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If Britain has a pubbing culture and Singapore has a kopitiam (coffee shop) culture, then Japan has an izakaya (Japanese pub) culture. Drinking is very much a part of the Japanese’ life, especially the near-mandatory happy hour after work with colleagues. There is even a term for it – nominication from “nomu” the Japanese verb for drink and the English “communication”. The blending of these two words speaks of the social aspect of drinking and its value to the people. The tipple is so beloved that they have even developed drinking etiquette that is observed.
Thanks to Singapore’s cosmopolitan society, lovers of Japan’s izakaya culture need not look far. The Republic has plenty of Japanese bars for you to experience the country’s drinking culture without leaving the island. We introduce you to a few and school you on the dos and don’ts of pubbing Japanese style so you will be ready to hit the town on your next trip there.
Source: Hungry go Where
Izakaya comes from the word “I” to stay and “sakaya” (sake shop). At these usually mid-priced bars popular with office workers, patrons snack on Japanese bar bites in between drinks.
Five Izakaya Bar lives up to the reputation of izakayas being affordable. While it does offer full menus for lunch and dinner, and an extensive drinks list, it also offers snacks and drinks for $5. For that price, you can get vodka, gin, rum, whisky, bourbon, red and white wines, sake, shochu, umeyshu and beer as well as light bites like fried rice, crispy chicken skin and yakitori skewers. It is no wonder that this bar modelled after 300-yen bars in Japan is always crowded after hours.
This sake bar exudes an authentic Japanese back alley bar vibe with its dark interiors and Japanese decorations. More impressive than their devotion to bringing a real Nippon experience the are 50 to 70 sake labels Shukuu Izakaya carries. Ask and their sommeliers will help you pair your food with the right sake, tell you all about the one you are drinking and the different types available. They will even recommend the rare sakes the four founders have worked hard to uncover. In fact, this bar is so passionate about sharing the culture and history of sake that they conduct monthly sake classes where you can taste premium sakes.
Like a true izakaya, the menu features a wide selection of Japanese snacks, some of which are quite exotic. Reba Shoyuzuke is marinated chicken liver in soy sauce that is smooth and creamy while Gyu Ponzu features seared slices of beef in a light citrusy sauce topped with fish roe for a little bit of bite. Their deep fried and charcoal skewers selections are equally impressive, offering everything – pork, chicken, beef, seafood and vegetables.
Source: Hungry Go Where
Jizake (artisanal sake), shochu, umeshu – this boutique bar carries them all but only the best and rarest of labels including seasonal and one-time brews. They boast some 200 types of bottles and their staff are only too happy to recommend you a rice wine to suit your taste. Dry, strong, floral, fruity, the first overseas branch of Orihara Company Limited Japan has them all.
Source: BAM SG
Within the industrial chic of this bar – plain concrete, bare bulbs and exposed conduits - is your chance to enjoy Modern Shudo or the contemporary way of enjoying sake. Here, pairing sake with just the right food has been elevated to a fine art. Their floor-to-ceiling cellar houses more than 80 sake labels from the usual breweries in Kyoto and Niigata as well as boutique breweries in Shizuoka and Tochigi. These can be enjoyed with an eclectic array of cuisines, each a tribute to texture, colour and flavour. Their omakase menu may vary though because the appetizers they serve - Spanish dishes with Japanese influences – are created around the best and freshest of seasonal ingredients.
Source: Japan Food Town
This intimate 22-seater has all the rustic charms of a Japanese izakaya complete with wooden seats and traditional décor. What sets it apart are its fruit-based sake cocktails that use Japan’s legendary succulent fruits like Kyoho grapes, passionfruit from Okinawa, tomatoes from Hokkaido, musk melons, strawberries and peaches. They are also the first and only bar that stocks sake recommended and selected by Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo, each sake handmade in small breweries. They also offer rare Japanese whisky brands such as Yamazaki and Hibiki. To be savoured along with the alcohol are oden (Japanese one-pot soups) and somen noodles(thin buckwheat noodles).
Source: Trip Expert
Stepping into this izakaya is like stepping into Tokyo’s colourful nightlife. Urban, edgy and ultra hip, this is what you imagine the city’s latest underground bars to be like.
Like any self-respecting izakaya, sake is big on their list. Apart from the usual sake selections, they also offer concoctions featuring sake that are as funky as their interiors are trendy. For fruity, floral blends, they have Teared Negroni which has rosemary infused sake umeshu, Ahri Spritz which features red berry Osmanthus sake, and Teasy which includes honey melon sake liqueur. If you want to go all-out Japanese, try the Geisha which uses kombu and shitake infused sake umeshu. Another cocktail that features Japanese ingredients is Wasabi Drop, a heady mix of vodka, granola infused sake, lime sorbet and wasabi.
The food is traditional bar bites with a modern twist. Their edamame comes with curry chips. The humble Japanese cucumber is given an upgrade with goma dressing, tarragon and a surprising twist – peanut furikake. American favourites like crab cakes and wings are given a Japanese interpretation, the former with the inclusion of wasabi and the latter with burnt miso.
Source: Seth Lui
Sake is not the only type of alcohol the Japanese love. Beer features prominently in their alcohol preferences, too. At Takumi Craft Beer Bar, you can have your fill of some 20 premium craft beers that are as exotic as they come.
There is Koshihikari Lager produced at the Echigo Brewery in Nigata. The beer is made from crushed Japanese short-grain rice which gives it a hint of sweetness. Shiga Kogen Pale Ale from the mountainous Nagano region is made from hops grown in the brewery. A citrusy bitter brew, it is a refreshing drink after a hard day’s work. They even have Far East Barrel Aged Imperial India Pale Ale beer which is aged in whisky-and-bourbon-infused barrels for two years, yielding a rich, deep flavour. Another barrel-aged beer is Kuro Owa Grand Cru 2013 that is matured in Bordeaux wine barrels.
Ji-biru is Japanese for microbrewery and is synonymous with “local beer”. So, if its authentic Japanese brew you are looking for, JiBiru Craft Beer Bar is the place where Japan’s artisanal beers have pride of place.
On tap are a range of 10 beers from Hitachino Nest, the bar’s signature brand from Kiuchi brewery in the Ibaraki Prefecture. Bottled varieties from Hitachino Nest are also available, 13 in all. There are beers from other breweries as well including Yoho Brewing, Echigo Beer, the famed 200-year-old Shiga Kogen Beer from Nagano, Kinshachi beer from Nagoya and Far Yeast Brewing Company from Tokyo.
Along with your drink, you can have yakitori from the Saitama region of north Toyko. The finest meats including quality Japanese pork and Sakura chicken are grilled in award-winning sauces from the Hibiki yakitori restaurants of Higashimatsuyama.