Savoring Summer: Exploring the Rich Culture of Beer Gardens in Japan

By Lisa Wallin
Updated: May 2, 2024

If you relish the idea of enjoying an ice-cold beer on a hot and sultry summer evening, a visit to a Japanese beer garden is a must. Since the first beer garden opened in Yokohama in 1875, these venues have become synonymous with summer leisure. Often adorned with twinkling lanterns and lush greenery, they offer idyllic settings on rooftops, balconies, and in urban gardens, transforming these vast spaces into lively hubs in the summer months. 

Though originally a German concept, beer gardens in Japan are a quintessential summer experience. Unlike matsuri, which are also anticipated summer events, beer gardens allow for prime downtime surrounded by those who share a passion for good summer fun. Join us as we delve deeper into the enchanting world of Japanese beer gardens, where camaraderie, refreshing drinks, and delightful cuisine await.

Japanese Beer Gardens: The Basics


Beer gardens are one of the many signs of summer in Japan, together with the buzz of cicadas and the crackle and bang of fireworks in the sky. They typically operate from May to September, capturing the essence of the season with open-air seating and vibrant surroundings. Perched atop rooftops of commercial buildings and hotels or nestled in serene urban gardens, these seasonal hubs embody a communal spirit seldom found elsewhere. Some beer gardens operate on the rooftops of popular malls frequented by shoppers who might not even know there’s a little piece of heaven just a few floors up. 

Here, tables beckon friends and colleagues alike to gather, sharing stories and laughter as they unwind over ice-cold beverages and delectable cuisine. Whether it's the daytime sun or the evening glow, these spaces offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life, inviting you to immerse yourself in the ultimate Japan summer experience. 

What to Expect: Drinks


Central to the beer garden experience is, of course, beer. Most venues feature an all-you-can-drink or free-flow system, adding an extra layer of allure to the experience. Time limits vary from one to three hours, but two hours is the most typical. Method of service varies from place to place, with the most common options being ordering via waitstaff and self-service via innovative beer self-pouring machines. It will come out perfect even if you’ve never poured yourself a pint!

If beer isn’t your thing, fret not: Beer gardens often cater to diverse tastes, offering an array of popular Japanese drinks such as chuhai (shochu highball), refreshing cocktails, and a variety of non-alcoholic options to accommodate all preferences.

What to Expect: Food


Diving into the culinary offerings of Japanese beer gardens unveils a mouthwatering array of dishes to complement the refreshing brews. Venues will often either serve food in a buffet-style setting or offer a set multi-course meal featuring a selection of light meals and sides. Others may have an a la carte menu.

Among the favorites are yakitori (skewered and grilled chicken or savory vegetables), karaage (Japanese fried chicken), fries, potato salad, sausages, and edamame (steamed and lightly salted soybeans). For heartier appetites, gyoza (dumplings with a crispy bottom) and yakisoba (stir-fried noodles with vegetables and a savory sauce) are firm Japanese street food favorites that are often on the menu.

Some beer gardens may also feature international themes, focusing on German sausages, Spanish tapas, or Hawaiian specialties. Some venues even offer full BBQ sets, complete with an assortment of meats, seafood, and vegetables ready to sizzle on the grill. 

Japanese Beer Gardens: Where to Find Them


As the summer season emerges, Japanese beer gardens unfurl across the landscape, seemingly materializing overnight in locations such as the rooftops of office buildings and hotels, tranquil riverside settings, and even within the lush confines of urban gardens. These temporary havens provide more than just a relaxing place to eat and drink: many offer breathtaking views of city skylines or serene riverbanks, creating unforgettable summer sanctuaries. 

To help you on your hunt for the perfect beer garden, here are some suggestions.

Matsuya Ginza Utsukushikunaru Beer Garden

Tokyo Beer Garden BBQ

Located on the rooftop of one of the swankiest department stores in Tokyo’s ritzy Ginza district, Utsukushikunaru Beer Garden serves up a sophisticated setting and plenty of luxurious course menus to choose from. This year’s theme is “Meat Paradise.” Visitors can enjoy an assortment of high-quality chicken, pork, and beef, plus seasonal vegetables. The standard course, priced at ¥6,600, includes free-flowing drinks for 2 hours. (Note that your last order should be placed at the 90-minute mark.) 

Open from the second half of May to September. More information (in Japanese)

Check out our list of beer gardens in Tokyo for more recommendations in the Japanese capital. 

Japanese Beer Gardens: Good to Know Before You Go


Different countries have distinct drinking cultures shaped by historical, social, and cultural factors, and Japan is no exception. Here are some pointers to help you navigate a visit to a beer garden with your Japanese friends or colleagues. Note that these are just guidelines and not strict rules — and not always relevant in casual settings.

Toriaezu Beer

In group settings, individuals commonly request a "toriaezu beer," which translates to "first of all" or "for now" beer, to expedite the ordering process. This allows everyone to swiftly receive their initial drink and ready themselves for the first toast, initiating the festivities. While it’s not necessary to follow this custom, it does make a smoother start to your shared dining-out experience.

Pouring Drinks

If the beer garden serves a selection of its beer in bottles, it’s considered polite to fill the glass of your nearest seatmates at the table. People will often respond in kind and it often serves as a conversation starter. This is more important in formal and semi-formal settings, but it can be a nice gesture when dining out with friends as well.

As we celebrate the vibrant atmosphere and hospitality beer gardens offer, let's remember that the most important thing is to simply have fun. Cheers to unforgettable moments and cherished memories waiting to be made!

Japanese Beer Gardens: FAQ


When are beer gardens open in Japan?

The main beer garden season runs from May to September in Japan, but some venues open as early as April and close as late as October.

Do you need to make reservations for beer gardens in Japan?

Not all venues require reservations, but it’s recommended for groups of four people or more. Some beer gardens are especially popular, so it’s a good idea to book a table to guarantee a spot. Pro tip: Venues that serve BBQ sets will almost always require advance reservations.  

What’s the dress code at Japanese beer gardens?

Casual attire is generally fine, although some fancier venues like hotel rooftops may have stricter requirements. If you’re planning a daytime visit to a beer garden, consider essential accessories such as sunscreen and appropriate coverage (a hat, sunglasses, parasol) — and maybe even a portable handheld fan to avoid sunburn.


What’s the average cost of a visit to a beer garden?

Although it depends on the venue, typically they offer fixed-price menus with free-flow or all-you-can-drink sets, which range from about ¥3,000 to ¥6,000 per person. Some beer gardens will include set food courses or buffet meals in the price, but others may not.

Are Japanese beer gardens family-friendly?

Again, it depends on the venue, but most beer gardens are open to families during the daytime hours and serve a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks, including soft drinks and tea.

Do Japanese beer gardens have vegetarian options?

Some venues will serve dishes that are vegetarian, but options will likely be limited. Most vegetarian dishes are sides and not main meals unless otherwise specified.   

Can you bring your own drinks to Japanese beer gardens?

Generally, no, you cannot bring your own drinks to Japanese beer gardens. (Unless otherwise specified.)

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Lisa Wallin
Writing professionally for 10 years, Lisa first found her love for writing in Japan’s dynamic music scene. From there, she began to explore culture, travel, cuisine and craftsmanship. When not chasing stories and bleeding ink, she drinks entirely too much coffee, visit shrines, explore Japan’s music scene and eat her way through the country.
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