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Chugging along: 'Beer gar-den' tram in southwest Japan makes comeback after 7 yrs

Passengers enjoy beer aboard Kumamoto City Tram's "Beer gar-den" as it cruises through Kumamoto's Chuo Ward on Nov. 4, 2022. (Mainichi/Yuki Kurisu)

KUMAMOTO -- All aboard the "Beer gar-den" express! A streetcar operator in southwest Japan is reviving its beloved "beer tram" to mark 100 years of service.

    Kumamoto City Tram's "Beer gar-den," a play on words combining "beer garden" and "densha," meaning train in Japanese, is making a comeback after a 7-year absence. The event was originally held every summer from 2006 to 2015, attracting over 2,000 passengers in busy years, before being put on hold due to the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic.

    Beginning on Nov. 11, the streetcar will take one group on a ride departing Kumamoto Station at 6:30 p.m. to wind through the city for roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes every Friday night. Kumamoto City Tram will mark its centennial in 2024, and the revival of the beer tram is being hailed as an early celebration.

    Miyuki Kiyota, a 38-year-old company employee from Kumamoto's Minami Ward, said after a test run on Nov. 4 that it was great to enjoy drinks while seeing the sunset and city scenery through the tram's windows.

    An official from the Kumamoto City Transportation Bureau, which is organizing the event, said they hope passengers will enjoy doing something they don't usually get to experience.

    Groups of 15 or fewer can reserve the tram for a tax-inclusive fee of 45,000 yen (about $310), while groups of 16-20 will pay 3,000 yen (about $20) per person. Three drinks and snacks are included. While passengers are not allowed to bring their own beverages aboard, additional drinks can be ordered on the tram. Reservations can be made through the Kumamoto City Transportation Bureau's website.

    (Japanese original by Yuki Kurisu, Kumamoto Bureau)

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