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A few weeks ago, I decided to spend a day with friends in Yokohama. To save time and be healthier, we decided to wander around the city by bicycles. Yokohama is a unique port city close to Tokyo, which was the first one to open its doors to the foreign cultures about a century ago. Architecture, new traditions and customs, international music, and beer first entered Japan through this port. In this article, I would like to share a few moments which I experienced during my cycling trip and talk about the culture of beer gardens in Japan.
Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan after Tokyo by population (3.7 million). However, it just takes you only 30 min to get from Tokyo to Yokohama by a usual train. Yokohama was a small fishing village before the Meiji Restoration in 1868. When the industrial revolution reached Japan, Yokohama started developing rapidly as a port for trading silk. At the same time, not only silk became the primary commodity. As you can guess, Japan began to discover many other goods from abroad including beer, which was a rare and costly product at the end of the 19th century.
When you walk around Yokohama, you will feel that this city experienced much of the foreign influence. Yokohama boasts many European-style buildings, including banks and warehouses, and of course the biggest China-town in Japan. Here are a few places I cycled around with friends on one foggy summer day.
When we arrived at Yokohama station, we could easily find a bicycle rental and decided to take three bikes for the rest of the day. It didn’t cost more than 1500 Yen per person. It was a very convenient option, as there is plenty of bikes stands around the city. So, you can always drop your bicycle at one stop walk around a particular place and grab another bike at a different station. This way saves you a lot of time and keeps you in good tonus throughout the day. When you come to Yokohama next time, I highly recommend you rent a bicycle and have a chilly cycling tour around the city. If you have a chance the guides from Huber., will be happy to support and plan your cycling tour according to your wishes.
Our first stop was at the largest park in Minato Mirai. Rinko park boasts a vast territory along with the fascinating view of Tokyo Bay and Yokohama port. Major festivals in Yokohama take place in this park. Besides, if you come here at night you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the city lights, cooling sea breeze, and, if you are lucky, see amazing fireworks!
It is hard to avoid a big Ferris wheel in Yokohama Cosmoworld while cycling around the city. This amusement park in the heart of the port city is famous for its prominent image on the Yokohama skyline. Besides, it is reasonably priced and makes a great place to spend time with family or friends. Here is the official website of Yokohama Cosmoworld (Japanese only), URL: http://cosmoworld.jp/
These red brick warehouses are one of the most famous landmarks in Yokohama. Built in the early 1920’s these buildings functioned as the Customs Inspection House for Yokohama Bay’s shipping activities. Currently, the houses and the square around them hosts many events, theater performances and plenty of restaurants and cafes. It is an excellent place to spend with friends and family and enjoy western architecture in the middle of Japan. Here is the official site of the facility, URL: http://www.yokohama-akarenga.jp/en/
Architecturally wise Bashamichi is one of the most westernized streets in Japan. Bashamichi (Horse-drawn Carriage Street) got its name because the carriages with foreigners who were using the port facilities often run up and down this street. A distinctive feature that you can notice while walking on this street is that the street light poles have an image of a carriage or a horse. On Bashamichi Shopping Avenue the first boulevard trees, gas lights, ice cream, Jazz bars, beer appeared for the first time in Japan along with many other Western innovations.
To commemorate its history and celebrate the development of the area, the Bashamichy Festival takes place at this avenue every autumn. You will see a historical parade of people dressed as the foreigners at the end of the 19th century riding carriages, experience various street food, and enjoy the performances. In 2018 the festival will last for three days from October 31st to November 2nd. Here is the official page of the festival (only in Japanese), URL: http://www.bashamichi.or.jp/events/2017/2017fes.html
Our next stop was at the first seaside park in Japan – Yamashita Park. This recreational facility was built in 1930 and is right in front of Yokohama port. This park boasts a beautiful rose garden, a festival square and a former cargo and passenger ship – Hikawamaru. Currently, there is a museum inside this ship. While walking along the promenade, we met a few Japanese girls wearing Yukata. It is fascinating that in Japan you can still meet local people wearing traditional clothes so often! However, the secret was that those girls were going on a night cruise around Tokyo Bay, and if you attend the cruise in yukata it will cost almost twice cheaper! Isn’t it a great option to spend your night in Yokohama?
Yokohama China Town is also a very famous tourist spot and a great festival venue! It is another world occupying only 250,000 square meter area. For me it is not just the place where you can feel the modern history and enjoy outstanding architecture, it is a gastronomic paradise! You will notice over 600 shops and restaurants serving delicious food, and at night, when the lights are on, the narrow streets of Chinatown bring exceptionally charming atmosphere.
Of course, this area holds one of the most colorful and flashy events in Yokohama, including the celebration of Chinese New Year, Double Tenth Festival, and National Day of China. The last two events will be on October 10th and 1st 2018 accordingly. Here is an official page of Yokohama Chinatown (only in Japanese), URL: http://www.chinatown.or.jp/event/
Moving closer to the culmination of this article, I would like to recommend to all beer lovers two more places to visit in Yokohama. These are Kirin Brewery and World Beer Museum. And don’t miss an opportunity to attend at least one beer festival in Yokohama as they occur quite often.
What amazes me in Japan is that you can have a free tour almost at any beer brewery here, and Kirin brewery is not an exception. This tour gives you a great chance to study how beer penetrated Japan and became the most popular alcoholic beverage among Japanese. You will also discover how they make the fourth popular beer in this country and will see how the facilities of the brewery produce 2000 cans of beer in one minute. Without doubts, there is a tasting at the end of a free tour. The complete tour is lasting for about 80 minutes, and tasting occupies around 20 minutes. The staff offers the tours every 40 minutes for the groups of 2 – 35 people. Most of the tours are in Japanese, but sometimes, they provide tours in English as well. Here is the official page of Yokohama Kirin Brewery (only in Japanese), URL: https://www.kirin.co.jp/entertainment/factory/yokohama/
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This place in the Dockyard area of Landmark Tower is hard to call a museum. It is a huge restaurant that serves more than 2000 brands of bottled beers from all over the world. Their menu will fit any gastronomic preferences. So, if you are a real beer lover, and want to explore even more about this intoxicating drink, World Beer Museum in Yokohama is a proper place for you to visit! Here is their official page (Only in Japanese), URL: http://www.world-liquor-importers.co.jp/yokohama/
After we left our bicycles at the final stop close to Chinatown, we decided to walk to the Yokohama Stadium which is only 5 minutes’ walk from there. Surprisingly, we discovered that there was a game going on at the stadium. Thus, anytime when there is a game, there is a beer garden in the park just in front of the Yokohama Stadium. This particular beer garden didn’t offer a wide variety of beer; however, it provided an excellent opportunity to sit on a lawn and enjoy the game on a widescreen! So, we just took our beer and placed ourselves comfortably just in the middle of the park!
Beer Garden in Japan is a synonym to the word summer. Almost every day during late spring, summer and early autumn you will find beer gardens at parks, Japanese gardens, or any open spaces that can host a few hundreds of people. However, the most common places for the beer gardens are the rooftops of shopping malls and hotels. We saw numerous signs of the beer gardens on our way to the stadium that day. Indeed, these events rooted deeply into the Japanese culture thanks to the Yokohama port which opened its gates to the Western world at the end of the 19th century.
Image courtesy of MIKI Yoshihito
Yokohama is the birthplace of beer in Japan. In 1869 a Norwegian whose name was William Copeland established a first beer brewery in Yokohama and Japan – the Spring Valley Brewery. Currently, it is a Kirin brewery. Mr. Copeland also introduced the concept of the combination of brewery and beer hall. In the following years, other breweries started appearing all over Japan and introducing an idea of the beer gardens. Sapporo Brewery started in 1876. Then, Asahi Brewery started as the Osaka Brewing Company in 1889 (and Asahi brand appeared in 1892). Thus, it didn’t take much time for the beer to take strong roots in the Japanese society. However, this concept didn’t bring much profit to Copeland. As many breweries started their beer gardens at the brewing venues, they became extremely popular, and the concurrence became severe. Unfortunately, Copeland faced one of the most significant problems even for the current producers – it was tough to penetrate the distribution channels. Thus, he had to close the company in 1884 being unable to repay his creditors. However, it didn’t influence the popularity of the beer, so now we can enjoy beer gardens almost everywhere in Japan.
Beer gardens in Japan are events where various people gather after work, come with friends and family to have a quiet time in the open air and get away from their busy lives. Beer gardens are the perfect oases where people chill right in the middle of the city.
Typically, beer gardens are open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. However, some places open around 3 p.m., and you can get a good discount as an early bird.
You can find almost any kind of food in the beer gardens. It’s like a small festival on the rooftop with its Yatai (food stalls) and stalls with various countries cuisine.
Remember that you must be over 20 years old to drink alcohol in Japan. The staff may require your ID card at the entrance. But, you can still enjoy beer gardens even if you cannot drink, as there is a variety of soft drinks and yummy treats there.
I’d suggest you make a reservation beforehand, as some of these events become so popular that you may face a disappointment when you arrive at the venue and there is no space to sit down.
Also, it would be helpful to make a reservation in case it rains. Most of the event is happening under the sky, but many facilities provide big umbrellas and tents in case of rain.
Many beer gardens require the customer to pay 3000 – 5000 Yen for two hours of all you can drink and eat. While others allow people to spend less and settle with one or two drinks and a snack. The prices and system vary from place to place.
Here I would like to recommend you the most famous and outstanding beer gardens and events in Japan. I am sure if you visit at least one of them you will understand why Japanese people love these events so much.
The most massive beer garden in Japan takes place in Ōdōri Kōen in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Here is an article about this event, URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/3735/. This beer garden occupies a whole street featuring over 13000 seats. You will see many beer producers that line up along the street and sell their beer along with snacks. You can make a reservation there, but there is so much standing space, that it might not be necessary if you’d like to wander around.
The highest beer garden in Japan that takes place in a building is on the 28th floor of Osaka’s Rinku Gate Tower building. It is merely called Beer Garden Patio 28. I’d call this a fancy beer garden, as a famous chef from the hotel prepares their renowned steak right in front of you. Besides, you can try other delicacies including foie gras and crabs.
Image courtesy of kyu3
Another fantastic beer garden takes place at Mt. Takao. This mount is only 1 hour away from Tokyo, and the venue offers a breathtaking view of the city from 500 meters high. They offer a 2 hours course of all you can eat and drink. Besides, you will find various types of food and other alcoholic beverages at the event.
You can also experience a beer garden on a cruise ship at Tokyo Bay Booze Cruise. It’s an all you can drink cruise (for only 2600 Yen). Like on every cruise ship there are relaxation areas, restaurants, event stages, and private rooms available.
In Tokyo, one of the best beer gardens is at the New Tokyo Sukiyabashi Main Store rooftop. It is slightly expensive (about 4800 Yen for all you can eat and drink), but it offers a great all you can eat lamb dish – Ghengis Khan barbecue and the unlimited pitchers of beer.
Image courtesy of tomohisa suna
Outside of Tokyo Dome at Kaze to Midori no Beer Garden, for 3900 Yen you can enjoy not only all you can drink and eat, but also watch the game live on a huge screen!
Yokohama Oktoberfest is not a beer garden but is the most significant beer event in Yokohama. In 2018 it will take place at the Red Brick Warehouse from September 28th to October 14th. Please don’t miss this fantastic event in the birthplace of beer festivals in Japan! Here is the official website (only in Japanese), URL: https://www.yokohama-akarenga.jp/oktoberfest/
I hope this article is helpful and gave you a brief image of how to spend a casual day in Yokohama and enjoy a beer garden. The culture of beer gardens was born in Yokohama, developed rapidly, and became an integral part of every summer. Become a part of this summer by visiting a beer garden in Japan.
If you would like to have a fantastic cycling tour in Yokohama and drop by the beer garden with locals, Huber. guides are here to suggest you a proper rout and place to go! Please check the banner below to learn more about Huber services.
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