NOTE: YUKI HAS CLOSED. To eat her food, visit the amazing N7 where she now cooks Japanese inspired French cuisine and serves natural wines (and shochu).
In the most unlikely of places, Daikaya sits atop an eponymous ramen shop, across the street from the city's basketball-hockey arena. Through the door marked simply "izakaya" (in English with no accompanying aki-chochin lantern) you climb a narrow staircase to a large open space.
During my stay in Kagoshima in October 2013, Tekkan Wakamatsu, the toji at Yamato Zakura Shuzo, where I did my internship, told me about a legendary izakaya in downtown Kagoshima City where the owners was an "ancient magician" (Tekkan-san may have said "a yoda", as he's fond of Star Wars references) in the art of "maewari" shochu.
SakaMai may not be the kind of place that you can afford to eat every night, but you're going to want to. The food, drinks, atmosphere, and staff make this an absolutely perfect night out. I'd like to come up with a quibble so it doesn't seem like I'm completely biased ... okay, here's one.
Traditionally in an izakaya dining experience, you'll finish the night with a noodle or rice dish in order to fill up after the otsumami (small drinking snacks) courses. An alternative that's quite popular with many Japanese drinkers, is to stop off for a bowl of late night ramen. Typically these ramen shops will be packed with happily drunk people slurping bowls of soup while chatting boisterously with lots of laughter.
After visits to LA, SF, Chicago, and Vancouver my expectations for izakaya scenes in other North American cities had diminished. While the izakayas I visited in those cities were authentic and interesting, there were not many of them. Vancouver had the most robust scene with a half dozen or so izakayas in the city center including the delicious Kingyo and Guu outposts.