5413-3371
How to get there: It’s a 1-minute walk from the Harajuku Station.

Let's see what kind of things are on the table

On the foreground, you’ll see a silver ashtray (
hai-zara). Both large and small containers in the back are for personal use. The bigger one is used for sharing the dishes. The smaller one is called “sashi-choko.” It is a plate to keep shoyu or other seasoning close at hand. The white rounded object on the right side of this photo is the bell to call the staff.

This is a normal menu. You can call the staff and order with this menu indicating with your finger.

Next, we will introduce new items that you can find in many IZAKAYA here and there. This tablet is a menu. It also serves as your order sheet. You can choose and order the cuisine with this tablet and the order is transmitted to the kitchen directly.

It’s a touch-screen tablet, so you can switch the screen by touching the screen from its standby mode. Once you do, you’ll see the order page for drinks.

Touch it lightly with your fingertip.

A page where you can choose a variety of liquors will appear. Please pay attention to the character of “Drink” at the top right of the screen.

This button.

When you touch this button, the screen will switch and the menu will be displayed with alphabet, Chinese (traditional), and Hangul alphabet.

Now let’s talk about the seasoning. On the left is shoyu. The next tall bottle is the sauce. It is a unique seasoning in Japan with sweetness and bitterness. The smaller bottle is for ichimi togarashi. It’s a powder of red chili pepper. Next bottle is for ponzu, which is a citrus-based sauce made by shoyu, rice vinegar, and dashi (cooking broth of Japanese cuisine). It’s usually used to add sour flavor to food.


This seasoning stand has a little trick.

As you see, there are chopsticks inside the tray. While dining, you can use chopsticks freely from here. However, this is not the case in every store. There are restaurants offering disposable chopsticks (
waribashi) and restaurants offering only chopsticks enough for the number of the people.

This is “
otoshi." It is a dish served in a small container and it is always provided even if you haven’t ordered anything. It goes without saying that you pay for this even if you didn’t order it. This is equivalent to a cover charge. It is a business custom specific to Japanese sake restaurants. Do not reject it saying “I haven’t ordered it.”

There are many cases where payment slips are placed on the table like this. What you ordered is written on this. In this case, there is a dedicated holder beside the table.

If you reverse the payment slip, you can see detail like this photo. "
Otoshi" of this restaurant was written in fourth line from the bottom. All amounts are in Japanese yen. In this restaurant, you can see the slip like this, but in some cases, the staff manages all contents and customers cannot see it.

After meals, you need make payment before leaving the restaurant. It is also possible to call the staff with a white round button and finish payment at the table. You can also carry out the voucher on the table to the front of the cash register yourself like this photo.

You can just give the staff the amount indicated on your voucher in cash. Of course, if the restaurant has a credit card system, you can also pay by credit card. If you want to pay by credit card, you should ask to staff if you can use it once you enter the restaurant.

Once you receive change -- if any -- the payment is completed. Say thank you for the delicious sake and food.

Provided by Travel Photo Guide™ and Japan Walker™ (12 February 2018)

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