Izakaya dinner

After a good time spent at the Kyoto aquarium we had to pick up our bikes, that for some reason we left near the central station, and pedal all the way to Higashiyama-ku for the tea ceremony with Atsuko.


Arriving at the historic area, we parked our bikes and continued on foot, stopping at the Ghibli store and having a fresh drink while watching the sun go down on the other side of the valley.

We then headed to Camellia for the wonderful tea ceremony — read all about it in this post.

After a soul cleansing ceremony, our bellies were starting to rumble so we headed out with Atsuko leading the way across the summer matsuri and packed Kyoto for a magnificent dinner at Anji, a traditional Japanese Izakaya.


We entered through what seemed to be a private house door, but what expected us inside was anything but. Upon entry, and always assisted by our host, Atsuko, we were asked to remove our shoes and put them in a cabinet that covered one of the walls. By the way, we couldn’t have gone in without her — there’s very little room for foreigners in places like this and they have no interest in making them more accessible for that audience.

There were no empty tables on the ground floor so we climbed two flights of very steep and narrow stairs, and were seated at a table for 4 and handed a menu. The table had very short legs — kotatsu-style —, meaning you actually seat on a pillow on the floor and your legs go under the ground. The menu was exclusively in Japanese. We knew then we were in for a great time.


Atsuko very carefully explained the concept of an Izakaya — think Japanese tavern ambiance where everyone shares dishes and has a good, relaxed time — and then proceeded to enlighten us on the options we had. We quickly delegated all decision powers to her and she started ordering dish after dish after dish.

And drinks. Cold beers and sodas with an entire frozen lemon or orange inside the glass.

As for the food, we had mochiko appetizers (sweet and savory), fried flounder (and its bones), fresh eel, teriyaki-style grilled fish (specialty of this particular spot), a large plate of sashimi (salmon, tuna, octopus, sea bream, scallops, squid, etc.), and an actual charcoal grill on the table where we had all sorts of vegetables and dried fish bubbling around.


After slurping and devouring every last bit on our dishes, and chatting for a while, we looked around and realized this was not the atmosphere we were used to in Japan. Most of the meals we had witnessed until then were lunches in big cities, where it is customary for people to go by themselves and be done in 5-10 minutes to get back to their work desks. It’s not unusual for salarymen to simply grab a sandwich or noodles at the nearest 7-Eleven and go back up to work either. It’s not until after work people actually get together and have a few drinks and chat over a plate or two of food. And more often than not, that leads to even more drinks and more chatter.

On our left, a small group of young guys were drinking away and cracking jokes; on our right, a large group of salarymen was having a farewell dinner for one of their soon-to-be retired colleague — soon enough there was loud laughs and booze flying around in all directions.

Even if just for a little while, it was cool to see the true spirit of Japanese people come out and be celebrated with very few boundaries. Delicious food in good company, what else can you ask for?

10 responses

  1. You two should get all the posts and make a book. That would be an amazing guide. It would make our lives much easier too, not having to save them all in our phones when we finally make it there.. ;-)

    1. akanekinomoto Avatar

      That was the idea…! ;)

      1. !!!! Ah!
        Please, pretty please… do it.

    2. Hah yes, that was our initial intention — you can even see the book blurb on 19daysinjapan.com. However, we postponed it indefinitely because it’d take a bunch of time. Maybe we can use this new energy to finally do it. :)

      1. Do it! I remember now!

  2. […] varied and rich gastronomy, from the humble convenience store bought onigiri to the fanciest izakaya. I will miss the idyllic narrow streets that contrast with the huge metropolis they form. I will […]

  3. Mónica Mendes Coelho Avatar
    Mónica Mendes Coelho

    Olá. Podem partilhar o nome do restaurante perto do mercado? obrigada.

  4. Mónica Mendes Coelho Avatar
    Mónica Mendes Coelho

    Olá. mais um pedido: podem também indicar o nome deste restaurante? Arigato.

    1. Este é que nem localização me lembro. Fomos levados até lá e saímos ainda em estado de trance, por isso não fixei onde era. Já perguntei, e quando tiver resposta digo-te.

    2. O restaurante chama-se Anji, e fica aqui uma página com mais detalhes: http://www.anji-gr.com/anji_fy.html

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