As we say every year, summer just wouldn't be summer without an evening spent idly sipping frosty pints or elaborate cocktails in the open air – after all, what's the great outdoors for if not to be conquered one alcohol-packed drink deal at a time? Starting from Golden Week, city bars, department stores and hotels fling open their roofs and terraces to all of us thirsty Tokyoites, and the beer garden season starts in honest. But how do you, the discerning drinker, find the best settings, the best deals or a boat you can get drunk on? Well, we've prepared this extensive list for you, so go ahead, choose your favourite and grab a pint – be it in a park, high in the sky or on top of Tokyo's most famous mountain.
Tokyo's best beer gardens
The garden terrace at Aoyama's charming Kihachi turns into a miniature beer garden for the first half of summer, with veg-heavy appetisers and grilled meat complementing the all-you-can-drink beers (including Brooklyn Lager), wine and cocktails. Book well in advance and enjoy the heat of the night among the lush greenery of Jingu Gaien – the dinner packages are all inclusive and start at ¥5,500.
Dine on southwestern style barbeque and seafood from the northeast at The Oak Door’s beer garden this summer. The restaurant is offering a range of flavours from various regions around the US served up by American cuisine specialists, including pit master Craig White, who also introduced smoked barbeque to Japan. Diners can also opt for a free-flow plan with bottomless margaritas and a wide selection of other drinks. If you can’t choose between barbeque or seafood, go for the VIP plan and dine in luxury on a comfy sofa with an endless supply of their finest champagne.
Restaurant Jinnanken opens up its rooftop terrace for the summer and this beer garden. Located just a short walk from Shibuya Station, this is a worthy spot for admiring the night-time city while feasting on barbecued food like prime ribs and thickly cut veg. The standard plan includes appetisers, three kinds of meats and all-you-can-drink beer, wine and cocktails.
An expansive outdoor spot located within the children’s play area inside Meiji Shrine’s Outer Gardens, the Forest Beer Garden is separated from its boozy cousins by its tranquil, tree-lined surrounds and bubbling waterfall. The popular all-you-can-eat-and-drink option includes everything from barbecued beef and pork to flavoured rum cocktails, wine and three kinds of draft beer. Despite being one of the largest beer gardens in Tokyo, with a capacity of around 1,000, at weekends and during the holidays it gets extremely busy, so advance bookings are recommended.
The folks at Yokohama's Bay Quarter apparently had a hard time deciding on a theme for their summer beer garden – or how else do you explain the concept of serving up an eclectic American-Mexican-German menu of seasonal festival grub. Each country's concept was given a period of about two months. Confused cosmopolitanism aside, this one sure looks like one of the city's finer places for outdoor boozing. ¥4,000 gets you a eight-course meal and two hours of unlimited beer, wine and cocktails.
New York Theme: April 16 - June 30; Mexico Theme: July 1 - August 31; German Theme: September 1 - October 31
On a clear night, you can gaze out across Tokyo and as far as Yokohama. Mt. Takao's beer garden is located 500m above sea level, and does a good job of keeping hikers well sozzled throughout the summer. The price (¥3,800 for men, ¥3,600 for women) includes a buffet of Japanese, Chinese and Western food – none of it exactly what you'd call gourmet fare – and two hours of free-flowing beer, wine and cocktails.
To say that this place gets crowded at the weekend would be a gross understatement. The garden is open from mid-June to mid-October, and one word of warning: the last cable car departs at 9.15pm sharp. Reservations are taken for weekdays only.
Mt Takao Beer Mount's opening days for 2018 are from June 15 to October 15.
Tokyoites just can't get enough of Hawaii, but with a limited amount of yearly paid holidays, this Hawaiian beer garden on Ikebukuro Parco's rooftop serves as a decent alternative right here in the capital. The decor tries to channel a posh resort in the tropics, while the barbecue-heavy set menu comes with unlimited french fries, edamame and shaved ice. Hawaiian beers and tropical cocktails will of course make an appearance as well, and for a bit of added entertainment, you can look forward to hula dancing and performances of Hawaiian music.
Combine upscale izakaya fare with free-flowing Premium Malts at Yurakucho's Kotsu Kaikan, where the 13th floor turns into this 'Beer Terrace' from June to September. Opt for one of the all-you-can-drink deals (from ¥5,000) for unlimited amounts of the above-mentioned beer, wine, umeshu, shochu and highballs, plus meaty cooking courtesy of the chefs at Tokyo Kaikan. Paired with the gorgeous views towards Marunouchi and live music, this combo looks like it just might be a winner.
The very classy Marunouchi Hotel moves into the beer garden business for summer, but as you'd expect from this over 90-year-old veteran, it's a somewhat more stylish affair than the boozers found on department store rooftops across town: ¥6,500 will get you an appetiser platter packed with veg, charcuterie, cheese and other small dishes, plus drinks from the more than 30-strong selection that includes beer, beer-based cocktails, sparkling wine, highballs and more.
If your wallet doesn't stretch that far, there's also an ¥5,500 plan, which is similar to the above, but with two drinks included. You'll be sitting on the eighth-floor terrace, which is decorated in blue and white and boasts fantastic views over the train tracks of neighbouring Tokyo Station.
Head up to the Daiichi Hotel's rooftop in Kichijoji for this well-loved beer garden, which serves up basic brews alongside jingisukan, Hokkaido's best-known grilled lamb dish, plus seafood, steaks and other summery favourites. The full set of jingisukan and two hours of all-you-can-drink beer isn't cheap at ¥6,000, so consider booking a seat before May 24, when the price is cut down to ¥4,500 as a pre-booking special. Seating is limited, so advance reservations are recommended during peak times.
With an outdoor wooden deck, enclosed on all sides by greenery and trees, Tokyo Sanuki Club Beer Garden is one of the capital's classier spots for outdoor boozing. The food's better than average, too, including basashi (raw horse meat), a sashimi assortment and cold bukkake udon noodles alongside the more predictable stodge.
If you reserve for two people or more, you can try the garden's hearty ‘Jingisukan’ (Genghis Khan) course of grilled mutton and vegetables with an all-you-can-drink course for ¥5,400 per person. All-you-can-drink courses, excluding food, cost ¥2,900, though there's also the option of ordering drinks à la carte (cocktails from ¥450, beer from ¥500).
Sanuki Club Beer Garden's opening days for 2018 are from May 7 to September 30.
Of course, Ikebukuro's Seibu Honten 9th floor rooftop wasn't going to be deprived of a beer garden for the summer. This year's edition was dubbed 'Garden in the Sky of food and greenery', with some suave light shows courtesy of lighting designers and background music chosen by jazz musician Senri Oe making for a decidedly grown-up atmosphere.
There are two course menu options: set A comes with a main dish, appetisers and two hours of all-you-can-drink for ¥4,800, while set B is just the appetisers and drink deal for ¥3,000. If you're still feeling peckish, there's also an à la carte menu with (fried) snacks.
With seating for 250 people, this beer garden on the roof of Tokyu's main Shibuya store is the largest of its kind in the area. Expect the kind of all-you-can-drink offers found at most other department store set-ups: the two-hour deals start from ¥3,980 and include five, six or seven courses of edibles to go with the obligatory Premium Malts suds, highballs and cocktails. There's live music from 7pm on most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Providing a more eco-conscious alternative to the average Tokyo mall, Yoyogi Village is bringing back its annual beer garden for summer. Again taking over the faux beach at the complex, this one's themed 'Orangery Garden', so think of a heavenly food menu made from plenty of fruits and herbs provided in the Container Zone and an all-you-can-drink beer and sangria plan in the Village Zone.