If you hadn’t noticed already, the Japanese take dining out very seriously. But one of the more relaxed forms of dining is the izakaya pub restaurant. Best described as casual Japanese dining, an izakaya serves lots of small dishes of meat, seafood and vegetables in an array of styles. The founders of Yawaraya, Shintaro Hagiwara and wife Maki, are very fond of the traditional izakaya culture and have worked hard to ensure diners at their establishment experience the true izakaya experience – tatami mat (woven straw) floors, a relaxed atmosphere, a setting where friends can sit for a long time and enjoy drink and conversation. Shintaro says many Hirafu izakaya now forego the offering of an otoushi – a small, unordered dish provided upon arrival. But wanting to keep the tradition alive, they continue to do so and it’s often one of the tastiest dishes of the night. Be sure to try their succulent wagyu beef and their special shouchu – sake-like wine.