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
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. Go all out with the all-you-can-eat-and-drink option – ¥4,200 per person for men and ¥3,900 per person for women for two hours.
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.
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 (¥3,500 for men, ¥3,300 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.
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.