Of the fact that Japan likes to have a drink or two, there can be no doubt. This is the land of sake, ice cold Asahi, and numerous post-work highballs. It is a country where you can enjoy nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) menus at almost every izakaya restaurant and then, at any time of the day or night, purchase a pick-me-up from the convenience store and drink it on the street and no one bats an eyelid. You can even have a tipple on the shinkansen bullet train, sold from trolleys right there on the train.
You can even get drunk on a tram. Yes, on a tram.
For 30 years The Noryo Beer Tram has been a common summer sight in the Aichi city of Toyohashi, just one hour outside of Nagoya. ‘Noryo’ means ‘enjoying the refreshment of the evening’, a word most readily associated with the twilight of hot summer days. And I think you can agree that this has been a particularly hot summer, one that is showing no sign of letting up.
Toyohashi City is one of only 17 cities across Japan with an operational streetcar service, and at 10 trams per hour, the Toyohashi Rail Road company (Toyotetsu), is one of the busiest in the country.
However, the Noryo Tram is something a little different from your run of the mill tram line. For a start, it is decked out in fairy lights and glitter from gaudy top to flashy bottom, and there is a huge glass of beer on the side. Public transport this is very much not.
As everyone piles on board, glasses of beer (other drinks are available) are immediately dished out, and bento box meals await you on tables that run through the center of the tram.
The streetcar itself is decked out to look like a beer garden, with summery decorations everywhere, and for the next 80 minutes – as you travel from Toyohashi Station to Undokoen-Mae and back again – the drinks flow non-stop, thanks to the aforementioned nomihoudai. (Though be warned that there is no toilet on board and only one bathroom break at Undokoen-Mae, so tempering your drinking to your bladder size is advisable).
This being a very Japanese party there is of course a karaoke machine featuring some 35,000 songs including many of the international big hits.
In addition, if you feel that the bento is not enough to slake your hunger, it is possible to arrange to pick up pizza on the way round. Also, the bringing of your own snacks is permissible, though both of these options should be confirmed at the time of booking.
Where: Ekimae Station, Nishijuku Hanadacho, Toyohashi, Aichi 440-0075 (map)
When: June 14 to September 23, 2019
Tel: Reservations: 0532-53-2135 Weekdays from 8:50 to 17:40; Enquiries: 0532-61-5771
Price: Individual Guests: Adults 3,300 JPY; under-20s 2,000 JPY (no alcohol served – Snack box, soft drink and “uchiwa” fan only); 3 years or under 500 JPY (seat fee).
Charter trams: Up to 28 guests: 88,000 JPY. A maximum of 30 passengers is allowed at an additional 2,300 JPY per guest:
The Noryo Beer Tram is extremely popular, and as such reservations are essential.
Images: by Mark Guthrie