An “izakaya” is a type of restaurant in Japan where traditional Japanese food is served. Depending on the restaurant, the menus may be quite different; some specialize in seafood while others may have a lot of fried food. However, one thing that many of these establishments have in common is something called “oto-oshi”. In Osaka and other nearby regions, it is more often called, “tsuki-dashi”.
This is something that the restaurant brings to your table with the first order or even before you order anything. It is usually served in a small dish and given to each individual. You may think it’s complimentary food since you didn’t ask for it. But no, they are part of the restaurant’s service which costs you about 300 to 500 yen for each person.
Although “oto-oshi” is most commonly understood as the minimum charge for the table (or in some cases, counter), even Japanese are not fond of paying for something that they didn’t ask for. Sometimes, “oto-oshi” is something that you do not want to eat at all. In this case, it will be a total waste. You could tell them you don’t want the food. They may take the small dish away from you, but the minimum charge will not be taken off your bill.
Knowing that “oto-oshi” is not sought out among “izakaya” customers, some “izakaya” hold a sign in front of the restaurant, saying, “We don’t give you or charge you oto-oshi” to encourage people to come in without worrying about spending extra money. In some other places, “oto-oshi” is given only when you order alcohol.
In the end, you do not have much control on this practice. It’s like paying the tip for your waiter or waitress. We don’t have tips in Japan, but we do have “oto-oshi”. It is often practiced, but not always. So you could find restaurants without it and make those your “regulars”. By the way, even for “izakaya” where they charge for “oto-oshi”, it is usually not included for their lunch menus. We wish you an enjoyable “izakaya” life in Japan. If you find one you recommend, please let us know in the comments section.
Your questions and comments are always welcome.
– C2Gi Immersion Center