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Akadama Dictionary

 <Otoshi>

Otoshi is a very ordinary thing for Japanese people. We commonly enjoy food and our first drinks together. While drinking our first drinks and eating otoshi, we choose what dishes we want from the menu. But one time in an izakaya Wan-kun, who is from overseas, asked me with a confused look on his face “ I received a small dish that I didn’t order…Are you sure I can eat it??” His question makes sense. This is one of Japan’s original customs and I hadn’t paid it any mind. So, what exactly is otoshi?

 

日本人のニャパンには、いたって当たり前のお通し。最初の一杯のおつまみにピッタリ。とりあえずのビールとお通しをいただきながら、メニューを広げて何を頼もうかと考えます。なので、深く考えたことはなかったのですが、居酒屋に一緒にいったワン君は「頼んでもいないのに、おつまみを出されたけど、食べてもいいもの?」と不思議そう。そこでお通しについて考えてみました。

 What 

A small appetizer or some snack that goes well with beverages.

小鉢で出される、酒の肴になる一品(時には数種)。

 When 

If you go out for food and drinks in a casual restaurant or a bar, you are immediately served a small dish of food together with your first drink or even before ordering a drink.

カジュアルな気分で飲みたい時。

 Where 

Most types of casual Japanese restaurants where you can enjoy food and drinks, such as izakayas - traditional Japanese taverns - and bars. Otoshi is not served in fancy restaurants normally.

居酒屋、飲み屋さんなど。高級なレストランにはありません。

 Who 

 Why 

Restaurant or bar staff brings it to you.

お店の人がお客さんに。

It is a table charge. But some restaurants or bars serve Otoshi as hospitality, something for guests to nibble on until their food arrives.

もてなしだったり、テーブルチャージとして出されます。

 How 

On average it costs 200-500 yen per person and it is automatically served. Otoshi is a kind of unspoken agreement in Japanese restaurant culture.

入店すると最初に頼んだドリンクと一緒に出してくれる。お通し料200~500円程度。時には1000円という場合も

 <Attention> 

In most cases, Otoshi is not listed on the regular menu and they offer what they have  prepared beforehand. To be honest, it can be hit or miss depending on the restaurant. Some dishes are elaborate and others are quite simple, like potato chips.
All things considered this, Otoshi tells us how good a restaurant is. When you have high quality Otoshi, other food from the menu must be good.  In some restaurants, you may even be brought a selection of Otoshi from which you can choose .
Many tourists from overseas don’t know about this original custom and are bewildered when they are charged for Otoshi without being asked if they’d like it.The number of tourists has been increasing recently in Japan and sometimes trouble arises from Otoshi that a customer didn’t order. So, there are some restaurants and bars that at first ask tourists “Charge OK?” and give them the option to refuse Otoshi.

お通しは基本的にはお店側が決めたものを出すので、正直あたりはずれがあります。お店のこだわりが詰まっている絶品もあれば、どこにでもあるポテトチップスなんかもあります。当りのお店なら他のメニューも美味しいはず。はずれだったら、さくっと飲んで次のお店にいくのもあり。時にはいくつかの小鉢のなかから好きなものを自分で選べる場合もあります。「頼んでもいないのに、勝手に料理を出されてお金を請求された」と、お通しの習慣がない海外の方とのトラブルが多いのです。なので、最近では海外のお客さまには最初に「チャージOK?」と確認するお店や、お通しを断ることができるチェーン店もあるようです。