Shibuya is a town that is also the hub of youth culture in Japan. In recent years, it has appeared as the setting for popular anime and has attracted attention from both Japan and abroad.

The large intersection in front of the station is something that everyone has probably seen at least once. Ten lanes of traffic intersect in the "Scramble Crossing," said to be the busiest intersection in the world. It is said that as many as 500,000 pedestrians cross it in a single day.

In Shibuya, construction and rebuilding have been repeated everywhere since long ago until the present day. Shibuya, which is never complete and continues to change forever, will surely continue to evolve as one of Japan's most cutting-edge towns.

There are also many art museums, live houses, and clubs, showing Shibuya's sophisticated side in art and music. This town where many people gather is also rich in izakayas and bars. One of the because, there are many offices. It is common to see people drinking after work before going home. 

Drinking culture in Japan is not just for celebrations or special occasions, but an ordinary scene of enjoying drinks with friends and companions.

What is an Izakaya?

An izakaya is a Japanese-style drinking establishment. Unlike bars that focus mainly on alcohol, izakayas offer a wide variety of dishes. So even those who cannot drink alcohol can enjoy themselves. Also, unlike quiet bars for small groups, izakayas have a lively atmosphere with a diverse clientele of families, colleagues, and friends.

When you enter an izakaya, you are first served "otoshi," a small appetizer dish. It's like a seating charge, but it's a dish that can be enjoyed with the first "kanpai" (cheers) of the night.

In recent years, a new type of izakaya called "neo-izakaya" has emerged, combining the atmosphere of a traditional casual izakaya with a cutting-edge trendy vibe. Young people get excited taking photos of the photogenic interiors and food menus for social media. They are popular among young people, who describe the emotional experience using the trendy term "emoi" (emotional). In Shibuya, a town for young people, there are many reasonably priced neo-izakayas.

Classic Izakaya Food Menu

Speed Menu

When you arrive at the izakaya, the first thing you want to order with your drinks is the "speed menu." These are dishes that don't take long to prepare, so you can enjoy them with the first "kanpai!" (cheers). Items like edamame, kimchi, and salads that don't require cooking are typically chosen. Dishes from the speed menu are often served as otoshi (appetizers).

Edamame

Edamame

Edamame are soybeans harvested before they mature. They are served boiled in salt water while still in their green pods.

This simple dish with its salty, crunchy texture is a popular appetizer loved by kids and adults alike!

It also pairs perfectly with alcohol, and the protein in soybeans is said to help break down alcohol, preventing hangovers.

Tsukemono (Japanese pickles)

Tsukemono

Tsukemono refers to vegetables pickled in salt, soy sauce, rice bran, etc.

Sauerkraut from Germany and kimchi from Korea are also types of tsukemono. In Japan, daikon radish pickles ("takuan") and cucumber pickled with red shiso ("shiba-zuke") are commonly eaten as side dishes with rice.

While there are many varieties of deep and complex Japanese tsukemono, my recommendation is "nukamiso" pickles made in rice bran. The umami flavors of the vegetables pair perfectly with Japanese sake and shochu.

Potato Salad

Potato Salad

Potato salad is made by mashing boiled potatoes and mixing them with vegetables like onions and cucumbers, along with mayonnaise and other seasonings. It's a staple menu item at izakayas, with each establishment offering its own variation.

Smoked bacon or cheese may be added, or it may contain mentaiko (spicy cod roe). Its versatility allows for a wide variety of potato salads. It's also often served as an otoshi (appetizer) dish.

Fried Dishes

Karaage (Japanese fried chicken)

Karaage

Karaage, a beloved dish of fried chicken, is a staple not only at izakayas but also on home dining tables, enjoyed by all ages. While it can use vegetables or fish, karaage typically refers to fried chicken.

Unlike the battered and seasoned fried chicken, karaage involves marinating the chicken in flavors like ginger and soy sauce before coating it in wheat or potato starch and frying.

French Fries

french-fries

French fries, a popular side dish for hamburgers, are also a staple appetizer at izakayas. Since izakaya dishes are often shared among a few people, french fries are an easy dish to share.

They pair exceptionally well with beer, and their reasonable prices make them a must-order for me. Each establishment may add its own special seasoning or fry the fries in their signature oil.

Kara-age Chicken Cartilage

Nankotsu age

Kara-age chicken cartilage is made by frying marinated chicken cartilage. Eating cartilage is likely a uniquely Japanese practice, as the name suggests – literally fried chicken bones.

Using the soft bones of chicken, this dish has a crunchy texture. Its small size and high collagen content make it a recommended dish for women. Pairing it with lemon and a fizzy beer or highball is a perfect match.

Grilled Dishes

Yakitori (Grilled chicken skewers)

Yakitori

Yakitori consists of bite-sized pieces of chicken threaded onto skewers and grilled. While chicken thighs are the classic option, chicken skin and livers are also popular choices. They are typically seasoned with either a sweet-salty soy sauce glaze or simple salt.

The aroma of yakitori grilled over charcoal whets the appetite. As a quintessential drinking snack, yakitori is hugely popular, with many izakayas specializing in this dish.

Yakisoba (Fried noodles)

Yakisoba

Yakisoba is made by stir-frying steamed wheat noodles on a hot plate and seasoning them with sauce. Along with cup noodles, cup yakisoba is sold, indicating its popularity in Japan. With ingredients like cabbage and meat, it's a nutritionally balanced dish that's also a staple in home cooking.

Each region has its own variations in noodle texture, seasoning, and ingredients, leading to yakisoba being featured as a "local specialty" dish. With its hearty portions, yakisoba is often chosen as the final dish of the night at izakaya.

Fish Dishes

Sashimi (Fresh raw fish)

Sashimi

When it comes to Japanese fish dishes, sashimi is a must! Surrounded by the sea and blessed with fresh seafood, Japan has developed a culture of eating raw fish. In addition to the classic tuna, various fish like sea bream, salmon, and squid are enjoyed as sashimi in Japan. 

The standard way to eat it is with wasabi and soy sauce, and it pairs exceptionally well with alcohol. The beautifully sliced sashimi platters are also a colorful, photogenic delight.

Grilled Fish

Yakizakana

Grilled fish refers to fish seasoned with salt, soy sauce, and other flavorings before being grilled. At izakayas, you can enjoy seasonal fish like sanma (Pacific saury) or sawara (Spanish mackerel) when they are in season. The rich, fatty grilled fish is perfect with alcohol.

It offers a different kind of umami flavor from raw sashimi. Sun-dried fish, known as himono, is also highly nutritious and makes a great appetizer.

Recommended Izakayas in Shibuya

Shibuya Niku Yokocho (Chitose Kaikan)

Niku Yokocho
Source: Official website

If you're craving meat in Shibuya, this is the place! Shibuya Niku Yokocho (Shibuya Meat Alley) is a meat-themed amusement park with over 28 specialty meat izakaya restaurants. Located right in the heart of Shibuya Center Gai, it's easily accessible from the station and bustling with office workers and young people after work.

When you step inside, you'll feel like you've time-traveled to the Showa era with its retro atmosphere. The layout allows you to order dishes from different restaurants while seated at one establishment, so you can try various cuisines. With a diverse range of eateries from casual yakiniku to high-end steakhouses and meat sushi, as well as their close proximity, it's perfect for bar-hopping.

<Information>
- Business Hours: Varies by shop
- Address: Chitose Kaikan 2F/3F, 13-8 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
- Website: https://nikuyokocho.jp/shop/

Magical Trip offers a tour to enjoy Shibuya's nightlife with a local guide. Including the Shibuya Niku Yokocho and popular bars, you'll share tables with locals, enjoy the food, and experience the real Shibuya nightlife that only this tour can provide.

Tour Details: https://www.magical-trip.com/product/e97da2a4-a99c-4ec8-b2c2-e5e9ae25a8f6

Kaikaya

Kaikaya
Source: Tabelog

When it comes to popular seafood restaurants in Shibuya, this is the place. At Kaikaya, you can enjoy delicious creative Japanese cuisine, including seafood dishes, right in the heart of Shibuya. The interior is modeled after a port town tavern and is always lively with customers, including regulars and tourists who have heard about it.

The owner, who has been in the Japanese culinary world since age 16, prepares each passionate dish with originality. The reasonably priced course menus, starting at 5,800 yen, are filled with the owner's creativity. 

The beautifully plated sashimi is particularly popular and considered a "must-try" by regulars. Only here can you experience these unique dishes that have made many into devoted regulars.

<Shop Information>
- Business Hours: 5:00 PM - 10:30 PM
- Closed: Wednesdays
- Address: 23-7 Maruyamachi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
- Phone: 03-3770-0878
- Website: https://www.kaikaya.com/top.html

Neo-Izakaya "Awayokuba Shibuya"

Awa-yoku-ba
Source: Tabelog

This shop's name comes from its distinctive "Awayokuba" glasses, combining the Japanese words for "beer foam" (awa) and "if you like" (yokereba). The cream soda served in these glasses is wildly popular, with many customers taking photos to share on social media.

With unique menu items like "fig butter" that make you wonder what they taste like, my recommendation is the "Veggie Rolled Skewers." Colorful vegetables like lettuce, lotus root, and pickled ginger are wrapped in juicy meat. The crunchy veggies complement the tender meat in this signature dish. The "Yuba Shumai" (dumplings) and "Beef Tendon Radish" are also signature menu items.

True to its neo-izakaya name, many of the photogenic dishes are perfect for snapping pictures while enjoying drinks in this trendy atmosphere.

<Information>
- Business Hours: Weekdays 5:00 PM - 11:00 PM, Weekends/Holidays 4:00 PM - 11:00 PM  
- Closed: None
- Address: 1-4-19 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
- Phone: 03-5459-1837
- Website: https://www.dd-holdings.jp/shops/awayokubar/shibuya#/

Sakaba Torino

Sakaba Torino
Sorce:Tabelog

Opened in January 2024, this izakaya offers reasonably priced drinks, with beer and chuhai (shochu highballs) starting at just 209 yen. The retro-style izakaya has a new and bright, stylish interior that's popular with young women. The shop skillfully utilizes social media, with its promotional short videos on TikTok drawing viewers in.

The signature dish is the "Charcoal Basket Grilled" chicken, grilled over charcoal for a smoky, juicy flavor that pairs perfectly with alcohol. My recommendation is the "Yagen Nankotsu" (soft chicken cartilage), with its unique crunchy texture found only in Japan.

The shop frequently offers limited-time campaigns, so be sure to check their social media for updates.

<Information>
- Business Hours: 
Mon-Thu 4:00 PM - 12:00 AM
Fri/Nights before holidays 4:00 PM - 4:30 AM
Sat 12:00 PM - 4:30 AM
Sun/Holidays 12:00 PM - 12:00 AM  
- Closed: None
- Address: 1-22-10 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
- Phone: 03-5728-1099
- Website: https://sakabatorino.tokyo/#about
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shibuya_sakabatorino/?igshid=MTdnZGhoZ2l1ajhr 
- TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@shibuya_sakabatorino?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc