Jul 10, 2017
Those of us in the Tokyo area (and elsewhere maybe) have been emphatically reminded over the last few days that summer is here. Temperatures and humidity in Tokyo are now such that even the act of sitting still has taken on the form of something that equates to a “task”. And the bad news is, rumour has it that this summer in Japan is set to be the hottest / sweatiest for a number of years. Brilliant! Now, back home having weather presentable enough to fire up a BBQ is one of life’s finer pleasures. Here in Japan serious questions should be raised about an entire nation dishing out more heat via hot charcoals. In fact Japan’s summer BBQing season could be taken in more ways than one, in so far as it’s not just the purchased meat and veg that is being cooked.
I sent a picture to a mate back home of our BBQ prep yesterday at Tokyo’s Kasai Rinkai Park - bench sheltered from the brutal sun with a bit of a canopy and a well scuffed, grass free patch of baked earth. He responded by saying it looked like I was in Africa. A crass stereotype maybe but a BBQ in Japan’s summer temperatures has the potential to become something of an urban softie way out of their comfort zone type of deal.
(BBQ spot reserved)
Actually, Tokyo’s largest park might seem a fine place to enjoy the robust pleasures of grilling meat in the outdoors, being situated as it is along the shores of Tokyo Bay. You can always be sure of a stiff sea breeze at Kasai Rinkai Koen. The problem is, much like a BBQ pit itself, the park’s BBQ zone sits in a kind of dip surrounded on all sides by trees and foliage, perfect for trapping in the heat!
Add to this a throng of people, their corresponding grills and a whole load of beer and you’ve a recipe for someone needing an ambulance. In all seriousness, yesterday’s bash with some friends of the partner clocked in at around five hours between 11:00 and 16:00 - the hottest part of the day. This becomes something of an endurance test during which it’s imperative to have some time in the shade and drink that which doesn’t have alcohol in it, at least from time to time.
(The Japanese BBQ grill)
Still, a BBQ is a BBQ - a great opportunity to bring people together. Japan does BBQs really well. Yes, the meat lacks a bit of girth and substance. Yes, there will be groups of students where the lads contort into all sorts of shapes as they try to impress girls who’ve turned up to the bush in their finest high heels. And yes, you will be desperate to get back home and have a shower. All of this aside, a BBQ in Japan is somehow a comforting reminder of the warm bosom of home (or maybe it’s just me) and a great way to break the ice with the locals.
At one point I did slip out of the party to have wander around the park. In my beer / heat induced haze I confess to having snuck in a ice cream (for medical purposes you understand) and spent most of the time loitering around some kind of photography club consisting of middle-men who seemed to have ‘rented’ some young models (girls) to pose whimsically in front of their massive lenses (not a euphemism - the lenses really were massive).
When I got back to the party someone had broken out a packet of marshmallows to heat up over the dying embers of the BBQ. A touching tribute to me, I was told, as it’s not something they would normally think to do in Japan.
Kasai Rinkai Koen Images
The BBQ zone at Kasai Rinkai Park comes with all the kit you would need to fire up a BBQ. There are benches and tables, canopies can be rented, toilets are nearby and there are taps/sinks to wash things in. Staff are on hand to help out with recalcitrant charcoals and also to help get things set up. Bring all your food supplies with you though as the park is massive and some distance from the nearest supermarket. Kiosks in the park sell beer at expensive prices and there’s a convenience store by the train station (Kasairinkaikoen - Keiyu Line) which will sell out of items on a busy summer weekend.
(Kasai Rinkai Koen BBQ washing situation)