The Jupiter Hotel will play host this week to the massive Izakaya pub fest—with representatives of almost every Portland sake "dining bar" and distiller (not Tanuki, see here) serving up massive tonnage of rice wine and pub grub in a vast space loosely laid out like sections of the Tokyo subway. Izakayas go deep in Japan—back to 17th-century sake shops serving food out the front door—but the most dominant modern image is a traditional-minded bar full of the cherry-cheeked workaholic salarymen of Japan's postwar years. Since the 1980s, the scene has broadened to include women and the young, but there's some old-school etiquette to follow… if you want to call it that.
This is the start to every izakaya drinking session: It's Japanese bar talk for "On your marks, get set, go!" That is to say, it means, "Bottoms up." Don't start drinking until you say it.
Never pour your own.
It's bad manners to greedily grope at the sake carafe and pour more for yourself; it's also bad manners to let anybody else's cup go empty. When you pour for somebody else, they pour for you. Traditionally, the younger and inferior pour first, then are bestowed upon in return by their gracious betters. If you come alone, the only recourse is to weep softly until the cup fills with the salt of your tears.
"Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!"
Yelling "banzai" three times as you drink is how you signal to the rest of the bar that you're drunk. If you're a middle-aged salary worker in a power suit, being publicly drunk is considered fairly normal.
Don't start with ramen or rice.
This isn't hard and fast, but most Japanese don't accompany heavy drinking with starch. The izakaya is more of a meat-and-pickle culture—similar to those other great public drinkers, the Germans. If beer is liquid bread, sake is liquid rice. Ramen and yakisoba are less bar snack than night-ender, like a trip to a 24-hour taco house.
Get as drunk as you want.
After all, there's an advanced, 24-hour, high-speed transit system to take your sorry butt home. Oh, wait, there isn't. Never mind.
GO: Izakaya at the Jupiter Hotel, 800 E Burnside St., celebrateizakaya.com. 5:30-9 pm Friday, Nov. 16. $40. 21kknd.
THURSDAY NOV. 15
FRIDAY NOV. 16
SATURDAY NOV. 17
TUESDAY NOV. 20