You walk up to the shrine bell and ring it.
You bow twice, clap twice and bow again with your hands together.
Today’s the day.
Yes, the day that Nobu opens.
It wasn’t an easy choice for you. Having lived in Kyoto for generations, your family still believed in the tradition of arranged marriage. They wanted you to marry the son of a bank’s vice-president!
Instead, you decided to work with Nobuyuki after he quit his job at your family’s restaurant. After months of preparation, everything is finally ready.
Now for the donation!
You open your personal charm, take out your secret savings of 10,000 yen and hold it out over the donation box.
Why won’t the bill leave your fingers?!
Where’d this wind come from?!
The bill flies out of your hand and into the donation box!
“Please…watch…over Nobu, Inari-sama,” you say ruefully.
Well, time to start work!
You run several blocks from the Inari shrine to the quiet street where Nobu is and enter the izakaya by the back door in an alley.
Inside, you see Nobuyuki cleaning the tables.
“I’m back, Nobuyuki! Shall I hang the noren at the front door?”
“Please do. Oh, and be sure to call me Taishou from now on.”
You take the noren, go outside and hang it above the front door. It looks great!
You take a look around the street…
You rub your eyes and open them again.
In front of you is a sight you have never seen before with your own eyes.
A street lined with buildings that look like they came from Medieval Europe, just like what you’ve seen in history books at school! It doesn’t look like you’re in Kyoto anymore!
You turn around and see the familiar front of Nobu.
This…can’t be right!
You run back into the izakaya.
You peek through the front door.
The same medieval street is there!
How? Why?! Ugh, you’re getting a headache!
“Shinobu, what’s wrong?”
“Is…this a dream?”
You pinch Nobuyuki’s side.
“OW! Why’d you pinch me?!”
Okay, so it’s not a dream!
“Would we be able to run an izakaya here?”, you ask.
“That’s what you’re worried about?”, Nobuyuki exclaims.
Isekai Izakaya “Nobu” (異世界居酒屋「のぶ」, Isekai Izakaya「Nobu」, lit. Alternate World Bar “Nobu” ) is a web novel, light novel series, manga, anime and live-action TV drama written by Natsuya Semikawa (蝉川 夏哉, Semikawa Natsuya).
In the corner of a quiet shopping street in Kyoto, an izakaya (居酒屋) is opened by the chef Nobuyuki Yazawa and the waitress Shinobu Senke. After Shinobu prays for the izakaya’s success at a local Inari shrine, a fox spirit answers by making its front appear in Aitheria, a city on another world and the capital of the Empire. The back door of the izakaya still opens to an alley in Kyoto, so Nobuyuki and Shinobu are able to purchase ingredients and live in Kyoto after business hours.
Within months, the izakaya Nobu becomes a very popular destination for Aitheria’s citizens for its exotic (to them!) and high-quality dishes and drinks. Among Nobu’s first regular customers are two palace guards, Hans and Nikolaus, and their captain Berthold. Another notable customer is the stern tax collector Gernot, who is joyfully reminded of his childhood when he eats the Napolitan spaghetti Shinobu made for her own lunch! A girl, Eva, becomes Nobu’s first otherworld employee after sneaking into the izakaya one day.
Nobu’s growing reputation soon attracts many of Aitheria’s leading citizens, including Holger (master of the blacksmith guild), Lorentz (master of the glassmaker guild and Hans’ father) and Edwin (Aitheria’s local deacon of the Holy Order). A bitter disagreement between Aitheria’s three water transport guilds comes to an end when Nobuyuki demonstrates how eel, thought useless as a commodity in Aitheria, can be delicious with the proper cooking techniques.
Captain Berthold soon marries his wife, Hermina, and brings her to Aitheria. Unable to move into their new home as planned, Hermina is hired as a waitress at Nobu. The izakaya later attracts the attention of Bachschouf, the greedy, corrupt chairman of the Aitheria City Council, who hopes to seize Nobu and have Nobuyuki and Shinobu arrested for the crime of selling lager, a drink traditionally reserved for Imperial royalty. Gernot and Nobu’s other regulars are able to get Bachschouf arrested instead and the retired Emperor lifts the royal ban on lager.
With its food and dedicated staff, the izakaya Nobu brings joy and unity to Aitheria like never before.
Nobuyuki Yazawa (矢澤 信之, Yazawa Nobuyuki), the 32-year old chef and owner of the izakaya Nobu. Calm, diligent and professional, he is keen on improving and expanding his cooking skills. After graduating from high school, Nobuyuki was employed as a cook at the Kyoto luxury restaurant Yukitsuna, where he gradually honed his skills and earned a reputation for excellence. After working at Yukitsuna for 14 years, he quit in order to fulfill his dream of opening his own business. Nobuyuki lives on the second floor of his izakaya and enjoys watching police television dramas in his free time. He has a tendency to buy too many ingredients and sometimes neglects locking up the izakaya, much to Shinobu’s annoyance. Everyone refers to him as Nobu-taishou (のぶ大将, Nobu-taishō).
Shinobu Senke (千家 しのぶ, Senke Shinobu), a 23-year old waitress at the izakaya Nobu. Cheerful, cordial and patient, she becomes stern whenever ill is spoken about Nobuyuki. As an heiress to the luxury restaurant Yukitsuna, Shinobu is very familiar with the ins and outs of the restaurant business and is experienced at handling customers. She has a highly-developed sense of taste and the ability to remember the faces and preferences of customers, making her a very popular fixture among Nobu’s regulars.
Eva, a 14-year old dishwasher at the izakaya Nobu. Kind and obedient, she has three older brothers and two younger siblings, the latter of whom she brings food regularly from Nobu. She gradually learns much about her world from Nobu’s many customers and later receives basic education from the deacon Edwin.
Hermina, a 16-year old waitress at the izakaya Nobu and the wife of the Palace Guard Captain Berthold, who is twice her age! The dedicated, kind and strong-willed daughter of a squid fisherman, her fisherwoman’s strength and her experience at handling seafood prove helpful in her job as a waitress.
In the process of introducing new kinds of high-quality food and drinks to a Medieval-era European city, Nobuyuki and Shinobu created a nexus where many of Aitheria’s citizens, from various walks of life, find common ground on an informal basis. From city guards to nobility, Nobu’s customers share a passion for Nobuyuki’s food and befriend each other during their meals. As a result, they cooperate and work to make life better for Nobu and each other. The culmination of this is when they all work together to prevent a corrupt city official from seizing the very restaurant they all enjoy eating at.
By working at Nobu, Eva and Hermina’s lives improve as well. Eva gradually receives an education, giving her a chance for a brighter future, and Hermina learns more ways about how to prepare different kinds of seafood, even those not considered food before in the Empire such as eel and octopus.
There are many fantasy stories about fighters, wizards and such going on quests to kill monsters, evil wizards and demons. Here, a chef, his staff and his restaurant unite a city by giving its citizens a common interest, new horizons and a place where they can all be just…people. Since eating is something that literally everyone in the world does, people find more common interest in food than most other issues. Family gatherings everywhere in the world usually involve meals where everyone eats together, putting everyone in a good mood and giving them a place to talk to each other. It’s also common for businesses to give potential clients and partners a good meal so that they will be a good mood when it’s time to come to an agreement.
Japan has a unique food culture, examples of which drive the story’s plot. Typical izakaya dishes include fried meat (唐揚げ, Karaage), tofu in thick ankake sauce (豆腐の餡掛け, Tofu no ankake), tempura, sashimi, and eel grilled and prepared in a soy-based sauce (うなぎ 蒲焼, Unagi kabayaki). Sake and beer are also introduced along with several snacks to go with them. The story of Isekai Izakaya “Nobu” seems to be based the saying, “The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.” That goes for both the story’s characters and us!
Never underestimate how good food can bring people together.