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Best of the Bunch : Table Charges

by BeerTengoku Writer
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This is one that doesn’t really need much explaining behind the title but here we go – best of the bunch : table charge. If you’ve been in Japan for a while, then no doubt you’ve experienced the dreaded table charge. It’s an antiquated system where bars and restaurants add a small charge to your bill, usually between ¥300 to ¥600, and in return you get a small dish. 

This charge, known as otoshi (お通し) or tsukidashi (突き出し). The reason for the two words? Well, “otoshi” is predominantly used in the Kanto region and further north, while “tsukidashi” is commonly used in the Kansai area of Japan. Both though have three main theories of origin:

  • Cultural: In Japan, you snack while you drink. That’s how it goes, end of discussion. If this is your starting point, I can see something like otoshi come into existence. If everybody eats some sort of snack anyway why not make a bunch of it and make it mandatory?
  • Historical: When you look at the literal meanings you have a couple of theories. One is that the otoshi is proof that your order got delivered to the kitchen. The other is that the otoshi is a fast and easy filler you get while you wait for your main order.
  • Commercial: Izakayas used to be small bars with few tables. If you have strict limitations on the number of guests you’re able to serve it’s important that you get good value out of the guests you do serve. So to drive up the bill, they slap on a compulsory appetisers per person, and with a party of four, they make an extra ¥1,200 to ¥2,400

Yes, you can refuse the dish that is served to you – I’ve done it a few times myself – but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the money taken off the meal. It’s not that common to see this charge in craft beer bars, and we’ve tried to let readers know where the places are that don’t use this table charge, but just in case, check out this link here [add link]. In the meantime, let’s look at the best places for craft beer that do have this table charge but make it worthwhile to go there.

Kanei Shoten (Hinodecho / Yokohama)

This place must be doing something right. For every time that I’ve been here, it’s been full within 30 minutes of opening. Perhaps it’s the food, the wine, the craft beer, the lively atmosphere, or even a combination of all these. The table charge won’t break the bank with it being ¥400 the last time I was there, and you do get some tasty food there to whet your appetite, and that’s if the dishes that get served up in front of you don’t get your mouth watering in the first place. With plenty of vegetarian options as well for you, Kanei Shoten is a good place for everyone to go to.


Link to write up : Kanei Shoten in Noge, Yokohama

Takadanobaba Beer Shokudo (Takadanobaba / Tokyo)

Takadanobaba Beer Shokudo – now trying say that after you’ve had a few beers at this place – was a surprise visit for us back in 2019. The Takadanobaba area is very popular with students though there are some craft beer bars in the area that you could make a crawl out of. Just make sure you do visit here, as in spite of the ¥330 table charge, there’s a great selection of imported and domestic craft beers on tap. The rotisserie chicken they have on sale is juicy and delicious – great with a few pints or so.

Link to write up : Takadanobaba Beer Shokudo in Takadanobaba, Tokyo

Craft Beer House Dodo (Meguro / Tokyo)

Craft Beer House Dodo is another place that took us by surprise on our first visit back in 2017. I was expecting something a bit dingier in this area of Tokyo but stepping into Craft Beer House Dodo, you’re greeted by lots of wood and a relatively spacious and open area. I didn’t eat much – I don’t tend to when I am out drinking – but the table charge of ¥300 got me a small plate of food. It was the salty chips – just the right amount of salt for me – that kept me there and helped me drink more than I expected. Having a good tap list also helped the case for me to go back to Craft Beer House Dodo, and I’ve been back a couple of times since, when I am in the area.

Link to write up : Craft Beer Dodo House in Meguro, Tokyo

Swan Lake Pub Edo Tamachi (Tamachi / Tokyo)

Swan Lake have been in the craft beer game for a while now, since 1997 in fact, and with their range of craft beers has come a range of craft beer bars, all with some different ideas and themes behind them. It was a toss up between the Shinjuku branch and this branch in Tamachi, but it’s nice to get out of the usual areas and head somewhere new. It’s also the most casual of the branches and it does have a table charge after 6pm of ¥300 though it does have a happy hour to balance it out.

Link to write up : Swan Lake Tamachi in Tamachi, Tokyo 

Craft Beer Market (Nationwide)

It’s hard to pick out a single branch of this chain, and it is probably the first nationwide craft beer chain. Every branch has a table charge of ¥300 at all the branches but if you’re going to head to one branch, then go to one that has an outdoor area with some covered parts – you can enjoy some outside beers while you’re covered up from the sun and making that table charge work itself. For the outside pick, I’d probably end up going to either the Tokyo Torch branch or Otemachi branch, as both have large outside drinking areas and you’re bound to get a seat.

Link to write up : Craft Beer Market Tokyo Torch in Otemachi, Tokyo / Craft Beer Market Otemachi in Otemachi, Tokyo

Beer Maison (Fujisawa / Kanagawa)

Not everywhere in this list is in Tokyo – case in point Beer Maison in Fujisawa. The area has become a sleepy hit for craft beer and at the time of writing, has a good number of bars in the area. Beer Maison has some delicious beers on tap, some tasty food, and a nice atmosphere though it comes at a cost of ¥300 which gets you a few pickles on a plate, maybe some fishy thing if you’re unlucky. The bar prides itself on having the best poured Pilsner Urquell in the area, if not the country, so try it out and then get some craft beer to follow up.

Link to write up : Beer Maison (Fujisawa / Kanagawa)

Craft Beer GRANZOO (Sekiguchi / Tokyo)

I first went to Craft Beer GRANZOO during that small Covid pandemic we had a few years ago, and at first, I wasn’t that impressed with it. I didn’t eat there the first time because I had eaten a pizza at the previous place, so the 4 nuts I got for the table charge of ¥300 was just enough to tide me over. It was only on subsequent occasions that I’ve been to Craft Beer GRANZOO that I sat outside and enjoyed the peaceful serenity that the Kanda River offers alongside the small park.

Link to write up : Craft Beer GRANZOO in Sekiguchi, Tokyo

Craft Beer Server Land (Iidabashi / Tokyo)

Now we’re really going back in time with this place – Craft Beer Server Land! The first time we went here was back in 2016 and I enjoyed my time so much that I was determined to keep going back there when I can. It’s got a great range of beers on tap and some delicious food. And while the table charge of ¥380 is one of the more expensive on this list of places, the cost of the food and the beers is cheap enough that you don’t even worry about the table charge fee at the end. 

Link to write up : Craft Beer Server Land in Iidabashi, Tokyo

TBE Brewing (Ebisu / Tokyo)

Another place that has been visited numerous times, though I haven’t been there in the last couple of years, is TBE Brewing. From the start, the tap list has been very good, with lots of domestic breweries on the menu, as well as a fair number of imports prying their way in. The food is top notch at TBE Brewing, and the table charge of ¥300 always gets you something that is well made and tasty. 

Link to write up : TBE Brewing in Ebisu, Tokyo

Craftsman Gotanda (Gotanda / Tokyo)

Craftsman Gotanda has a lot to answer for – it was the first in the chain of Craftsman bars with Sendai and Yokohama – as it got me hooked on the Belgian frites that the chain does spectacularly well. The sheer number of taps surprised me too, with over 30 taps at the time and I was like a kid in a toy shop. The table charge at ¥324 has not been replicated at other bars and I wonder if they will stop here any time soon? The food and the beers more than make up for it though.

Link to write up : Craftman Gotanda in Gotanda, Tokyo

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