As an English teacher working in Japan, I’m often invited to enkai 「宴会」 work parties. One school I worked at had a particular taste for, very regular, high class izakaya (Japanese bar/restaurant) parties. Each party cost each teacher ¥10,000 or more, so it was hard to take up all invitations on my meagre teacher salary. But when I did attend, the food was always superb…

Nabe 「鍋」

Nabe 「鍋」 at an expensive Japanese Izakaya
Nabe 「鍋」

Nabe is pronoucned nah-beh.

Unlike some izakaya, this upmarket restaurant had a set menu with many courses. Dishes were small and some made for sharing, such as this white miso nabe 「hot pot, 鍋」 containing pork and mushroom.

Nabe typically cooks on the restaurant table, so it didn’t take long for the pork to change from pink to a juicy white.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an izakaya without booze flowing freely. This photo was taken during an autumn party, and bottles of Kirin’s limited edition autumn draft beer were scattered about. Others were drinking hot shōchū 「焼酎」 which most westerns simply call sake.

You don’t have to be working in Japan to enjoy this environment. All major cities in Japan have izakaya for a range of budgets that cater for the tourist who isn’t proficient in Japanese.