May 23, 2012

Nomihoudai and Tabehoudai - All-You-Can-Eat and Drink

Sometimes I think of Japan as one big playground, full of weird and wonderful 'only in Japan' activities. The kinds of too-good-to-be-true things that make you exclaim, 'man, I never wanna go home!'

Like many foreigners before me, I have discovered the joys of Japan's nomihoudai and tabehoudai culture - bars and restaurants that offer 'all-you-can-drink' and 'all-you-can-eat' for a cheap price. And when I say cheap, I mean $15 for two hours of unlimited eating/drinking. My favourite economic analysis of this system is from Ryan at Ryman in Japan: "It's like I'm making money!"

"You're practically making money!"
How can these places afford to do this? Well, I have observed a few common factors during my experiences of nomihoudai/tabehoudai. If you order cocktails during nomihoudai, you will probably find they don't tend to put as much booze in as they normally would. Also, if you're with a large group, sometimes they take a while to bring the drinks out. You're on a time limit, so the amount of drinks you can consume is dependent on the speed in which the waiter/waitress can bring them out.  With tabehoudai, it seems that most of the places serve Italian food - pasta and pizza. This kind of food is high in carbohydrates so you get full quicker!

I think there's something about Japanese culture that makes nomihoudai and tabehoudai work, too. I don't want to generalise, but most Japanese people are so polite and trustworthy that they don't treat it so much as a binge-drinking/pig-out sesh as, perhaps, we do. I've read that some places in Tokyo have an unofficial 'no foreigners' policy, because of bad experiences with people taking advantage of the system and going absolutely bananas. Which I can relate to. At our first tabehoudai, we acted like starving Ethiopian children tasting food for the first time. 7 pizzas and 4 pastas later...

If you're in Japan and want to give nomihoudai and tabehoudai a go, look for this kanji: 飲み放題 (nomihoudai - all you can drink)、食べ放題 (tabehoudai - all you can eat). Some places even have both, at the same time! For food, I recommend 'Shakey's' (Pizza and pasta, found pretty much everywhere in Japan), and 'Sweets Paradise' (all-you-can-eat sweets, but with some pasta dishes too).


  1. Ahhhh yum, sounds like paradise lol. You're lucky you guys are still in such great shape with all these all you can eat places!

  2. I love the all you can eat places... Such a more relaxed atmosphere, and ordering food as a group, rather than individual single meals seems like such a better bonding experience. I always love the sushi places here in North America for this... It truly feels like a better experience, and you get much more variety in smaller portions, so there is less stress if you don't like your dish.

    Looks like you guys are having quite a bit of fun there, I am jealous haha.

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