What It's Like Working At An Izakaya


Izakaya are so, so much fun. The menus carry everything from fish to barbeque to pasta to tempura to french fries!

(Real quick for those who might not have heard of them before: Izakaya are places to go to mainly drink with friends while sharing a whole lot of different food. It seems like people frequent these places more than bars usually - possibly.)

Even though I've really never had any experience waitressing and have been to an Izakaya only a handful of times, I actually got a chance to work at one! 

american working at an izakaya

The first thing I noticed - which is apparently standard for certain other work places as well - is that people say "Good morning" to greet your coworkers/boss when you arrive. Even if you're getting there at say, 4PM. O-okay, that's kind of fun right? おはようございま~す!

And then there's the other Japanese - "Welcome," "Here's your beer," "Thank you!" Interacting with customers is pretty basic in that way, until questions about the menu come up.. which is when my amazing coworkers would either fill me in on or (more likely) come and take over. Ack.

So remember how amazing all those options are on the menu? It's a blessing and yet a curse for a newbie. At this point, I was living in Japan for over a year but was surprised at how many things I didn't realize existed.. not to mention how many ways fish can be prepared! So, even if you're familiar and can speak Japanese - learning a menu is a whole other language that takes time.

Of course you'll learn how to prepare drafts and plenty of other cocktails in a heartbeat though. Personally, I was incredibly unfamiliar with Japanese drink choices like "Chuu-hai" or "Lemon Sour". And actually got classed up a bit with others I should've probably known before like Highballs or Red Eyes. Oops. But people just keep drinking and drinking, so there's plenty of opportunity to jump in.

And so now everyone's drunk, right? If you're a foreigner (or even Japanese), there's always the rude people. Getting "wasted" means saying whatever you want? Um, that's a whole other topic, but smiling and politely excusing yourself to help other patrons is usually the good way to go.

It really is like any other job interacting with customers, plus learning a few Japanese phrases and food (if you're unfamiliar). But it's definitely interesting being a Japanese speaking foreigner waitress who can keep the customers on their toes!


  1. This is really interesting! I'm looking for a part-time job right now (because working home alone out in the countryside all day makes you kind of crazy) - Izakayas and coffee shops are top on my list right now~

    1. Thanks for your comment Grace!

      Oh my gosh, been there done that with needing an excuse to leave the house while looking for a job. If I was in Japan, I might consider conbini's too - anything speaking Japanese would be fun (at least for a while - PDR's "コンビニに来るウザイ客" Youtube series is kind of hilarious though).

      Good luck with your part-time job search!!



About Us!

Hey there! We're Taiki and Andrea - a Japanese/American couple who love traveling and learning about other people and cultures. We've been to India, Thailand, Korea, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece and Italy (as well as the US and Japan of course!)

We started a blog to preserve our memories while encouraging and motivating others to travel or learn English!

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