Monthly Archive July 2015

Jul 30, 2015

Great Japan Beer Festival Nagoya

beer_fes_nagoyaWhen I first arrived in Japan, I was somewhat disappointed by the perceived paucity of decent beer selections. It seemed that no matter where I went I could find nothing more on draft than the near identical brews of the ‘big 3’: Sapporo, Kirin and Asahi. While these can be refreshing and are fine for cooling you down on the hot summer evenings, I still craved more. However, I soon found a burgeoning microbrewery movement that, in the last six months in particular, has exploded with a new craft beer place opening seemingly every week.

What is the Great Japan Beer Festival?

Yes, craft beer (typically beer that is made by small or ‘micro’ breweries independent of the large brewing chains) has taken off in Japan in a big way, and nowhere is this more evident than at the Great Japan Beer Festival. Hosted by the Japan Craft Beer Association (JCBA) the Great Japan Beer Festival, also known as Beerfes, is Japan’s largest beer festival and has gone from strength to strength since its first outing in 1998, rapidly expanding from Tokyo to include events in Yokahama, Okinawa, Osaka and Nagoya.

The festival lasts for three and a half hours on each day*, essentially working on an ‘all-you-want-to-drink’ nomihoudai basis. You will be given a tasting glass on entry along with a list of the available beers. You take this glass to a stand with the beers you want to try where you will be poured a small measure to taste, after which you can move on to as many stalls as you wish to sample.

Being indoors, the Great Japan Beer Festival is a little more formal than the many Oktoberfests and beer festivals that frequent the city. However, whether you are new to craft beers, or are a serious enthusiast, it is a great introduction to some of the best beers of not just this country, but also from around the world.

Great Japan Beer Festival tips:

  • Do choose your time to suit your needs – There is invariably a long queue for entry, so if you are serious about your beer, it is advisable to get there early, as some of the more popular brews can vanish quickly. However, if you just want to enjoy the day at your own pace, after the first hour queues for the beer thin dramatically meaning you can go at your own pace.
  • Don’t lose your glass – Your glass is your admission ticket, and with no glass you get no beer. Also, it is a nice little memento to take home with you.
    Do drink water and eat – Take plenty of water breaks, and have a bite to eat now and then, particularly if you are not a strong drinker. This helps you not only cleanse the palette so you can enjoy the next beer, but also to keep you upright.
  • Don’t go overboard – The tasting glass may be small, and some breweries may only serve the tiniest of amounts, but it all adds up. If you are there from the beginning, you can be there for more than three hours of drinking, and some of these beers fall into the double figures alcohol by volume percentage-wise. Pace yourself if you want to enjoy the full day.
  • Do rinse you glass – Using the rinsing stations regularly is important to ensure that the beer you are tasting isn’t being affected by the previous brew.
  • Don’t forget to rank – Many enthusiasts will rank or keep notes on each beer. While this is not imperative, it really helps you remember which ones you enjoyed for future consumption, as after three hours the memory can get a little hazy.
  • Do repeat things you like – Just because there are 200 beers to try, it doesn’t mean you can’t go back to something you have enjoyed, and the attendant staff are more than happy to refill your glass.
  • Don’t drive – Both venues are easily accessible by public transport, so there is no need to bring your car. However, if you do drive, appoint a designated non-drinking driver. Stay safe, don’t drink and drive.

Great Japan Beer Festival Nagoya 2015

2015 Details

3,000 beer enthusiasts are expected!

More Info:
Pictures of 2013 event

Date: August 8/9 2015

14:00-18:00 on 8th August 2015
12:30-16:30 on 9th August 2015

Place: Shirotori Hall, Nagoya Congress Center
Nagoya Congress Center (google map)

Entrance Fees: (Includes all beer tastings!)

Advance ticket 4,400 JPY (including 400 JPY Food Ticket)
At door 4,800 JPY (including 400 JPY Food Ticket)

By Mark Guthrie

Picture by
ByRay Proper
Jul 19, 2015

World Cosplay Summit Nagoya


Japanese otaku culture has been steadily growing in popularity worldwide, but many have found that they were not satisfied with reading and watching manga and anime ,but instead wanted to actually be the characters!   And then there was… Cosplay!   Which leads us to The World Cosplay Summit, which started in Nagoya in 2003.

Its popularity has increased every year, and now  representatives from at least 20 countries now participate,  all competing to be the grand champion of the world!  The champions win based not only on the quality of their costumes, but art direction and overall performance they give, with a focus on authenticity.

If you are into cosplay, I don’t have to tell you about this, you already know!  but even if you are not a fan the events surrounding the summit are incredibly interesting.  The truly impressive costumes, the energy of the participants, and the excitement of competition all contribute to an atmosphere that can only be experienced to understand.

Check out the many events associated with this championship, and start thinking about your costume now! (tickets for the official championship are sold out, but there are other ways to see and participate.  See their site!

World Cosplay Summit 2015

Saturday, July 25 –  Sunday, August 2
Various locations

World Cosplay Summit 2015 trailer

Image Source - All images courtesy of
ByMark Guthrie
Jul 15, 2015

Music Lessons in English in Tokyo

5336825716_98f66aa0e2_zLearning a musical instrument can be difficult enough – something to which the out of tune guitar that sits in the corner of my living room can attest. However, it is made infinitely more difficult to do so in a language in which you aren’t fluent. But just because you are in Japan you shouldn’t let the language barrier stop you or your family from picking up an instrument and making beautiful music. Whether it be for first time learners or accomplished musicians wanting to brush up after a temporary absence, this list of some of the English language instructors around Tokyo should be able to help.

As always, this list is for information only, and Japan Info Swap does not endorse any of the schools included.

Reiko Tamura’s Music School

Tamura sensei graduated from Florida State University with a bachelors degree in Music theory and has been teaching the piano and violin for more than 30 years, including twelve years in San Francisco. Lessons can be for both children, as young as five, and adults.

JiLL Music School

JiLL Music School offers courses in guitar, ukelele, violin and flute, spread across two studios in Shibuya and Ikebukuro. There are two choices of course with your convenience in mind; a regular course and a morning course. 30 minute free trial lessons are available.

1140 Music Adademy

Most instructors at 1140MA have studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and are currently active on the Tokyo music scene. As well as one-on-one lessons you can also arrange jam sessions with other students aimed at both improving your ability and making new friends. For those interested in the production side of music they can help you record your own demos. Lessons available include guitar, bass guitar, drums, violin, piano and vocals.

  • Where: Lessons are at instructors homes. For an additional travel fee of 1,000 JPY they can be held in the home of the student.
  • How much: 5,000 JPY for a 60 minute lesson.

Tokyo American Club

There are two sound-proofed music rooms at the Tokyo American Club in which you can practice, one of which houses a stand up piano. Lessons are available in piano, guitar, violin, viola and vocals, all from well established and highly accredited musicians. Some instructors offer group lessons.

Kensuke Hirako

Kensuke Hirako teaches saxophone and jazz improvisation for all chromatic instruments, as well as offering assistance in reading musical scores. Having collected his Bachelors degree in Jazz musical performance from California State University, Hirako has worked as a session artist in both Japan and the US. All ability levels are catered for.

Mark Guthrie

Photo: "08:365 The Learner" by Camera Eye Photography (CC BY-SA 2.0) -Modified
ByMark Guthrie
Jul 15, 2015

BBQ Beer Gardens in Tokyo

2998240589_af478d405f_zIn summer, is there anything better than sipping on an ice cold beer as the city temperature rises? Well yes, actually there is. And that is digging into a freshly grilled piece of meat that perfectly accompanies your frosty glass. There are of course many beer gardens across the city right now, but why not check out some of the BBQ beer gardens that compliment the summer so well?

BBQ Beer Gardens in Tokyo

The list below typically offer course meals, all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink menus for around 120 minutes.

BBQ And Beer Terrace 130 Days

As well as an extensive drinks selection (a choice of up to 35) and plenty of meat and vegetables, BBQ and Beer Terrace 130 Days also has live singing and dancing performances should you feel insufficiently entertained.

  • Where: 3 Chome-38-1 Shinjuku
  • When: Until September 30, 2015
  • Price: 4,000 JPY
  • Website

Aloha Natural Hawaiian Beer Garden Kichioji

If you want to take your beer garden experience to the tropics, why not head to this Hawaiian themed venue. With plenty of grilled meat and fruity cocktails you’ll feel you are on a Pacific rather than the big city. Of a Pacific island…

  • Where: Kichijoji Parco 9F Rooftop, 1-5-1 Kichijoji-Honcho, Musashino-shi
  • When: Until September 30, 2015
  • Price: 2 hours nomihoudai is 1,900 JPY. Various food courses can be ordered.
  • Website

Asukasa Hanayashiki BBQ Beer Garden

If you tire of 20mm thick meaty steaks, fresh seafood and foamy beer, well this beer garden is held inside Japan’s oldest amusement park so there is plenty to enjoy. Lunchtime courses are also available.

  • Where: 2-28-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku
  • When: Until September 30, 2015
  • Price: 4,000 JPY
  • Website

The Rooftop BBQ Beer Garden

We aren’t sure whether Mexico is particularly well known for BBQ, but this year’s theme at The Rooftop BBQ Beer Garden is Mexican Resort Barbecue. So if you like grilled prawns, taco burgers and tequila cocktails, this may be just up your alley.

  • Where: Lumine Ikebukuro 8-9F, 1-11-1 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku
  • When: Until October 12, 2015
  • Price: From 4,000 JPY 120 minutes
  • Website

Takanawa Forest Garden

The price of the BBQ set at Grand Prince Hotel’s Takanawa Forest Garden may put many people off, but perhaps that’s the point. Exuding exclusivity, you can enjoy all-you-can-eat domestic beef and sparkling wine next to the beautifully lit up pool.

Beer Gardens with a twist

Maybe you want something a little bit out of the ordinary. These summer gardens are a break from the norm.

Champagne Garden

Fed up with the bloatedness of beer, or perhaps you are after something a little more refined. Well, if this is the case you could try out the Champagne garden atop Hotel Chinzanso in Mejiro. Here you can sip for two hours on unlimited glasses of Möet & Chandon, Mumm Laurent-Perrier and  Nicolas Feuillatte.

  • WhereHotel Chinzanso Tokyo 5F Serenity Garden, 2-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku
  • When: Until August 31, 2015
  • Price: 7,800 JPY
  • Website

Tokyo Tower Highball Garden

If you have tired of the beer garden, but are not keen on the perceived pretension (or very real cost) of french bubbly, maybe the Tokyo Tower Highball Garden is more for you. At the foot of the Tokyo landmark you can find whiskey highballs aplenty. And yes, there is beer too.

  • WhereTokyo Tower 4-2-8 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku
  • When: Until September 27, 2015
  • Price: 4,500 JPY for men and 4,000 JPY for women. 120 minutes
  • Website

Matcha Beer Garden

Yes, you read that correctly. This beer garden serves three types of green tea beer as well as the more regular stuff. The food is not included in the nomihoudai price, but it is tempting to shell out extra for the matcha flavoured french fries and tea soba.

  • WhereGreen Tea Restaurant 1899 Ochanomizu, 3-4 Kanda-Surugadai, Chiyoda-ku
  • When: Until September 30, 2015
  • Price: 3,780 JPY (a set menu course is a further 1,500 JPY)
  • Website


Mark Guthrie

Photo: "drunk elation" by Jerich Abon (CC BY-SA 2.0) -Modified