Ah, beer culture in Japan. Ever since the Dutch at Nagasaki opened a beer hall and the first taps opened, the country has enjoyed a passionate love affair with this tipple, which has quickly taken on a very unique local taste.
Few places in Japan celebrate this love of beer as passionately – and yet as remarkably peacefully – as the summer beer festival at Odori park. For a solid, glorious month starting in mid-July and running through the best part of Sapporo’s summer, a hard day’s work can be rewarded with a delightful evening at an outdoor table in the park with one’s friends and coworkers, plates of local delicacies like yakitori and the Hokkaido lamb barbeque specialty Genghis Khan surrounding the renowned ‘Bikuri Tower’ (literally, ‘surprise tower’) a 4 feet tall, 3-liter pitcher of beer taking pride of place in the center. Sapporo, Kirin, Asahi, Premium Malt… they’re all in attendance.
The entire length of Odori park, 10 blocks in the heart of the city, is transformed into Japan’s largest beer garden. Each of Japan’s major brewers has a square where they set up a bar and outdoor seating for you to enjoy from early afternoon until 9 ‘o clock in the evening. An international tent provides a wide selection of brews from around the World and Germany has a whole block of its own complete with a range of tasty sausages.
The beer festival is a fantastic concept that by Western standards borders on ridiculous and could only work in a country such as Japan and a city such as Sapporo, where the people know how to let loose while still maintaining a modicum of civility. Each day the beer begins to flow at 11:00 and finishes up at 21:00, after which the crowd moves a couple of blocks over to the Susukino entertainment district. There is a wonderful lack of trouble, and a security presence is not even required, in stark contrast to many Western countries.
For anyone visiting Sapporo during the summer, the beer festival is a must-do and a great chance to mingle with the locals, enjoy the sun, and eat some fantastic food while enjoying the ice-cold beer of your choice!