What is Nomihodai? All You Can Drink in Japan

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Writer’s profile

Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with traveling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. She also loves to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.

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Do you know the best and the cheapest way to enjoy an unlimited amount of alcoholic drinks at Izakaya bars in Japan? “Nomihodai” is a unique Japanese culture that is reasonable, fun, and interesting to try when you want to enjoy a variety of refreshing drinks while saving money. What exactly is Nomihodai? Where should you go to find great Nomihodai experiences in Japan? Here we will provide you basic information, helpful rules to remember, and the best spots to enjoy Nomihodai culture in Japan!     

1. What is “Nomihodai” (飲み放題)?

Many people start with beer at nomihodai

Nomihodai is a common menu option that is widely available at Izakaya bars and casual restaurants in Japan. It can be translated as “All you can drink” in English. As you can easily guess from the name, Nomihodai is basically an affordable system that allows customers to enjoy as many drinks as they can on a budget. The average price for Nomihodai could be around ¥1,500 – ¥3,000, and the price never goes up no matter how many drinks you order within the time limit. The time limit for Nomihodai is generally 1.5 – 3 hours, and the time starts to count down as you tell your first order to the staff. Your orders will be delivered straight to your table, and you can pass your empty glass to the staff when ordering another round.    

2. What you can order for Nomihodai?                            

Most nomihodai places have huge menus

Many Izakaya bars and restaurants in Japan have a Nomihodai menu which is separately prepared aside from an ordinary menu. What you can choose from a Nomihodai menu could be a little different from an ordinary one, so make sure to check both of them in advance and choose the better one which offers what you want to order.

The typical Nomihodai menu includes a wide range of alcoholic beverages such as beer, cocktails, wine, whiskey and soda, Sho-chu (焼酎), and Nihon-shu (日本酒). Non-alcoholic drinks (fruit juice, soda, tea, and more) are also widely offered as a part of the Nomihodai menu, which will give you a short break from endlessly consuming strong alcoholic drinks. Ordering non-alcoholic drinks at times is a helpful way to enjoy Nomihodai while avoiding getting drunk too much.  

When it comes to ordering food, you can order the food menu separately while enjoying Nomihodai. In many cases, you will be asked if you want to request a set menu along with Nomihodai when making reservations on the phone or online. Many Izakaya bars in Japan offer reasonable set courses, which are generally served with a variety of dishes. Typical Izakaya dishes include sashimi, Yakitori (skewered chicken on a stick), Hiyayakko (chilled tofu), Karaage, and much more, which will definitely satisfy your appetite!       

3. How do Japanese people enjoy Nomihodai?

Do not drink before saying kampai

In Japan, Izakaya is considered a perfect place for social gatherings. “Nomikai” (飲み会), literally means “a drinking party” in Japanese, is often held at Izakaya bars where a group of coworkers, friends, or intimate people get together and enjoy Nomihodai. Nowadays, Nomikai is arguably a big part of Japanese culture, and it is used as an effective way to encourage smooth interactions and communication among employees working at the same company over glasses of alcoholic drinks. 

If you hope to build a successful career at a Japanese company, you will probably be invited to Nomikai parties after work once in a while. Although attending Nomikai is not mandatory, it will possibly give you some advantages in terms of establishing good relationships with your colleagues and supervisors!             

4. Rules to remember before having your first Nomihodai experience in Japan

Remember, if you don’t understand, watch other people!

Make sure to finish your drink before ordering another one.

It is very important to wait until you finish your drink before asking the staff to take an order for your next round. In some cases, they won’t accept your next order unless your glass is completely empty. 

Keep the time limit in mind.

The time limit for Nomihodai is generally around 1.5 – 3 hours, and it basically can’t be extended for any special reasons. If you can’t finish what you order within the time limit, it is considered kind of “rude” or “wasteful” in Japan.    

Decide what to drink for your final order in advance.  

The last call for drinks will be taken about 10 – 20 minutes before the time is up, so make sure to check the menu in advance and decide what to order for your last call.

5. How to request Nomihodai in Japanese?

Nomihodai is a great way to meet friends in Japan

Here are some useful & simple Japanese phrases which will help you smoothly enjoy Nomihodai at Izakaya bars in Japan! 

Kanpai! (乾杯)

Kanpai means “Cheers!” in Japanese, and this simple phrase is perfect to use before starting your first drink at Izakaya bars. Raising your glass, making a toast with others, and taking your first sip will make you feel as if you are enjoying the Izakaya experience like locals.    

Sumimasen (すみません)

Sumimasen means “Excuse me” in English, and it’s a very common Japanese word that can be used in a variety of situations. When you want to order something at Izakaya, raise your hand and call for the staff with the phrase.   

Kore wo Kudasai (これをください)

Kore wo Kudasai means “Can I have this one?” in Japanese, and it can conveniently be used in both casual and formal situations. If you have the menu at hand but don’t know how to correctly pronounce the name of the items you want to order, you can say this phrase while pointing at them.  

Okaikei Onegaishimasu (お会計お願いします)

When you finish everything and are ready to leave, saying this phrase will help you to tell the staff that you want to have the bill. 

6. Best places offering unforgettable Izakaya experiences in Tokyo! 

Many young people love going out in SHibuya

Shinjuku (新宿)

One of Tokyo’s most popular entertainment districts is full of reasonable dining options, cultural experiences, natural attractions as well as shopping spots. Shinjuku is also home to some of the best drinking districts, such as Kabukicho (歌舞伎町), Golden Gai (ゴールデン街), and Omoide Yokocho (思い出横丁).  

Shinjuku Biggest Drinking Town Izakaya Hopping Tour [Evening Tour]

Shibuya (渋谷)

Shibuya is a bustling business and shopping district which is best known for the world’s busiest Shibuya crossing. This is where you can literally find countless numbers of Izakaya bars that offer enjoyable Nomikai experiences which suit all budget limits!     

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Happy traveling!

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