Five things to ask before Nomihoudai
Nomihoudai 飲み放題 is perhaps the greatest thing about Japan’s insane drinking culture. All-you-can-drink for a set price!
Nomihoudai is usually a fun and simple experience, where both locals and travellers can enjoy each other’s company over an endless supply of the best beverages that Japan has to offer, and for a reasonable price too.
However, it is safe to assume that most tourists in Japan may not know how to use the local tongue or realise that there are a few systematic hurdles that one should consider before indulging themselves in this experience. Here are five things to ask before Nomihoudai.
This is a given and it will usually be explicitly stated by the people working outside the izakaya encouraging you to enter. Unfortunately, prices do vary between different establishments and you should keep an eye out for cheaper options. A famous izakaya chain is known as Kin no Kura may have one of their establishments offering Nomihoudai for 1300 yen per person when just a six-minute walk away, another Kin no Kura is offering the same deal for 1000 yen per person.
In reality, one should only pay up to 1500 max for a session of Nomihoudai at an izakaya, and around 3000 yen for a session at a Girls Bar or a more fancy establishment.
Nomihoudai is all you can drink…but there is a time limit. Be sure to ask the staff how long you can actually drink for so you understand your situation a bit better. In my experience, izakayas will usually offer 120 minutes for a Nomihoudai session and other places will have one hour only options with the possibility to extend (for a fee).
Make sure you know exactly how long you can drink for at a Nomihoudai so you can maximise the fun potential of your night.
There is a standard rule for Nomihoudai in izakayas, everyone must buy food. One should definitely inquire about this before agreeing to a session, as the establishment may only tell you how much food you need to buy until after you’ve been seated.
For example, Kin no Kura demands that all patrons order two items of food for Nomihoudai, which will add to your overall bill. Some izakayas request that you buy at least one, however.
In places like Shinjuku and Roppongi, one should be aware that izakayas have what’s called a table charge. Table charges can be as small as 200 yen all to way to 1000!
Before entering you should ask お通し代がありますか？いくらですか？(Is there a cover charge? How much is it?).
If you’re confident enough, you may try to haggle with the restaurant and ask them to remove the table charge for you. If you’re polite and charismatic enough, there may be a good chance of this happening.
If there happens to be a table charge, don’t be alarmed. Table charges will come with a small appetiser to make you forget that you are spending money to spend more money.
The last important thing you should inquire is perhaps the most important. You need to make sure that the place where you are drinking allows you to drink what you want to drink for Nomihoudai. There are places in Tokyo that charge an extra 1000 yen for the option of having tap beer or other items as part of your session. Now, the most popular izakayas will not have this deception, but it exists nonetheless, and so you should be careful.
If you’re currently travelling through Japan with your mates and looking for an inexpensive night of boozing, then Nomihoudai is your best option. Look out for these five things and stay safe!