From Japan to US, with love and lager

When you think of Japanese food and drink, does your mind go straight to sushi, ramen and whiskey? How about yuzu brats, fried potato dumplings and imported German beer? That's what I discovered on a recent trip to Tokyo.

September 20, 2016

 

Dear Evan,

Greetings from Japan! I can’t thank you enough for giving me two weeks off from the show to visit Tokyo. It certainly is “the new Paris,” as Jonathan wrote in the preamble to his 101 list, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that you gave me this time to do so much great eating, drinking and market research. You told me the best thing you ate in Japan was pork tonkatsu and I do not disagree. We ate delicious crispy, tender plates of it with rice and frosty Asahis outside the sumo stadium in Sumida. Then there were the slices of sashimi we bought in the basement food hall of a department store and the incredible steaming hot bowls of ramen we slurped underground at Tokyo Station. Don’t get me started on the tempura! Oof.

But you neglected to mention Oktoberfest! One day, when the typhoon rains had abated, we wandered into a pretty manicured green called Hibiya Park. In the ’80s, there were skirmishes here over trade deals. More recently, over nuclear power. However, the day we were there, we saw dozens of people using chopsticks to dip their red, white and green yuzu pork and veal brats into wholegrain mustard in between bites of sauerkraut. Young Japanese damsels in traditional Bavarian garb offered us plates of fried potato dumplings and soft twisted pretzels. Then there was the beer, massive steins of it, imported from Germany and costing just ¥1,500 for 500 milliliters. That’s less than $15 for 16.9 ounces! And they even give you your ¥1,000 back if you return the glass. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a soul in line for sake. All the while, polka was being piped in from the speakers overhead: oompah, oompah, oompah. And I thought Oktoberfest was just a European and American thing. Wonders never cease. Time to book your ticket, Evan! More soon.

Your supervising producer,
Abbie

cc: Jonathan Gold, Gary Scott

 

The company Business Frontier Conference first threw its Oktoberfest celebrations in Yokohama in 2003 before relocating to Hibiya in 2006. "It all happened when we imported some German-made tents, tables and benches for a German travel exhibition that we organize here every two years. In the process, we made friends with a German beer importer," said the company spokesperson, Noguchi-san, in an email.
The company Business Frontier Conference first threw its Oktoberfest celebrations in Yokohama in 2003 before relocating to Hibiya in 2006. “It all happened when we imported some German-made tents, tables and benches for a German travel exhibition that we organize here every two years. In the process, we made friends with a German beer importer,” said the company spokesperson, Noguchi-san, in an email.
b54i6157
In Munich, Oktoberfest is roughly 18 days of beer and brats that starts mid-September and runs until early October. Oktoberfest Hibiya is held in April and October and moves to other parts of Japan throughout the year. “Unlike Germany, we don’t have venues large enough to hold a long-term exhibition so we began to host multiple exhibitions in various locations, regardless of the time of year: Octoberfest #1, Oktoberfest #2, etc,” said Noguchi-san.
b54i6230
We tried the fried potato dumplings and green, white and red brats with whole grain mustard and tangy sauerkraut. The traditional German fare with a Japanese twist was delicious.
b54i6346
Roughly 70,000 people have attended Oktoberfest in Hibiya Park in the decade it has been running, according to the organizers, and attendance is on the rise. The massive blue-and-white striped Hippodrome tent sits at the southern end of Hibiya Park.
b54i6320
No Japanese beer is available at Oktoberfest-Hibiya, but there’s no shortage of German beer and domestic craft beer on tap that is made with German recipes.

 

Photos by Stan Lee, FCS 2016 James Beard Foundation visual storytelling award winner.