I’d always wanted to visit Japan. But it remained an obscure wish until this summer when the airfares took an absurd dive. I’ve flown to places in Florida and California for more than the cost of my flight to Japan!

The stars had been aligning for a while. Over the winter my craft beer loving English chef friend Stuart O’Dell introduced me to an iPhone app called “Beer in Japan” even though I had no plans then to travel to the land of the rising sun. (I love the flag, because to map-loving me it looks like the ultimate “you are here” symbol, planting Japan at the center of the world more than the rising sun statement ever could…) Meanwhile, BFM brewer Jérôme Rebetez had just returned from Japan last fall with tales of collaborating with Kiuchi Brewery (makers of Hitachino)- and  I perused his books about Kanji and Kana, learning Japanese word derivations. Add to that South End Seiyo’s Japanese beer tasting where I met Japanese craft beer brewer Bryan Baird and the Chicago Craft Brewers Conference where I met Harvestmoon’s brewer Tomoko Sonodo. I read all seven Oishinbo magna available in English.  I learned that the Osaka Great Japanese Beer Fest was taking place exactly when I planned to travel.  And then it was inevitable. My $64/night authentic ryokon (Japanese hotel) with a central Tokyo location sealed the deal.

Twelve days, 94 craft beers tasted, 7 brewers met, 23 craft-beer focused bars, breweries, or restaurants visited. Craft beer is thriving in Japan. Here are my highlights:

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