A southern breeze brings forth good hope for sailors coming back from Silk Route, but today the same breeze brings refreshment as you enjoy a meal al fresco (Photo: Bonson Lam)

Riverside Grill and Beer Garden

From the Silk Road to the Rose Garden

A southern breeze brings forth good hope for sailors coming back from Silk Route, but today the same breeze brings refreshment as you enjoy a meal al fresco (Photo: Bonson Lam)
Bonson Lam   - 4 min read

Nakanoshima may be a peaceful park today, but what would the riverbanks tell us about the history of the trading houses from medieval times, when it was dubbed the kitchen of Japan for its rice warehouses? This grand waterway linked Shikoku and Kyushu to Osaka, bringing stories and treasures on the Seikai route. Beyond Nagasaki, Portuguese and Dutch ships were Japan's lifeline to China, Malacca, Goa, and Europe on the maritime Silk Road, so imagine the look on the faces of the locals seeing for the first time the Aladdin’s cave of treasures, some of which adorn the floats of Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri.

Who would have known that Toyotomi Hideyoshi was fond of Portuguese clothing, and “the members of his retinue, in emulation, were often attired in the same way.” In his letter in 1594 Father Francesco Pasios wrote that “they wore rosaries of driftwood on their breast, hang a crucifix from the shoulder or waist, and sometimes even held a handkerchief."

In the 19th and 20th Centuries, Nakanoshima became a center of culture and modernity, with the advent of railways and larger ports, these warehouses were converted into Commercial and Administrative buildings, such as the Sumitomo Bank. The hustle and bustle of this river trade were replaced with calm and greenery, as showcased in Osaka’s first park. Nearby Naniwabashi looks distinctly Parisian, though the entrance to this bridge is guarded by some British-looking lion statues. On the other hand, a glimpse of these long-gone trading houses can be seen in Kurashiki, downstream towards Nagasaki.

A great way to explore is a river cruise, from which the Riverside Grill and Beer Garden takes its cues from. From the reception, you can choose one of two aspects. The park side facing the rose garden has pleasant outdoor tables like you are having a barbeque at a friend’s place. The riverside, on the other hand, has indoor and outdoor seating. Actually, you can sit right next to the river. It is like you are on a boat, watching other boats go past you. The river cruise gives you an almost medieval view of Osaka Castle, one of the legacies of Hideyoshi’s rule.

Fast forward to the Meiji Reformation in the 19th Century, the prohibition on eating beef and poultry was removed, paving the way for some of the most delicious Kobe wagyu beef and Akita Jidori chicken today.

At Riverside, you can enjoy the barbeque menu for lunch or dinner, with a la carte or buffet options. For the famished, the Samgyeopsal course offers a 3-hour buffet with unlimited food and alcohol for ¥5,500, while the premium barbeque course is ¥6,500 recommended as you can enjoy beef, pork, and chicken. Children under 12 can have the buffet for half price.

With its emphasis on al fresco dining, it is no wonder that this restaurant, like many beer gardens, has a seasonal opening period. Each year it is open from the second week of March to Christmas Day.

If you are a Line friend with "beer gardens.jp", you can also get a ¥300 discount coupon. Of course, if you enjoy the atmosphere here, you can work here as well on a short or long-term basis, as many supervisors started here with no or limited experience.

Reservations are available online, or for a snack such as karaage deep fried chicken or other finger food, you can just turn up and order from the takeaway counter.

Getting there

The Beer Garden is a short walk from the Nakanoshima Station on the Keihan Railway. Actually, if you are coming from some handicraft shopping and culture in Kyoto, you can take the Keihan line into Osaka, which can be a quieter and less crowded alternative to JR and a change to the Osaka Midosuji subway line.

Bonson Lam

Bonson Lam @bonson.lam

I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric laneways of Kyoto last century.  I am humbled to have met many distinguished people during this time, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperia...