‘Nomihoudai’ = ‘All You Can Drink!’ System in Japan!
‘Nomihoudai’ – the word that often tops the list of useful phrases visitors to Japan pick up, means ‘all you can drink’ and carries with it lots things to look out for. With a nomihoudai deal, you pay a specific, predetermined amount for a certain amount of time (usually 90 minutes to two hours), and within that time, you can drink as much as you like from the nomihoudai menu, which surprisingly for first time visitors, usually includes all the most popular draft beers, mixers and cocktails. In other words, if you like to drink… this is not a scam, but a very, very good deal.
Rather than the inevitable disaster a nomihoudai would be in countries in the West (sure fleets of ambulances, probably even deaths…), in Japan, nomihoudai is an integral part of society. Colleagues descend on izakayas (Japanese pubs) after work, friends go out for a good time on the weekend, avoiding the extortionate prices of drinks in some clubs and bars with a few hours of nomihoudai beforehand.
Nomihoudai, Price Range in Tokyo
Although prices range, and styles differ, you can easily find bars where you can drink as much as you want/can for 1000 yen for 3 hours in Roppongi (bars called Jumanji or Bar Mist), or for a more classy environment in Shibuya or Shinjuku, up to 3000 yen for a few hours. On top of this, most karaoke dens have various nomihoudai offers that last until 7 in the morning. Messy? That’s up to you.
So when it comes down to it, what should you do and look out for nomihoudai?
“飲み放題” in big, often yellow or red letters is a sure sign you’ve hit the right place!
Another Tips When You Go to Izakaya in Japan
Be aware that if you are in an izakaya, a nomihoudai deal often comes with a table or cover charge per person (usually about 400 yen but up to 1000 yen), and they will sometimes also ask you to buy one food dish per person as well. The usual time limit in an izakaya is 90 or 120 minutes, and this can’t be extended, so keep an eye on the time, get the most of your money and don’t fight it at the end. It is usually also the rule that all members of your party must take part in, and therefore pay for, nomihoudai – you cannot pick and choose! Makes sense really…
Finally, remember that in an izakaya, even with nomihoudai, the normal Japanese drinking etiquette still applies! Don’t start before everyone has a drink, and raise your glass high to a ‘kanpai!’ It is also rude to order more drinks than you can consume – ideally, finish one before ordering the next.
Above all, exploit this quintessentially Japanese opportunity of nomihoudai and have a good night! Kanpai!
Recommended Cheapest Deals for Nomihoudai (Tokyo Area):
Jumanji: Exit 5 at Roppongi Station – turn right at the corner of FamilyMart and it is at the end of the alleyway on the left (1000 yen nomihoudai 19:00-23:30; 19:00-07:00 for women on weekdays)
For Bar Mist: Exit 5 at Roppongi Station – turn right as you come out of the exit, walk for approx. 10 minutes (past Donquijote, TGIF’s, turn left at the large crossing and it is on the right (1000 yen nomihoudai 19:00-23:30)