Along with the season of bright sunshine comes the appearance of colorful beach parasols lining places such as department store rooftops and hotel rooftop gardens—a perfect opportunity to relax underneath while engaging in the beloved Japanese summertime tradition of gulping down an ice-cold beer at a rooftop beer garden.
Japan’s first beer garden opened in Yokohama in 1875, targeting foreign residents and sailors on foreign ships—but the country’s first rooftop beer garden was in nowhere other than Osaka.
This occurred in 1953 at the Osaka Daiichi Seimei Building in the middle of the downtown Kita district, when a private motorcycle exhibition held at the building’s former basement-level New Tokyo beer hall was unable to accommodate all guests—and it was decided to utilize the rooftop area as an additional space to serve beer and food. This proved to be so popular that it was even written about in the newspaper—prompting an official “beer garden” to be opened on the rooftop the following year. The trend was also fueled by the construction of numerous high-rise buildings that began opening beer gardens in urban areas—thereby bringing the popular tradition to other areas around the country. As the period of high economic growth peaked, people of all ages and genders gathered to enjoy hoisting their beer glasses together in festivity—and the beer garden events began to include additional attractions such as live Hawaiian bands and baseball games broadcast on large-screen televisions.
Today, summertime rooftop beer gardens can be seen throughout Osaka. Some feature the swinging of colorful lanterns provided by sponsoring beer companies; others include food buffets or self-service beer taps. The rooftop atmosphere also lends a certain sense of liveliness and freedom to the revelry—thereby making the beer even tastier.
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