2023-12-22 Monthly Feature Story - December 2023 - Otoshi
Cultural Tips - Otoshi
At most Japanese style izakaya bars, a small side dish known as "otoshi" is served as soon as you order alcoholic drinks.
The most common types of otoshi are dishes that go well with alcohol such as edamame (boiled green soybeans), pickles, and simmered vegetables and meat. These are great appetizers.
Otoshi is a custom that stems from the sprit of hospitality. Drinks can be served immediately after they are ordered but dishes take time, so it's great if customers can have something to nibble while waiting for their food to arrive. This thoughtfulness helped inspire the custom of serving otoshi.
Please keep the following in mind since this is a custom particular to Japan.
1. Although otoshi is served automatically, it is not complimentary. In most cases, you will be charged anywhere between 300 and 500 yen.
2. You never know what you will get until the otoshi is served. It's rather like "gachapon" (capsule-toy vending machines).
3. Otoshi is not on the menu in most cases.
Some people may wonder why they have to pay for a dish they haven't ordered but otoshi serves as a substitute for a cover or service charge.
In Japan, you don't have to tip. So it makes sense to pay for the otoshi when paying the bill at an izakaya without hesitation.
Once people understand this custom, they are more than happy to cooperate. As the saying goes - "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."