Japanese Summer Beer Gardens

Sekirei at Meiji Kinen Kan

Sekirei at Meiji Kinen Kan


Tokyo’s hot and humid summers are when some department stores open up their rooftops to open-air beer gardens. It is an unusual setting, especially in Shinjuku when you surrounded by skyscrapers, but a fun experience. If you are lucky the winds will blow across the building to cool you down a bit. The food is typical pub fare of sausages and fried potatoes served with cold beers, a casual atmosphere, and a unique insight to part of the drinking culture of Japan. Call ahead to make sure that the department stores are running their beer gardens. These are usually in July and August. Popular ones include Keio in Shinjuku, Matsuya in Asakusa, Tobu in Ikebukuro, and Matsuzakaya in Ginza.

Meiji Kinen Kan 明治記念館

Beer Terrace Sekirei

Minato-ku, Akasaka 2-2-23 港区赤坂2-2-23

Tel. 03-3746-7723

www.meijikinenkan.gr.jp/english/restaurant/sekirei.html (English)

This may be one of the most spectacular beer gardens in Japan. Guests are seated in wicker chairs around a manicured garden it looks like it was tended to with tweezers. It is luxurious and a rare treat in this concrete city.

Kimchi Yokocho キムチ横丁 2/2

Daiichi Bussan Kimchi

Daiichi Bussan Kimchi

Marukin まるきん

Taito-ku, Higashi Ueno 2-19-1 台東区東上野2-19-1

Tel. 03-3832-4549

www.kimchi-marukin.com/ (Japanese)

Daiichi Bussan 第一物産

Taito-ku, Higashi Ueno 2-15-5 台東区東上野2-15-5

Tel. 03-3831-1323

www.d1b.jp/ (Japanese)

Konan Foods コーナンフーズ

Taito-ku, Higashi Ueno 2-15-5 台東区東上野2-15-5

Tel. 03-3831-2017

no website

The handful of shops here specialize in handmade kimchi, meats for cooking at home, and ingredients for cooking Korean food at home including spices, reimen (cold noodles), sauces for yakiniku, kochujan, sesame oil, tea, nori, and more. Shops to look for include Marukin, Daiichi Monosan , and Koumen Foods. Some of the items, in particular, the Korean nori, is also sold in the Ameyoko market.

The variety of kimchi is impressive including hakusai (Napa cabbage), kakuteki (daikon), wakegi (negi or leeks), goma no ha (sesame leaves), aotogarashi (green chili peppers), and more.

There are several restaurants featuring yakiniku, bibimpa, chijimi, reimen, and other popular Korean dishes. Be sure to poke your head into the narrow side streets that have.

Kimchi Yokocho キムチ横丁 1/2

Kimchi Yokocho キムチ横丁

Kimchi Yokocho キムチ横丁

Kimichi Yokocho Map

Kimichi Yokocho Map

Kimchi Yokocho キムチ横丁


On the other side of the tracks is an area called Kimchi Yokocho. In an area of a few blocks is a concentration of shops and restaurants specializing in Korean food. There is a much larger area filled with Korean supermarkets, restaurants, and shops near Shinjuku near the Shin-Okubo station on the Yamanote line.

Even though the map is in Japanese, it will give you an idea of the number of shops in Kimchi Yokocho and where they are located.

Ippudo Ramen in Ameyoko アメ横の一風堂

Ippudo Akamaru Ramen

Ippudo Akamaru Ramen

Ippudo Shiromaru Ramen

Ippudo Shiromaru Ramen

Ippudo Ramen 一風堂

Taito-ku, Ueno 3-17-5

Tel. 03-5807-2772

11:00 – 3:00 (no holidays)

www.ippudo.com/index.html (Japanese)

Ippudo started as a small shop with only 10 seats at a counter in 1985 and now has locations throughout Japan and even in New York City. Ippudo is famous for its tonkotsu ramen. Very thin noodles that still have a bite to them. Other popular dishes besides the ramen include gyoza, fried rice, and rice topped with mentaiko (spicy cod roe). Ippudo has shops throughout the city.

Yoshiike in Ameyoko アメ横の吉池

Yoshiike 吉池

Yoshiike 吉池

Yoshiike 吉池

Taito-ku, Ueno 3-27-12 台東区上野3-27-12

Tel. 03-3831-0141

9:30 – 24:00, no holidays

www.yoshiike-group.co.jp/ (Japanese)

Since 1920, Yoshiike has been a prominent shop in this area of Ueno. This large store has a supermarket in the basement, a large seafood department, and fresh produce. The second floor is a liquor shop, with wine, sake, shochu, and spirits as well as ochoko (sake cups), tokkuri (sake vases).

It is the seafood department that makes this shop worth visiting. The fresh seafood area is impressive with a colorful array of fish, crabs, shellfish and other seafood. But that is just a tiny part of this expansive floor. There is marinated fish, himono (butterflied, salted, and dried fish for grilling), dried fish, smoked salmon, mentaiko, and much more. The kakkohin (processed seafood) is a big part of the seafood culture in Japan and there is a wide variety of products including Satsuma-age (deep-fried fish cakes), kamaboko (steamed fish cakes), canned seafood, and more. Outside of the shop there is space for rotating vendors, often grilled fish.

In the middle of the floor there is a refrigerated case with reasonably priced sashimi platters, ready to go for an impromptu picnic in Ueno Koen (Ueno Park). There are small vendors specializing in unagi and fugu.

Pick up a sashimi platter, some grilled fish, fresh fruit, and then head up to the second floor for some chilled sake and you are set for a picnic in Ueno Park.

Niki no Kashi in Ameyoko アメ横の二木の菓子

Niki no Kashi

Niki no Kashi

Niki no Kashi 二木の菓子

Taito-ku, Ueno 4-6-1

Tel. 03-3833-4051

9:30 – 19:30, no holidays

www.nikinokashi.co.jp (Japanese)

Niki no Kashi maybe one of Ameyoko’s most famous vendors. In business since 1947, Niki no Kashi is a large discount shop for sweets and candies. Part of the attraction is the unusually large selection of dagashi. Dagashi are affordable snacks and sweets, popularized in the Showa period. There are a few shops around the city that still sell dagashi, often each piece selling for about 10 yen each. You often hear fellow shoppers in the dagashi section saying things like “natuskashii”, meaning that this reminds them of the old days.

Part of their selection includes European chocolates, Japanese chocolates, sembei, wagashi, snacks, karintou, and mamegashi (bean sweets). There are chips and snacks, both Japanese and imported, as well as packaged foods including pickles, curries, and spices.

Daimasu at Ameyoko アメ横のダイマス



Daimasu ダイマス

Taito-ku, Ueno 4-6-13 台東区上野4-6-13

Tel. 03-3831-5023

9:00 – 18:30 (closed the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursdays of each month)

www.daimasu.net/ (Japanese)

Daimasu has a colorful display of dried beans, grains and rice. Sesame seeds, millets, daizu, adzuki, and more round out this tiny shop.

Ameyoko’s Iseoto Shouten 伊勢音商店

Katsuobushi from Iseoto Shouten

Katsuobushi from Iseoto Shouten

Iseoto Shouten 伊勢音商店

Taito-ku, Ueno 6-4-10 台東区上野6-4-10

Tel. 03-3831-4411

9:00 – 19:00, no holidays

www.iseoto.com/ (Japanese)

Iseoto’s history can be traced back to 1876.  The shop specializes in katsuobushi and other products for making dashi. You can smell the smoked, and dried katsuo flakes. The products are placed in wooden barrels that fall into the street.

These are top quality katsuobushi, aged longer than most. Packs of katsuobushi are available for making dashi, or for using as a topping over tofu and steamed vegetables. The shop also sells kombu, dried shiitake, dried surumeika (great snack), dried kaibashira, niboshi, etc. You can also purchase a box for shaving katsuobushi at home. Or, purchase the shaved flakes here. You can also get tororo, thin shaved strips of kombu used for soups or for wrapping around rice.