An izakaya (居酒屋) is a common kind of Japanese bar or restaurant, also found in cosmopolitan cities throughout the world, popular in Japan for after-work drinking. A definitive feature of an izakaya is that it serves food as well as drink. Patrons typically sit on the floor and dine from low tables in the traditional Japanese style.
The name "izakaya" is a compound word with "i" and "sakaya" (sake shop). It was originally an opposite to "tachinomiya", (standing bar, tachi(standing)+nomi(drinking)+ya(shop)), a liquor shop which sold sake and let customers drink in the shop.
Today, when you first sit down, you will be given an oshibori (wet towel) to clean your hands with, next an appetizer will be served. The portions are generally more substantial than Spanish tapas, but are less than a full meal. Traditionally many Japanese salarymen like to relax after work at a local izakaya. This trend is complemented by a growing population of independent women, and young people (the drinking age is 20), who are also interested in relaxing after work at an izakaya.
Izakaya are sometimes called Akachōchin (red lantern) in daily conversation, because these paper lanterns are traditionally found in front of an izakaya.