A Strange Japanese Custom: The Matter of “Otoshi” at Izakaya

Yumi Murata

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Credit: Kent Wang via Flickr

I don’t usually think about Japanese customs in my daily life because I am used to them. However, when I go out with foreign friends, I sometimes notice that there are strange Japanese customs. Some of them people can accept even though they are strange; on the other hand, a few of them can cause troubles if you don’t know what those customs mean.

So today I’d like to share with you one of the strange Japanese customs which I had an experience with before.

The strange custom of “Otoshi” at Izakaya

If you have been to an Izakaya, a typical Japanese pub, you might have already had this experience.

Right after you order a drink, the waiter or waitress will automatically bring you “Otoshi (お通し・おとおし)” or “Tsukidashi (突き出し・つきだし)”.

“Otoshi” or “Tsukidashi” is a very small portion of an appetizer which is charged for, so it is like a table charge. It depends on the Izakaya, however it usually costs at least 300 yen and it is not written on the menu at all.

It caused a problem…

I accepted “Otoshi” without thinking at Izakaya until I went out for a drink with a few foreign co-workers. When the bill came to our table, the total was more expensive than we expected, because it included the “Otoshi” charge, which was not mentioned on the menu at all.

Now you can imagine what happened there.

A recent trend

Some chain Izakaya companies throughout Japan listen to customer feedback, so nowadays when you order an alcoholic drink at one of those Izakaya, you don’t have to accept “Otoshi” if you don’t need a small portion of Japanese food with your drink.

You should say, “Otoshi wa irimasen”, which in Japanese means “I don’t need Otoshi”. Then you won’t be served this extra item.

If you don’t know which Izakaya is a chain store, then you should ask the waiter or waitress at the entrance if you can refuse “Otoshi”.

“Otoshi wa irimasen ga nondemo iidesuka?” in Japanese. It means “I don’t need Otoshi, but can I drink?”

If he or she answers “Sore wa dekimasen”, it means “That’s not possible”, so you might want to try another place.

I hope you will enjoy drinking without worrying about this kind of situation, and that you will be able to try various typical Izakaya dishes like the ones in the pictures below.

Fried burdock

Fried burdock

Fried chicken

Fried chicken

A savory steamed egg custard with assorted ingredients

A savory steamed egg custard with assorted ingredients

A cartilage with tossed plum

A cartilage with tossed plum

The information covered in this article was correct at the time of writing. In the case of national holidays and seasonal holidays, opening hours may vary. If the information has changed, please notify us and we will alter it accordingly.