The typical place for socializing in Japan is the izakaya, a casual Japanese-style pub where people gather to dine and drink together in an informal setting. They’re ubiquitous in the country and on any given night you’ll see them crowded with people, from college students to office workers depending on the neighborhood you’re in.
If you want to put a twist on that quintessential experience, you should try these special izakaya spots that give their own original take on the classic pub.
Ninja, the elusive figures of ancient Japanese culture, are famed across legends and entertainment for their stealth and deadly abilities. You can now enter their world in this mysterious izakaya, hidden inside a street in Akasaka. Once you successfully locate the entrance, ninjas will guide you into a Japanese castle shrouded in secrecy and darkness. There, you can enjoy a ninja-themed menu and revel in the enigmatic atmosphere of ancient Japan with ninjas slipping in and out around you. This izakaya gives you both high quality dining and a realistic cultural experience, so it’s well worth the search in the dark.
Address: Akasaka Tokyu Plaza 1F, 2-14-3 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Official website: http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/
If you’re a fan of horror, this izakaya will be right up your alley. Once you’ve taken the courage to venture into the eerie darkness, there’s no turning back. Customers are taken to prison and locked up in a cell, where monsters and terrifying creatures lurk in the dark. But don’t worry—they still feed prisoners, so you can feast on a grand menu that will keep you both satisfied and entertained. The horror theme extends to their food, so expect offerings from bloody sausages to ghostly cocktails. If you stay long enough you might also find yourself in the middle of a sudden blackout, where we can’t promise the monsters won’t come out to catch you.
Address: 1 Chome−16−3, Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Official website: http://www.lock-up.jp/
Back to school! Go back in time to elementary school, where you’ll attend class and eat cafeteria lunch and…drink a beer? That’s a privilege only for adults who go back to school. At 6-Nen 4-Kumi (6年4組, literally Grade 6 Class 4) your teacher will escort you to your classroom, where you’ll be offered the typical school cafeteria menu. All the classic Japanese childhood favorites are present, from agepan (fried bread) to fish cutlets. Drinks are disguised as science experiments, and those typical octopus-shaped wieners come in those cages you used to keep bugs in. During your meal you’ll also be given a small test, where you’ll be rewarded if you get full marks. Think you could go back to sixth grade?
Locations: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro
Official website: http://www.6nen4kumi.com/
The train culture in Japan is built on a system of technology and revolutionary development recognised as one of the best in the world. This railway-themed izakaya celebrates exactly that, transforming the space into a train museum where you ‘board’ a carriage and sit in recycled seats. For train lovers, this restaurant is a dream come to life where you can eat surrounded by model railcars and other train memorabilia. The themed menu doesn’t disappoint; you can order shinkansen-inspired cocktails and lunch sets that come in a mini train. As a bonus, the waitresses are all train conductors who are happy to liven up your dining experience with classic maid cafe-style fare.
Address: Sotokanda 3−10−5, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Official website: http://www.littletgv.com/
Fish is a staple part of Japanese cuisine. Sushi and sashimi are eaten all over the world now, and there’s nothing better than eating them right here in Japan where they began as a gourmet delicacy. In this izakaya, you can take that authenticity a step further by fishing for your own meal. The restaurant space is taken up by a giant fishing boat, where diners sit and catch their own fish. The fish you catch is immediately prepared for you, and you can enjoy the freshest seafood dinner with the extra satisfaction of your effort.
Locations: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Meguro, Kameido
Official website: http://www.zauo.com/en/
Stray a little from the norm, and you never know what you’ll find. Whether it’s a report book, a train model or a monster in the dark, you’re in for an experience that few people will get. At the root of it, the izakaya experience will give everyone a memorable bonding time over good food and drinks.
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