Friday, May 28, 2010

Beer Gardens

With the temperatures gradually rising, thirst develops accordingly. Lucky for beer enthusiasts Japan is soon to enter "beer garden season."

Years ago, an effort to curb Tokyo's "heat island effect", which is particularly bad in the summer, was initiated by the Tokyo metropolitan government. The idea was to create "green spaces" on the city's many rooftops. Many large hotels and department stores created green spaces (of sorts) by turning their rooftops into beer gardens. The term "garden" may be a stretch of the imagination, but venture out of the city and you may find some do have actual gardens.

Beer gardens are a seasonal phenomenon and typically open for business sometime in mid/late June and close in early September (colder parts of the country may have a shorter run). The peak of the season is in late July when fiercely hot and humid summer conditions drive many an office worker to end the working week with a trip to the beer garden.

Typically one orders their drinks and snacks at a separate counter. Orders are then processed and delivered to your table soon after. Some do have waiter service, and some, if you're lucky, are even self service. Nomihodai (all you can drink) and tabehodai (all you can eat) plans are also common place.

In Tokyo, you don't have to search too hard to find a beer garden in the summer. All the popular districts have them and they are usually situated on department store rooftops. Popular Tokyo beer gardens include:

Keio Department Store Beer Garden, Shinjuku.

Lumine Department Store Mexican Beer Garden, Shinjuku.

Ginza Matsuzaka Rooftop Beer Garden, Ginza.

Ebisu Garden Place Beer Hall (open year-round)

As you'd expect, beer gardens can be very popular so you may want to make a reservation if you're thinking of going on a weekend. Larger gardens such as the Keio dept stores are often big enough to handle the weekend crowds.

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