The Oktoberfest in Munich is certainly one of the world’s most well-known festivals. Every year about 6 million people come to Germany just to attend it. While there are also quite a few Japanese people in attendance, the high airfare, booked out hotels, and the language barrier have kept many Japanese from attending. So instead of flying all the way to Germany, they have done the next best thing by bringing the Oktoberfest experience to various Japanese cities, including Nagoya. But how does it differ from the original, and in what ways is it the same? Well Yokosonews has spared no expense sending a native Bavarian reporter (who happens to live in Nagoya) to this festival to rigorously test (drink) the many beers available with all expenses paid for (out of my own pocket).
When the wedding preparations were underway in 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig probably never envisioned his simple celebration becoming famous not just in Bavaria, but also crossing many cultural boundaries and eventually ending up even in Japan (in July nonetheless). As soon as something becomes world famous, however, some aspects of it inevitably become copied, commercialized, oftentimes gaudy representations of their traditional origins, which is why I’d like to start this article with a little disclaimer: What most people overseas associate with Germany is oftentimes actually commercialized Bavarian culture. The Lederhosen, Dirndl, funny looking hats, and beer-fueled shenanigans are mostly Bavarian stereotypes, all of which are represented at this festival. I guess it’s the whole image the organizers were going for - and it shows as most staff are completely decked out in “traditional” getups. Having said that, it really does add a little something to the atmosphere, and makes the whole festival feel just a little more immersive and dare I say: Authentic - like having a small piece of Bavaria right here in Japan.
The main attraction, of course is the beer. What I found interesting is there were not just the major Bavarian breweries in attendance, but also various others including Kilkenny’s. That’s something you’d never see at the real Oktoberfest since only beers brewed within the city limits of Munich can be sold there. Next to the imported beers, the most authentic thing about the Nagoya festival is the official Oktoberfest band. And when this band, which is comprised entirely of native Bavarians, is playing, there’s a tangible, infectious atmosphere of pure enjoyment that permeates throughout the entire festival venue. I have personally attended the Oktoberfest in Munich on numerous occasions, and must say that the atmosphere here in Nagoya is enjoyable enough to make one almost forget about the outrageous cost of food and drinks. While the fun factor is very high, so are the prices. I think that Prince Ludwig would roll over in his grave if he knew about these shocking beer and food prices. No self-respecting Bavarian would pay ¥2,200 for “a Mass” Bier(1000ml), or ¥2,000 for a plate of simple sausages. Another eyebrow raising fact is that they also served Edamame and various fried foods - something you’d never see in Munich/Muenchen.
Putting all of those peculiarities and prices aside, it was definitely a great event to attend, and a fun time to be had by all. Turns out the usually reserved, mild-mannered Japanese seem to really enjoy these kinds of festivals and any opportunity they can get to really let loose; and let loose they did with an energy and enthusiasm that rivaled any I’ve ever witnessed in Munich. Overall this is the closest thing to the real Oktoberfest one can get in Japan, and if one factors in the airfare and accommodations necessary for attending the real Oktoberfest in Munich, this is actually quite a bargain. I for one am looking forward to attending this festival again next year. Till then there are also Oktoberfests planned in Tokyo and Osaka, so if you missed this one, hop on the Shinkansen to have a "Prosit der Gemuetlichkeit" in Japan and be part of the festivities, because at the end of the day it’s not about the beer, but rather about the sense of camaraderie between people, mixing cultures, and making new friends - no matter where they’re from.
Click here for information about the original Oktoberfest
And here for the Japanese version (good info about the upcoming ones in Kansai and Tokyo)