Yakitori restaurants specializing in grilled chicken on skewers are amongst the most popular drinking places in Japan. Yakitori shops can be a tiny hole–in-the-wall set up under the railway tracks near stations or huge franchise chains seating 200-300 people. Whatever form they take, yakitori shops are primary drinking places ,and the emphasis is on having fun at minimal expense.
Kushiage is deepfried breadcrumbed items on skewers. These are normally served with tonkatsu sauce.
Literally translated the word izakaya means a “sit-down sake shop.” Izakaya first appeared in the early Edo period, when sake dealers began supplementing their profits by setting up tables and benches in their shops and serving cheap sake. Their customers were itinerant labourers and other poor townsmen, unable to afford more elegant surroundings or anything more delectable than a little salt as a sakana. The idea was to get drunk as cheaply as possible, similar drinking places still exists today, but the true izakaya has evolved into something quite different.
The divided curtains that hang over the entrances “noren” of every Japanese-style restaurant or drinking establishment are much more than substitutes for doors. Passed down from generation to generation, they are objects of great pride among the men and women who make their living in the difficult world that is known as “the water trade.” When hung outside a drinking place, they announce, “Again tonight we are open.”
For customers they are symbols of the separation from the interior of an izakaya to the outside world.
Traditional Izakaya Restaurants don’t usually have an entree menu, and the food is served as it is made, not necessarily at the same time as other dishes that the customer may have ordered, this is because all dishes are usually shared between members of the group.
All visitors of an izakaya are greeted with a hearty ” Irasshai!” that means welcome, when walking into the shop.
Sake is a traditional Japanese liquor, which is made from rice, a mould called Koji and water. Koji is a mould that converts the starch in the rice into fermentable sugars. It is fermented and then filtered. This results in a high alcoholic beverage, known as Sake.
There are various types of Sake available due to the use of different rice or production method. Sake is categorised under different names according to the way it is produced.
Junmai-shu is pure Sake. Nothing except rice, water and Koji is used in its production. Generally, it’s slightly more acidic, heavier and fuller in flavour than other types of Sake. It is a good match with food.
Honjouzou-shu contains a small amount of brewer’s alcohol, added at the final stage of production. This lightens the flavour of the Sake making it smoother and easier to drink. The added alcohol can also bring out the fragrance of the Sake. It’s often a good choice for warmed Sake.
GINJOU-SHU / DAIGINJOU-SHU
Ginjou-shu is brewed with rice that has been polished until no more than 60% of the original grain size remains.
Daiginjou-shu is brewed with rice that has been ground down to at least 50% of the original grain size.
Normally, Ginjou-shu and Daiginjou-shu have added brewer’s alcohol.
It is a choice for Sake of a lower temperature so you can enjoy its lovely fruity bouquet.
Futsu-shu or normal Sake refers to any sake that does not fall into any of the other categories like a kind of “House Sake”. It is the most popular Sake to match with Japanese food. There are various good Futsu-shu available.
Genmai-shu is made from unpolished rice and with wine yeast to ferment. It is quite sweet, smooth and healthy. It is a good Sake to enjoy chilled.NIGORI-SAKE
Unlike other types of Sake the white Kasu (lees of the fermented rice mixture) is either not separated or added back into the separated clear sake resulting in Nigori-sake or cloudy Sake. It is quite sweet and healthy. It is a good Sake to drink chilled.
The Tanuki or badger is credited with magical and supernatural powers. In appearance he resembles a raccoon faced dog and folk tales telling of his exploits depicted him as mischievous and pleasure loving. He is said to appear on rainy moonless nights disguised as a Buddhist priest and exhibits an inordinate capacity for sake. Frequently he is portrayed in a priest hat, a straw raincoat bulging over a belly full of sake, with a wine bottle slung over his shoulder. Tanuki is often placed before shops as a figure of welcome.