Beer Garden (n.) An outdoor tavern or an outdoor area adjoining a tavern where alcohol is served.
According to Wikipedia, beer gardens originated in 19th Century Germany, when beer was brewed in underground cellars shaded and cooled by groves of chestnut trees. To enjoy the beer at its freshest, customers were able to relax and drink at tables setup under the trees right above the brewing cellars themselves.
In Japan, the term Beer Garden has come to mean something quite different.
Japanese beer gardens reside almost exclusively on the rooftops of high-end department stores and hotels. Like most things in Japan, they’re seasonal – opened only for one or two short Summer months. During this time, concrete roofs are lined with turf and decorated with tiki torches, trees, flowers, …and video projectors. You know, to create the illusion of a real (not 20-story-tall) garden. The views are often magnificent, the prices high, and the tables packed. And they’re almost exclusively all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink situations, usually lasting two or three hours.
About a month ago I had the pleasure of attending my first beer garden, an official company event held atop the ANA Kyoto Hotel directly across from Nijo Castle. Although I can’t say that it’s something I could see myself doing very often (mainly due to the $45+ price tag), I’m glad I had the opportunity to try it once. The food was fantastic, and it proved a great way to kick off a Friday night and officially bid the Summer season goodbye.
Plus, it was nice to have all the 焼肉 I could eat. I miss good beef. I really do. 😐