Here is an izakaya which is particularly cheerful and easy going, a very popular venue in its neighborhood, frequented by working-class people and maybe retirees. You feel like being among a big family here and by the way, it's run by a real family with several generations, including the grandma who must be well over her 80s and who' still runs to the tables to bring the sake and other drinks.
My friend in Tokyo learnt about the place through someone whose cousin was one of the middle-aged guys running the place, and he had the intuition that this was the sort of place I was looking for. On target, man, this was a perfect pick, exactly the type of non-pretentious place full of life that I like and want to share. Forget the Michelin awards and bring the booze...
Don't pay attention to these awful neons that are indeed a poor way to light a place, I gave up long time ago taking into account my instinctive philosophy regarding lighting in appartments and businesses in this country, and these lighting fixtures which would make me upset in France don't even bother me here, I focus on other things that I find pleasant and more important.
The street where the izakaya sits is not even gloomy, it's a perfectly anonymous and bland street, I wouldn't have bet a 100-Yen coin that anything interesting could be located there if I hadn't been tipped about the place.
The izakaya is located in the north-east section of central Tokyo named the kita ward, just north of the Yamanote circle (the equivalent of the middle of nowhere for someone like me who barely begins to explore beyond the Yamanote ring). You can reach the Oji station with the Keihin Tohoku line from Tabata staion, or with the Namboku line through Komagome.
Given the amount of plates and repeated drinks that people were ordering, we knew that we weren't going to ruin ourselves, we've come here to drink after all.
On the other side of the table we had several women who were also in good mood and ordering lots of stuff, and at one point there was a very elegant old man sitting there, who seemed to be a regular and who ordered his drink and food without paying attention to us. This place is really an izakaya for regulars and with a multi-generational style.
There were 10 plates at 240 Y, like minced onion with mayonaise, spinach, algae, shallots, tomato, cucumber, raw vegetable, octopus salad, tofu salad, asparagus and more.
Sashimi of tuna 300 Y, sliced tuna 300Y, cittlefish sashimi 270 Y, squid 270 Y, macquerel 270 Y, salmon eggs (400 to 470 Y), whelks 270 Y, Namako (seafood) no price, sea cucumber no price,
There different grilled fish from 270 Y to 550 Y, dry white radish, fried potato, Nikogi (no price), raw egg 70 Y, natto 110 Y, tofu 160 Y (plus 3 other types of tofu).
cheese 180 Y, fish paste, oden 400 Y, Nikomi 310 Y, oshiniko (fermented vegetables) 170 Y.
There were katu & Agemono (tempura made with bread dust) 160 Y
There was also fried chicken, grilled cheese and other fried items.
There were tempura made of tuna, tofu, mushroom, sweet potatoe and so on.
Keep in mind that for example 200 Y make 1,4 € or 1,9 USD, so it's pretty cheap.
Regarding the sake, they had some by the jug or by the glass, and also by small bottles :
By the glass they have 8 kinds, costing from 300 Y to 550 Y a glass.
In small bottles, you get a volume from one go to 4 go (a go is a Japanese volume unit making 330 ml) and at prices ranfing from 750 Y to 2700 Y.
Beer costs from 290 Y to 740 Y
By the jug (the choicel if you look for drinking with an average quality), you have 3 kinds of sake :
__Yaesu, small jug 230 Y, big jug (like on the 2nd pic above) 400 Y.
__Shirataka Aomatsu (means : white hawk blue bread) - small jug 260 Y, big jug 400 Y
__ Shirataka Kuro Matsu (white hawk black bread), small jug 290 Y, big jug 510 Y.
Again, 200 Yen make 1,4 € or 1,9 USD.
I found my notes about what we had this evening : we had in all 6 glasses of sake and 5 plates to share and we paid only 3110 Yen (22 € or 30 USD). I found the exact name of the sake we had, there was a Kubota at 240 Y, then Katu Rei (Nigata prefecture) junmai ginjo at 330 Y. I have no noted about the 3rd sake we ordered. I wrote on my notebook that sake jugs cost 420 Y, 480 Y or 530 Y.
The cashier's desk at the bottom right is very simple, just a table with boxes underneath, it's like the neons at the ceiling, it didn't prevent them from having fun.
Shochu is something I'm lagging about, each time I swear I'll have shochu only so as to learn more about it, and each time I end up ordering sake only. The thing is, I don't want to have these shochu highballs which are so popular here, and where the shochu is drowned into a sea of ice and cold soda.
Most of the shochu in this country (from my superficial viewpoint) is served as high ball or chuhai, the local term for these cocktails. We have similar cocktails in France, sold in cans, and they're often described as a sheme by the spirits industry to have young people hooked with cheap alcohol laced with fruit-flavored soda.
That's the same with whisky high ball, a popular drink in Japan in the 1960s' and 1970s' and which became fashionable again a few years ago (read this article about the reasons). I think personally that when the whisky is good, it is pretty sad to drown it into soda or a mountain of ice.
You can see on this Suntory commercial video on the left how to prepare a high ball with whisky, in case you want to experience whisky the Japanese way. My choice these days will usually be to just add a bit of flat water at room temperature.