Although many bars and restaurants in Japan remain open, medical professionals strongly recommend people refrain from congregating in small, crowded spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For more information, visit

"An iza-what?!" says a friend visiting Tokyo, ready to eat his way through the city. This bewilderment reflects a general trend of just how under-appreciated izakaya are internationally. Perhaps best-described as Japanese pubs with tapas-style sharing plates, they are integral to the dining scene in Japan, suiting all occasions from business dinners to casual get-togethers and dates. But the focus on their evening opening hours and drinks belies the fact that these establishments showcase some of the country’s best and most creative cuisine.

Here are a few of our izakaya all-stars, selected for their ability to fill your belly, fit your budget and maybe get you a bit tipsy (we’re not judging).