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
Futako-Tamagawa's Rise shopping centre is once again turning its open-air plaza into a beer garden built around three main pillars: basic booze in the form of Premium Malts, Spanish gourmet specialities courtesy of Pastelería Mallorca and plentiful plant decorations designed by gardening specialists Solso Farm.
In good news for those eager to sip quality suds under the open sky, Nagano's Yo-Ho Brewing brings its Yona Yona beer fest back to Ark Hills again. In addition to the signature Yona Yona Ale, a total of six Yo-Ho brews like Tokyo Black, Suiyoubi no Neko and the limited-edition Ark Hills Ale are available on tap.
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.
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 brew, wine, umeshu, shochu and highballs, plus meaty cooking courtesy of the chefs at Tokyo Kaikan.
Shinagawa's Wing Takanawa West shopping mall is betting big on outdoor boozing this summer: between Golden Week and the end of September, revellers can sip under the sun at this pop-up version of super-popular churrasco purveyors Barbacoa. The Sao Paulo-born chain specialises in chunky, crispy, barbecued meat, while the beer garden menu also features summery adaptations of Brazilian cuisine classics.
Had enough sausages? Swap the wurst for healthier delights at Tennozu's Dai-Ichi Hotel, where the Grand Café's canal-side terrace serves up barbecued lamb and veg, salads and appetisers throughout the summer. Two hours of food and free-flowing suds go for ¥5,500 – not exactly a steal, but the location and the fresh sea breeze help soften the blow.
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. Consider going on the 11th day of each month, when the price is cut down to ¥4,500.
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 'Mexican Summer', so think plenty of salsa, tacos, 'Mexican-style pizza', mariachi music and copious amounts of Corona, tequila and mojitos.
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.
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.
Mad for matcha? You'll love the beer garden at Ochanomizu's informatively named Green Tea Restaurant 1899, where ¥3,500 (¥3,000 if you book online) gets you two hours of all-you-can-drink suds with a twist. The available varieties include 'standard' green tea beer, green tea dark beer, hojicha dark beer, 'Japanese black tea' beers in both regular and dark varieties, and non-alcoholic green tea beer, while you'll need to pay extra for the grub.
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.
The folks at Yokohama's Bay Quarter present a 'Latin American-inspired' set-up serving up an eclectic Mexican-Brazilian-Asian menu of seasonal festival grub. Confused cosmopolitanism aside, this one sure looks like one of the city's finer places for outdoor boozing – especially if you like a little salsa and samba dancing to go with your cold ones.
Located just a short walk from Shibuya Station, this rooftop restaurant 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 (two hours, ¥4,980) includes appetisers, three kinds of meats and all-you-can-drink beer, wine and cocktails.
Tokyo Tower's annual alternative to the ubiquitous summer beer gardens is welcoming the 2017 outdoor boozing season with a double dose of whisky highballs: in addition to this standard terrace at the base of the tower, , it also operates a meatier option on the roof of the Tower Foot Town building.
Journey back to the smoky decades of the Showa era at Roppongi's Grand Hyatt. Decorated with paper lanterns and old-school posters, the hotel's fourth-floor Chapel Garden serves as the venue for this nostalgia-tinged beer garden, where Japanese oldies from the ’60s and ’70s blare from the speakers while you sip ice-cold suds and snack on deep-fried ham, yakisoba, octopus sausages, Babystar ramen and other decidedly un-trendy eats.
Fashion brand Journal Standard expands into the boozing business every summer with this beer garden, located on the upper floors of Ikebukuro's Lumine shopping mall. The theme for 2017 is 'Surf & Turf', which apparently means a seafood-heavy menu and décor that draws inspiration from Long Island surf town Montauk. Pick one of three food sets: light (¥3,500), standard (¥4,000) or premium (¥5,000) – all come with unlimited drinks.
It's starting to feel like every department store in Tokyo is turning its rooftop into a beer garden in summer, and Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku clearly isn't immune. Thankfully, they're doing things a little differently again: rather than encouraging visitors to get royally sloshed on all-you-can-drink Super Dry, they'll be serving a classier lineup of microbrew beer.
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. 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.
As the name suggests, there could be quite a few sore necks at this all-summer beer garden, set up on the fourth floor of the Solamachi mall right beneath the 634m Tokyo Skytree. You can look forward to a meaty menu of beef and pork stacked high in a hot pot, plus spicy condiments, appetisers and all-you-can-drink fruity cocktails, beer, highballs and hard liquor.
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.
Look out over the bay at night while working on a cold one at this Yokohama beer garden, set on the Intercontinental Yokohama Grand's Ocean Terrace. To go with the suds, hotel chefs will be serving up an eclectic selection of grub – from tortilla chips and salsa to Vietnamese-style spicy salads.