December 05, 2023

What's the difference between Izakaya and regular restaurants?

Japan is filled with the best restaurants and their services. In Japan, traditional restaurants and Izakayas stand as quintessential pillars of the nation's gastronomic culture. Regular restaurants in Japan are referred to as "ryōriten.” It showcases the diversity of Japanese cuisine with a focus on meticulous preparation and presentation. These establishments range from elegant sushi counters to cozy ramen shops. Each shop offers a unique dining experience rooted in centuries-old culinary traditions. 

The dedication to seasonal ingredients and the artful craftsmanship of dishes. This reflects the deep respect for food in Japanese culture, making regular restaurants an integral part of the culinary tapestry.

On the other hand, Izakayas add a dynamic and social dimension to Japan's dining scene. These informal and convivial establishments are synonymous with lively gatherings, fostering a sense of camaraderie among patrons. 

Izakayas specializes in a variety of small, shareable dishes paired with an extensive selection of beverages, creating an atmosphere where friends and colleagues can unwind after work or celebrate special occasions. You will get the best food in Izakaya in Japan

Together, regular restaurants and Izakayas play pivotal roles in showcasing the rich tapestry of flavors that define Japan's gastronomic heritage.

Where is Izakaya come from?

The concept of Izakaya originated in Japan and has deep roots in the country's culinary and social traditions. The term "Izakaya" itself is a combination of two Japanese words: "i" (to stay) and "sakaya" (sake shop). Historically, Izakayas evolved from sake shops that allowed customers to sit and enjoy drinks. 

Over time, these establishments transformed into more comprehensive dining places where patrons could not only savor a variety of alcoholic beverages but also indulge in a diverse array of appetizers and small plates. You will find some of the best Izakaya in Tokyo. 

Izakayas have become integral to Japanese culture, providing a relaxed and informal setting for socializing, sharing food, and enjoying a wide range of drinks. The roots of the concept trace back to the Edo period (1603-1868). Izakayas have adapted and evolved with contemporary trends, continuing to play a significant role in Japan's modern culinary scene. 

Difference between Izakaya and Regular Restaurant

The distinction between an Izakaya and a regular restaurant in Japan lies in the overall atmosphere, dining experience, and the type of cuisine typically offered.

Atmosphere and Socializing

Izakaya: Izakayas are known for their casual and social atmosphere. They often have a pub-like ambiance, encouraging patrons to relax, socialize, and share small plates of food. The emphasis is not only on the culinary experience but also on creating a lively and communal. This is where friends and colleagues can gather to enjoy drinks and conversation.

Regular Restaurant: Traditional restaurants in Japan can vary widely in ambiance, ranging from formal and quiet to casual and family-friendly. Socializing is still a part of the dining experience. The primary focus in regular restaurants is often on the food itself, with a more structured and less communal atmosphere.

Menu and Dining Style

Izakaya: The menu at an Izakaya typically features a wide variety of small, shareable dishes known as "kakushoku" or "otsumami." These may include grilled skewers (yakitori), sashimi, tempura, and other savory snacks. The emphasis is on sampling a diverse range of flavors while enjoying drinks like sake, beer, or shochu. You can find such beautiful Izakaya in Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, and many other cities in Japan. 

Suggested blog: Top 10 Famous Foods Of Osaka, Japan | Best Foods To Eat In Osaka

Regular Restaurant: In a regular restaurant, the menu is often more focused on specific cuisines or dishes. It might include set meals, individual courses, or a selection of dishes meant for individual consumption. The variety of options can still be extensive, but the emphasis is on a complete dining experience centered around a main course.

Service Style

Izakaya: Service in Izakayas tends to be informal and attentive. The staff often encourages a leisurely pace of dining, allowing customers to order gradually and enjoy a more relaxed experience.

Regular Restaurant: Service in regular restaurants can range from casual to formal, depending on the establishment. The focus might be on providing a more structured dining experience with courses and a dedicated server.

Late-Night Focus

Izakaya: Izakayas are often known for being open late into the night, making them popular destinations for post-work gatherings and late-night socializing. Many Izakayas cater to those seeking a lively atmosphere and a place to unwind with friends.

Regular Restaurant: While some regular restaurants may also have extended hours, they are generally associated with more conventional dining times. Regular restaurants might close earlier compared to Izakayas, which are designed to accommodate patrons looking for a place to relax well into the evening.

Drink Selection

Izakaya: Beverages, particularly alcoholic drinks, play a central role in the Izakaya experience. A wide array of drinks, including sake, beer, shochu, and cocktails, is typically available. The drink menu is often as diverse as the food menu, with an emphasis on pairing different beverages with a variety of small dishes.

Regular Restaurant: While regular restaurants also offer drinks, the selection might be more limited compared to an Izakaya. The focus in regular restaurants is often more on the food, and the drink menu may not be as extensive or diverse.

Ordering Style

Izakaya: Ordering in an Izakaya is often a gradual and ongoing process. Customers might order a few dishes at a time, allowing for a more leisurely and communal dining experience. This style encourages sharing and trying a variety of items throughout the meal.

Regular Restaurant: In a regular restaurant, the ordering process is typically more structured. Customers may order a complete meal at once, consisting of appetizers, main courses, and desserts. The pacing is often more formal and adheres to a traditional progression of courses.


In conclusion, the distinctions between regular restaurants and Izakayas in Japan encompass not only the culinary offerings and dining styles but also extend to the overall ambiance and cultural experience. Regular restaurants showcase a diverse range of cuisines in various settings, catering to both formal and casual dining experiences. The emphasis is often on the culinary journey, with a structured menu and a focus on individual courses.