During the warmer months, there are many places in Japan where you can enjoy a cold beer in the beer garden tradition. While such places have been a summer mainstay in Japan, in the past 10 years a number of more interesting places to have a beer al fresco have opened. Old style or new, if the beer is cold, little else matters.
Kudan Kaikan Beer Garden – This is a Japanese rooftop beer garden in the classic Showa Era-style. In fact, the building itself dates from Showa 9 (1934). The edges of the rooftop seating afford expansive views of the Budokan and Imperial Palace moat. The pick here is Kirin Braumeister (¥550/¥680), with beer snacks averaging ¥450-¥600.
Power users may appreciate the two-hour all-you-can-drink deal; men pay ¥2,100 (¥1,600 on Mondays), and women pay just ¥1,600 (¥1,100 on Wednesdays). Heartier fare, such as yaki-niku, is available from ¥1,000. Also, you can buy a coupon worth ¥11,000 for ¥10,000.
Open daily through Friday, Sept. 22. Open 5 p.m. to last order at 9:15 p.m. (8:15 p.m. on weekends and holidays). 1-6-5 Kudan Minami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3261-5521. http://www.kudankaikan.or.jp/restaurant/beer/index.html
Kudan Kaikan is right above Kudanshita Station on the Tozai, Hanzomon and Toei Shinjuku Subway Lines. The building also houses a hotel (singles around ¥10,000, twin/doubles around ¥17,000).
TY Harbor – Central Tokyo’s only microbrewery with a spacious outdoor deck, TY Harbor Brewery Restaurant also serves some of the best California-style food in town. They produce several different styles of beer, so be sure to order the sampler set to find out which you like best. Be sure to phone ahead to reserve outdoor seating. Also check out their Waterline floating lounge tied up on their own front pier.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, last order 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Sundays. and holidays). 2-1-3 Higashi-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo; (03) 5479-4555. http://www.tyharborbrewing.co.jp/eng/index.html
D-Lounge (formerly Loof) – This is a well-hidden urban hipster joint with a tropical-themed rooftop beer bar serving a number of beers from around the world. Rooftop seating affords views of the greater Shibuya skyline. Some may find the location convenient; just across the street from Japan’s largest love hotel district.
Open from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. (until 11 p.m. on Sundays and holidays); call ahead. Island Creation Tower 9F, 1-22-2 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3770-0008. http://www.d-lounge-shibuya.com/
Trocadero – This funky Shimo-kitazawa landmark is an entire bistro/wine bar/café building of fun, topped with a small rooftop beer patio that affords views of the Shinjuku skyscrapers six stops away on the Odakyu Line.
Open daily from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.; call ahead. 3-30-3 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3467-1991.
Fussa-no-Birugoya –This charming restaurant offers one of the most pleasant outdoor beer-drinking experiences in Tokyo. It’s located on the grounds of saké brewery Ishikawa Shuzo, who also brews Tama-no-Megumi beer. Along with several varieties of their extremely fresh and clean-tasting beers, the restaurant serves great meat and fish dishes, pizza, salads and more. A 12-minute walk from Haijima Station, on the JR Ome Line, four stops Tachikawa. Also served by the Seibu Line from Shinjuku and Ikebukuro.
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (summer hours); call ahead on weekends. 1 Kumagawa, Fussa City, Tokyo; (042) 553-0100. http://www.tamajiman.com/english/koya.html
Kouyouen – Operated by the Sapporo Lion beer restaurant chain, Kouyouen distinguishes itself from other places by offering limited edition craft beers.
Open weekdays from 5 to 10 p.m., weekends and holidays from 2 to 10 p.m. 2-24-10 Chikusa, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya; 052-741-0211. http://www.kouyouen.jp/
Other Nagoya alternatives are Miami (on the roof of the Dai Nagoya Building opposite Nagoya Station) and Chunichi Palace, on the roof of the Chunichi Building in Sakae.
Miami—3-28-12 Meieki, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya; (052) 561-2831. http://www.chitaka.co.jp/20original/24miami/24topix.html
Chunichi Palace—4-1-1 Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya; (052) 261-8851
Kizakura Kappa Country – Here you can enjoy craft beer on the grounds of the Kizakura Brewery, one of Japan’s largest saké producers. The lovely outdoor terrace is open from April through October. In addition to the German-style Koelsch and Alt beers, there is a special beer fermented with saké yeast. A sampler of all three is only ¥550.
Open weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m., and weekends and holidays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 3 to 10 p.m. 228 Shioya-machi, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto; (075) 611-9919. http://www.kizakura.co.jp/chokuei/country/index.htm
King of Kings is a British-style pub located in retro-Euro Kitano-cho. It’s situated in a complex featuring an English-style garden where you can enjoy your pint on a good day. The pub features a number of high-quality micro-brewed beers, along with English-style pub food.
Open 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.; closed Sundays and holidays. 2-3-16 Kitano-cho,Chuo-ku, Kobe; (078) 241-2338. http://plala.dining.ne.jp/restaurant/?rid=968
Odori Koen Beer Gardens – Considered the “mother of all outdoor beer gardens” in Japan, the string of beer gardens open in the summer along Odori Park in Sapporo are indeed incredible, particularly because of Sapporo’s lovely summer climate. Open from the latter part of July until early August, the gardens string from Odori Nishi 5-chome to 10-chome, with each of the four major brewers getting their own “chome” along with the last one set aside for “World Beer.” If you’re in Sapporo during that time, you shouldn’t miss it.