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    • Spring
      • Nature and History in Shonai

        One of Tohoku’s six prefectures is Yamagata, located just north of Niigata Prefecture along the coast. It's a hidden gem for travelers in search of authentic cultural experiences and outdoor activities.

        Into the Mystic

        While you probably won’t encounter an elusive river sprite in the highlands of the Northern Japan Alps, you may feel a bit lightheaded from the refreshing thin air, remarkable vistas and mystical aura of the mountains and valleys in Kamikochi.
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        Niseko Untapped

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    • Summer
      • Return to Palau

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        A glass of beer from Kyoto Brewing

        Kampai! in Kansai

        Kansai has been...

        Nature and History in Shonai

        One of Tohoku’s six prefectures is Yamagata, located just north of Niigata Prefecture along the coast. It's a hidden gem for travelers in search of authentic cultural experiences and outdoor activities.
    • Autumn
      • Nature and History in Shonai

        One of Tohoku’s six prefectures is Yamagata, located just north of Niigata Prefecture along the coast. It's a hidden gem for travelers in search of authentic cultural experiences and outdoor activities.
    • Winter
      • video

        Mad About Pow

        A powder pocket...

        Nature and History in Shonai

        One of Tohoku’s six prefectures is Yamagata, located just north of Niigata Prefecture along the coast. It's a hidden gem for travelers in search of authentic cultural experiences and outdoor activities.
        video

        Shuzenji Sanctuary

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    • Near Tokyo
      • Air it Out

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        Ark Hills Marche

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        Music Festival Guide 2018

        Warmer months mean awesome music festivals in Japan. Check out our favorite music festivals!

        Summer Runs, Races & Tours

        Trail running is a great way to explore the beautiful nature of a country while getting away from the usual tourist spots.

        Tokyo Escapes: Summer Camping

        Tokyo summers can be stifling—luckily it’s easy to escape the city for a cool break from the heat.
    • Near Kyoto
      • A glass of beer from Kyoto Brewing

        Kampai! in Kansai

        Kansai has been...

        Music Festival Guide 2018

        Warmer months mean awesome music festivals in Japan. Check out our favorite music festivals!

        Cycling Awaichi

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    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
      • Return to Palau

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        Air it Out

        There is no bet...

        Nature and History in Shonai

        One of Tohoku’s six prefectures is Yamagata, located just north of Niigata Prefecture along the coast. It's a hidden gem for travelers in search of authentic cultural experiences and outdoor activities.
        video

        Niseko Untapped

        Niseko draws th...
    • River and Lake
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        Niseko Untapped

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        Minakami Mofest

        Head up to Japan's outdoor mecca of Minakami for the country's biggest outdoor adventure festival!
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        Enter the all-season world of Shinetsu Shinzekyo in Nagano and Niigata with outdoor professionals
    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
    • Snow and Ice
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        The Reemergence of Arai

        Lotte Arai Resort will definitely become a hotspot for western skiers and boarders over the next few years.

        Tohoku Storm Chasing

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    • Travel
      • Gravity-Defying Farming in Nishi Awa

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    • Food and Drinks
      • Gravity-Defying Farming in Nishi Awa

        Discover the centuries-old secret behind what keeps southern Japan's mountains growing

        Up Market in Osaka

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        Return to Palau

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    • Races and Events
      • Nature and History in Shonai

        One of Tohoku’s six prefectures is Yamagata, located just north of Niigata Prefecture along the coast. It's a hidden gem for travelers in search of authentic cultural experiences and outdoor activities.

        Music Festival Guide 2018

        Warmer months mean awesome music festivals in Japan. Check out our favorite music festivals!

Kampai! in Kansai

Kansai has been long known for its excellent cuisine, from Kyoto’s refined kyō-ryori dishes to the famous wagyū beef of Kobe, Shiga, and Mie, to Osaka’s okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Nada (in Kobe) and Fushimi (in Kyoto) also have the country’s highest concentration of sake breweries, and these two districts produce nearly half of all of Japan’s sake. So, naturally, the region is also among the nation’s leaders in craft beer production. With the heat of summer upon us, thirsty Kansai residents and visitors alike can turn to an ever-increasing number of local breweries and beer bars for a cold glass of tasty alternatives to mass-produced light lager.

Kyoto Brewing’s beers are well suited for summer, as the brewer, Chris Hainge, primarily works with a Belgian yeast strain that tends to ferment dry, making their ales crisp and refreshing. Their Belgian wheat, Nagoriyuki (5%), is filled with delectable fruit flavors including lemon and banana, while Ichii Senshin (6.5%), a Belgian IPA that is one of their flagships, has a little more body but still goes down easily because its spicy yeast adds complexity to the pine and citrus American hops. The summer saison, Natsu no Kimagure, wasn’t on tap yet when I dropped by their taproom (open Saturdays and Sundays, with a fun beer garden that gets busy on sunny afternoons), but Chris said he would use lactic acid bacteria to give it a little tartness, which should help make it deliciously easy to drink.

A little further south, Hainge’s friend Ai Tani has majorly impacted Osaka’s beer scene with her Craft Beer Base network of bars, bottle shops and, recently, original beers. Tani told me she started the original Base in late 2016 because some mainstays of the Osaka craft beer scene had closed and she wanted to create a new home for this culture. The original CBB is a small bar near Osaka Station with a few taps and an extensive cellar featuring hard-to-find bottles imported from Europe and the U.S. (for consumption on premises or takeaway). It has been successful enough that Tani has opened five new locations including Branch, a standing bar focused on her own beers and nitro coffee, Bud, a taproom in Osaka Station with a mix of Japanese and foreign beers, and Garden, a small brewery and taproom with a beer garden patio perfect for warm weather. So far, CBB’s house beers have focused on the American pale ale and IPA categories, but Tani says she is starting to work with Belgian yeast, with a witbier (Belgian white) in the works.

Of course it’s not just new upstarts who have tasty beers to offer. Two of Kansai’s longest-running microbreweries have had some great new releases recently. Ise Kadoya (opened 1997) has heard the siren song of the Northeast IPA (known for haziness, intensely fruity aromas, and low bitterness) and is putting out delicious examples like Neko Ni Hiki (8%) and Refresh (6%), which burst with juicy hop flavors like orange and mango. Osaka-based Minoh Beer (also founded in 1997) has also been playing with combinations of Belgian yeasts and American hops. Their Blooming IPA (6%) is fruitier and more hop-forward than most of Kyoto Brewing’s offerings, with a softer mouthfeel, kind of like a hybrid between the Northeast IPA and Belgian IPA styles. 

If you find yourself in Kansai this summer, be sure to drink plenty of water (it’s hot!) but also don’t miss the tasty local beer selections.

Festival Roundup

  • May 25–26 – Craft Beer Live (Osaka)
  • May 29–June 2 – Keyaki Beer Festival (Saitama)
  • June 7–17 – Hibiya Garden (Tokyo)
  • June 27–July 7 – Belgian Beer Weekend (Tokyo)
  • July 11–July 21 – Belgian Beer Weekend (Osaka)
  • July 27–28 – Shizuoka Craft Beer & Whiskey Fair
  • August 23–25 – National Ji-Biiru Festival (Ichinoseki, Iwate)
  • August 23–September 1 – Kyushu Beer Festival (Kumamoto)
  • August 30–September 8 – Hibiya Garden 2 (Tokyo)
  • September 11–16 – Belgian Beer Weekend (Tokyo)
  • September 14–15 – Mikkeller Beer Celebration (Tokyo)
  • September 18–23 – Kyushu Beer Festival (Fukuoka)
  • September 28–29 – Craft Beer Kanazawa
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