Shūbun no Hi, or Autumnal Equinox Day, passed last week marking the start of fall. It’s not uncommon for Japanese summers to persist well into mid-October, but this year it seems we’ve caught a break and fall has visited us at its regularly scheduled time. To mark the end of the season, Mr. J’s old schoolmates threw last BBQ chance of the year party this past Sunday in Yokohama at the Kodomo Shizen Kōen (Children’s Nature Park) BBQ/Picnic area near Futamatagawa Station on the Sōtetsu line.
In the U.S. people generally have barbecues in their back yards, which are easy to throw together at a moment’s notice. In Japan, due to lack of yard space and unfavorable regulations at certain public/private outdoor places, the number of parks and recreational areas offering barbecue areas have steadily risen over the last decade. If you’re ever looking for a good place to have an outdoor barbecue, check out Mapple. (Japanese only)
Typical spaces look like this, with sectioned off grills and table areas for each party:
There’s also enough room to enjoy a little bit of exercise and sport. Barbecues and drinking go hand in hand in Japan, so sometimes there’s the added bonus of funny drunken shenanigans from tables nearby.
By the way, it’s worth mentioning that the word “barbecue” in Japan generally refers to yakiniku style barbecue. It’s originally a Korean style of BBQ that Japan adopted, where bite sized pieces of meat are grilled and then dipped in sweet, salty, or spicy sauces (tare) before being eaten. When someone invites you to a yakiniku party, they usually mean eating yakiniku at a restaurant or at someone’s house, where as being invited to a barbecue party almost always refers to eating yakiniku outdoors.
Barbecues aren’t just for meat! Japanese like to grill whole fish, shelled oysters and clams, pieces of squid and octopus, and other seafood, too.
Depending on the space, you might need to reserve it or give a headcount in advance. Usually the host of the event prepares and brings everything (including the grill if needed), handles the set-up and most of the cooking, and then guests pay their share to host during or at the end of the barbecue. This was the case last weekend, and each guest offered up 4,000 yen ($40 USD) to our hosts as things were winding down towards the evening.
If you plan on hosting your own barbecue in Japan, you can purchase everything you need at the supermarket or Costco. I recommend The Meat Guy for great cuts of meat, including regular fare back home that might be hard to come by locally.
Some spaces also, or only, offer packages where the establishment itself provides all the food and everything you need for a set group or per person price. This way usually works out to be more (sometimes much more) expensive than the DIY/host type barbecue.
If you’re really a barbecue enthusiast, it’s possible to purchase your own grill set-up, and most home centers sell the yakiniku type grill. You can also purchase gas grills and/or accessories for back home-style BBQ from The Meat Guy, California Patio, The Foreign Buyers Club (mostly California Patio brand), or Amazon.co.jp (for Coleman or Weber brands). Or, if you’re just looking for some BBQ staples and treats from back home, check out the any import store chain like Kaldi or Jupiter. I brought along some graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate from Jupiter to make s’mores for dessert.
Mr. J and I had a great time enjoying good drinks, food, and sport with friends while taking in the first glimpse of fall.
The BBQ season may just be ending here in Japan, but we’re already looking forward to maybe hosting our own next summer. 🙂