lifestyle

The good times flow at Oktoberfest

16 Comments
By Bryan Harrell

Summer may be the season for beer events, but it’s certainly worth waiting until autumn for one of the best—the Yokohama Oktoberfest. Held for a full 10 days at the Akarenga Soko complex on Yokohama Bay, the annual party features live German music, a variety of food items and a whole lotta beer, mostly from Germany.

But what really sets it apart is the festive atmosphere, which runs from lively in the afternoon to borderline wild later on, as beer-fueled celebrants begin snake-dancing in long lines through the seating area inside the main tent.

While the original Oktoberfest in Munich usually runs from late September to early October, in Yokohama the time frame is more flexible. This year’s event will take place from October 9-18, two weekends with a week in between, giving people more chances to attend. The Akarenga Soko complex, a collection of old brick warehouses, is a ten-minute walk from Bashamichi station on the Minatomirai line. Admission is a nominal 200 yen, with beer and food sold separately.

Visitors seem to attend the Yokohama Oktoberfest in groups, and some of them can become quite spirited as the afternoon runs into the evening. In addition to the aforementioned lines of snake-dancers, you’re likely to meet people who are quite into German beer culture. One group of regulars, which numbers over 20, wears large German hats and drinks weizen, a type of wheat beer, exclusively from large mugs. I don’t think they have a name, so I just refer to them as the “Weizenheimers.”

Several brands of German brews are available in pilsner, weizen and dark-beer varieties. Also on offer is an assortment of Japanese craft beer from nearby breweries, selling for somewhat less than their German counterparts. The cheapest quaffs are from the four major Japanese breweries, and a few of their special varieties are also available.

“It’s really more of a cultural event,” explains Hisashi Imazato, president of Zato Trading Company, a major supplier of beer for the event since 2006. “And since there is beer, people are easily drawn to festivities. There is also music, so it really is a kind of matsuri.”

Imazato was originally an interior designer who worked on exhibits for the Tokyo Motor Show. A few trips to Germany aroused a strong interest in German food and beer, to the point that he opened a small German-style place in Kamiyacho 15 years ago. He began importing beer, first Spaten and then Franziskaner, followed by several brands from small local breweries. His company, Zato Trading, now imports some 20 varieties of German beer, and over six brands of German wine. They also operate nine German-style pub-restaurants throughout central Tokyo, including the Franziskaner Bar & Grill and Franz Club locations.

Imazato and his company participate in several Oktoberfest events held throughout Japan during the warmer months of the year. These include Fukuoka (early May), Tokyo Hibiya (late May), Sendai (mid-June), Niigata (early August), and Shizuoka (early September). The Yokohama event, however, draws by far the most people—and is certainly the most festive.

The Yokohama Oktoberfest opens at 5 p.m. on Friday and runs through Sunday, Oct 18. Admission: 200 yen, plus 1,000 yen deposit for your glass. Hours: Mon-Fri noon-9 p.m., Sat-Sun and Oct 12 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Nearest stn: Bashamichi (Minatomirai line).

Note: if you plan to do a lot of drinking, it is also advisable to bring some bottles of mineral water (sparkling is nice) to keep yourself hydrated between beers.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp)

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


16 Comments
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Mmmmm German beer. Yummy, wish I could go.

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Imazato and his company participate in several Oktoberfest events held throughout Japan during the warmer months of the year. These include Fukuoka (early May), Tokyo Hibiya (late May), Sendai (mid-June), Niigata (early August), and Shizuoka (early September). The Yokohama event, however, draws by far the most people—and is certainly the most festive.

I'm trying to understand why Oktoberfest does not occur in October for these cities? how can that be messed up?

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And the Scots will be in town for the football next weekend. They better get more beer in! LOL!

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I'm living in Switzerland just at the border to Germany and France, and went to Munich's Oktoberfest once in a while. All I can say about this, the Oktoberfest is just a hell of a drinking party. People get nuts about getting drunk, really stupid acting. Around this time a lot of Oktoberfests are held, even here and across the border. Everywhere it's only about getting drunk. I assume in Japan it will be a little bit more civilised. @Mexicanish... Have the chance to drink german beer (and other european beer) every day for 80 yen for a half liter can here, so I do at some days. German beer has a good reputation, but swiss, french and especially belgium beer is on the same quality level...

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sparkling?

Normal water will do just fine thank you.

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and a whole lotta beer, mostly from Germany

"lotta"?

Sorry, I can't get past the spelling errors in the first paragraph.

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I went to the Oktoberfest in Hibiya three or four years ago, it was fun. I remember there was a drunk bloke sitting next to me (around 50y.o.). I went there with a german friend, and when my friend said he was german, the old guy said something like: "German? Belly belly good! Sieg Heil!!!"

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I'm trying to understand why Oktoberfest does not occur in October for these cities? how can that be messed up?

To say something is "messed up" without researching the history and traditions is what's messed up.

The reason goes back to 1810 during the dark days of beer drinking before refrigeration. In those days in Germany beer would never be brewed in the summer months. The batches would never turn out good. The last batches were usually made in March. These last batches would have higher alcohol content to take advantage of alcohol as a preservative. Traditionally there would be a big fest starting on the last Saturday in September till the First Sunday in October. The purpose was to drink up the old stocks of beer to make room for the new brew that would be make after harvest. The tradition goes back to the 15th and 16th Centuries. The first official Oktoberfest was held in 1810. Crown Prince Ludwig threw a big party to celebrate his wedding to Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. The party was open to all. Everyone liked it so much they kept having the party every year.

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I went last year and will be going again next weekend, good times.

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you've just described why it's in October, which is not what I was asking. I was asking why the other cities also don't have their party in October. History is one thing but not being able to read the question is another.

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I mean no offence but if Oktoberfest in Fukuoka is held in May, then it's hard to call it Oktoberfest. I was just wondering why not October. That's it. That's all I was asking.

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Japan and Civilised drinking? Dude from Switzerland, you need to come ride the JR lines late on Friday and Saturday nights...

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you've just described why it's in October

No, he just described why it's mostly in September.

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Octoberfest on October 10th at the German school in Rokko.(Kobe) It is held every year and there is plenty of German food to help wash down the beer and wine. :-) Usually a good laugh and a nice day out.

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@motytrah

no, he explained that it started in the last week of September and ended in October. As well, that it was attributed to a famous wedding festival in the second week of October. Why? Because I read the words that he typed down.

So, that explains the word Oktoberfest, but it does not explain why a festival meant in fall is not a fall festival in other cities in Japan. That is the question.

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Come on everyone! Let`s all stand in a long line and then pay too much for a beer!

I have my own Oktoberfest at home with friends, good music and readily available beer which didn`t cost an arm and a leg.

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