No trip to Japan is ever complete without having experienced the local watering hole. Japanese dining bar, or locally known as ‘izakaya’ is like the pub to the English. It is a drinking establishment that also serves food and a usual hang out joint for university students and office workers alike. There are various kinds of izakaya, ranging from chain stores like Doma to cosplay establishments where the waiters and waitresses play dress up such as the popular maid and butler cafes. At these cosplay establishments, customers are treated like masters and mistresses by the servers dressed as ‘maids’ or ‘butlers’. Some establishments also include a playtime where you can play games with your maid such as card games or enjoy a manicure from your maid. For a small fee, patrons can also rent costumes and dress up or join the servers in song and dance.
Apart from cosplay establishments, there are also themed izakaya establishments that have a diverse range of themes such as fantasy with Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit to Goth-inspired Vampire Café where you can dine in the coffin room or feast on chocolate skulls. Others take a more entertainment-based approach where the shop staff dressed as nurses, doctors and even prison guards and patrons are treated to a scary live show. For those who seek to dine in a jail cell, you will find abundant choices as each dining bar though bearing the same ‘jail’ theme is rather different. At some establishments, such as Lock Up in Shibuya, Tokyo you will be escorted to your cell by the prison guard and once you and your party are seated in the cell, the door of your cell will be locked (well, they pretend to lock it so not to worry as you can walk in and out freely). The atmosphere of the place purposely fashioned to exude eeriness and there will be a ‘performance time’ when they ‘release’ a prisoner who will scare the living daylights out of the patrons.
Another fairly similar establishment is Alcatraz ER, located in Dogenzaka, Shibuya. As the name suggests, this has the theme of the ER but the twis
t is that it is a prison mental hospital so be prepared to see ‘dead bodies’ in the glass floor and drinks that are served in syringes, tubes
and even a ‘human head’, accompanied by a lot of screaming (since you are after all dining in a mental hospital). The ‘nurses’ here are known for pulling down the pants of unsuspecting diners and injecting them with a huge syringe.
For those who seek a more traditional atmosphere, there is the famous Ninja Akasaka in Tokyo. This establishment boasts a lovely traditional setting of a traditional Japanese town with narrow and dark alleys, waterfalls and whistling wind. Servers dress up like ninjas who even perform magic tricks at the patrons’ tables as well as demonstrate their ‘ninja skills’ such as appearing and disappearing swiftly and silently. Ninja Akasaka has an impressive list of former diners from the former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro to Steven Spielberg. The food presentation is amazing with ninja weapons such as swords and daggers being used coupled with elements of ‘magic’.
The choices of Japanese dining bars are plenty with the average Japanese frequents the normal, non-themed establishments, basically the chain establishments more often than the themed ones. The themed- dining bar thus not mainstream in the industry it is enjoying a growing popularity among the locals and well as tourists. Hence, make it a point to visit one the next time you visit Japan because the experience is something that you will never forget. For cheap flights to Tokyo and other cities in Japan simply search online.