Japan may not be the first country that springs to mind when you think about craft beer, but thanks to an ever-expanding group of dedicated and creative brewers, it is steadily climbing the ranks in the world of micro brewing and independent beers.
After a brief boom in home-brewing in the mid-nineties, the independent beer scene in Japan went a little quiet, until a second wave came about in 2013, and this time round the new kids on the block were serious about their craft!
Over the past few years in Japan small breweries have started to pop up all over the place, and the craft beer scene is now a vibrant and blossoming place with lots of innovative people who are creating an array of interesting and tasty new beers - offering some serious competition and mouthwatering alternatives to the more traditional players in the game.
You can travel to practically any decent sized town in Japan now and find at least one bar that specializes in craft beer, and Kumamoto City is no exception!
In this article we will introduce a handful of bars in Kumamoto City that specialize in craft beers, serving a great selection of IPAs, ales and stouts from across the city, the country, and indeed the world. The exact locations, addresses and opening hours of each place can be found at the very bottom of the page.
World Beer Terminal and Kaen
We will start with World Beer Terminal, the newest craft beer bar in town (at time of publishing, 2019), run by Yusaku, who is also the owner of Kumamoto’s first independent brewery – Diamond Brewing.
Owner of Diamond Brewing, World Beer Terminal and Kaen - Yusaku
Located within walking distance of Kumamoto Castle, World Beer Terminal opened in spring of 2019. They offer a selection of craft beers on tap and in bottles including five of their own, two more from other parts of Japan and another three from around the world. The line-up is constantly changing, meaning customers are spoiled for choice on any one visit to the bar.
Head Brewer at Diamond Brewing, Hirotaka pours us one of his favorites
World Beer Terminal
The bar, which is located on the fifth floor offers both indoor and outdoor seating and allows great views over the city. The spacious bar can accommodate over a hundred people at any one time, and for special sports events they have a large outdoor screen, allowing punters to watch their favorite team over a glass or two.
Located across town to the east of the city is the home of Diamond Brewing, which also has another smaller bar on the premises, called Kaen, allowing you to taste their beer close to its source. The atmosphere at Kaen is a little more chilled and laid back than World Beer Terminal. Both places have kitchens and serve a variety of hot and cold foods, although World Beer Terminal has a much wider selection of foods including both Asian and Western dishes. Both bars also have a decent selection of non-beer related drinks.
Diamond Brewing the brewery is located in the east of the city
Next up is Voyager – a cosy, underground (literally) craft beer and book bar located a few hundred meters from downtown Kumamoto City, just across the river. Voyager is run by two friends, Jason and Mikico – who are both passionate about craft beer, good books and good music, and that is exactly what you get upon any visit to the bar!
Voyager first opened their doors to the public back in 2014 and have steadily gained respect and recognition within the local scene ever since.
Jason, who hails from New Jersey in the US, is part owner of Voyager
Mikico, who is from Kumamoto is the other half of Voyager, she is part owner and resident DJ
The books, which you are free to pick up and read are a mix of English and Japanese, and when the music isn’t being provided by Mikico, Voyager put on a variety of events with an eclectic mix of artists and DJs from across Japan.
Voyager has seating for up to 24 people, and space for standing too
Sampling the goods on offer at Voyager
Voyager have an ever-changing line-up of beers across four taps, mainly from the USA and Scandinavia, but also from local breweries. They also keep a well-stocked fridge with over 50 different types of bottled beer from around the globe.
Their menu also offers a range of bar snacks including cheese boards, locally procured meats and mixed nuts, but the real treat in terms of food are their collaborative lunch events which see local chefs and restaurants set up shop inside Voyager and serve their food to accompany your lunchtime beer! These include organic Kumamoto sausages on Mondays, Sri Lankan inspired curries on Tuesdays and Vietnamese dishes on Wednesdays.
Kumamoto Craft Beer Map
The Kumamoto Craft Beer Map
Jason at Voyager is also responsible for the creation of the Kumamoto Craft Beer Map, a handy map that details the locations of all of the bars mentioned here, and more. You can find this map at most of the bars mentioned, if you don’t see it just ask at the bar, and if you still can’t seem to get hold of one, you can always swing past Voyager and get one from Jason himself!
When talking about the map Jason explained he made it as a way to bring together a community of people across Kumamoto who share a passion for craft beer. Having received a copy of the map and visited many of the places included, it has clearly worked in bringing everyone together and helped create a warm, friendly community that welcomes people from all walks of life who are passing through the city and want to check out the local scene.
Grab a copy and see for yourself!
Located in central Kumamoto City is this laid back, and incredibly friendly craft beer bar and kitchen. Herring Bone is run by Takuto, a Kumamoto native who has an in-depth knowledge about, and obvious passion for, Japanese beer. He explained that his mission at Herringbone is to shine a spotlight on the lesser known beers from all regions of Japan, not just those local to Kumamoto. He does an excellent job of making contact with new breweries and getting rare beers from across the country before many of the bars even in Tokyo. If you want to check out what is on the cutting edge of the Japanese beer scene, this is a great place to start!
Takuto, owner of Herring Bone Bar
Herring bone have a total of seven taps pouring a rotation of fine beers from up and down the country. They also keep a decent sized selection of bottled beers from both Japan and around the world.
Takuto also operates a small kitchen inside the bar serving a variety of hot meals and bar snacks, including the Cuba Sandwich (roast pork, bacon and cheese in a toasty - mmm) which he explains is popular with the locals, and also the good old British staple of Fish n Chips – another hit with his regulars!
The bar is lined with seats making this a great place to meet and get to know the locals
Takuto pouring a glass of his current recommended beer
Herring Bone is a cozy, intimate place with a long line of seats at the bar, making it a great place to come and meet locals who are always keen for a chat. Takuto explained that first timers to both the bar and to Kumamoto are especially welcome and that he enjoys getting to know new customers. For those who’d rather drink their beer in relative privacy there are also tables at the back of the bar which allow small groups to sit and chat among themselves. Herring Bone can accommodate up to 27 people in total, and it’s not unusual to find it at capacity during the later hours of the evening.
This great little bar is located a little further out of town, but well worth a visit to experience its retro “Showa Japan” friendly atmosphere and vibe.
Note: The Showa era in Japan lasted from the 1930s through the 1980s, and is often referred to when describing a place or an atmosphere from the latter half of the twentieth century in Japan – think 60s, 70s and 80s with a unique Japanese twist.
Takashi at Ohashi Denki
Upon entering Ohashi Denki the first thing that strikes you is the unusual shape of the bar, that sits like an island in the middle of the room, customers huddle around it drinking, chatting, socializing with Takashi, the owner, to a background of classic and contemporary jazz.
Once you have found your spot at the bar you are presented with a Masu – a small square shaped cup made from Hinoki (Japanese Cypress wood), traditionally used for measuring and drinking sake from. The Masu here however, aren’t for sake, they are where you keep your pool of money for the night. As the drinks start flowing Takashi will take the required amount of money from your Masu each time you place an order, and then put your change back inside. This system of paying can sometimes be found in certain areas of Japan, but for those who haven’t experienced it before it can be fun and fairly unique.
A freshly poured beer sits alongside the Masu which holds my money for the evening
Ohashi Denki stock beer from around Japan and the world, but specialize in Belgian beer, with up to eight different types on tap at any one time. They also keep various bottled beers in the fridge with some rather rare European brands that sell up to as much as 6000 yen a bottle! For those who aren’t looking to splash out though, they also have a good selection of bottled beers for as cheap as 800 yen a go.
Detail at Ohashi Denki
Out the back of the bar is a small kitchen where Takashi prepares light meals to accompany your beer, the main dish is Japanese curry, but they also serve a few lighter options including cold meats and cheese plates.
Back in central Kumoamoto is our final craft beer bar - Ble Ble. If you happened to be walking past you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a fixed-gear and road-bike shop, as the interior is decorated with a variety of bicycles and bike parts. The owner, Mashi, however was quick to inform me that the bikes weren’t for sale, and they are in fact his hobby! Either way, they make for great décor, giving the place a fairly unique and cool feel.
Mashi, owner at Ble Ble
Mashi who is from Kumamoto, spent several years living in London during his twenties, where he discovered a string of local breweries and the world of craft beer, something which has left a long and lasting impression on him. When he finally returned to Kumamoto, he decided to pursue his new-found passion and open his own craft beer bar.
Ble Ble offer a veriety of beers on tap including their own collaborative efforts
Ble Ble have a total of six beers on tap, all from local breweries, they also have their own beers which they work on collaboratively with other local craft beer bars – the most recent being a joint effort with Herring Bone, which is mentioned above and located just a few minutes walk around the corner.
A freshly poured beer at Ble Ble
The atmosphere at Ble Ble has somewhat of a locals-only feel, and this could be considered unfriendly and daunting to some, but they are in fact very welcoming to first-timers and newbies to the area – just don’t expect them to bend over backwards for you.
Come correct, act like you know and keep your cool – that’s the vibe of the place, and that is also the key to getting along just fine with both Mashi and his band of loyal clientele. Once you’re inside, beer in hand and relaxed, this is an incredibly cool bar, with a unique and chilled, laid back atmosphere.
The large glass windows at the front of the bar allow for a lot of natural light, making this a great place to grab an early evening beer while the sun sits low in the sky. They also have a few tables and chairs outside on the street, giving it a bit of a European feel - something which is hard to come across here in Japan, and again makes for a great place to enjoy those early evening beers.
Mashi also has a small kitchen behind the bar, which is operated by co-barman and resident chef Nouda-san, who trained and worked as an Italian chef before coming to Ble Ble. His handmade pizza doughs and pasta plates have gained him quite some recognition, and in combination with the high-quality beers on sale, are enough to make anyone want to be one of the locals at Ble Ble!
Locations, Addresses and other Opening Times
World Beer Terminal
Address: 5F Nadel Building, Shimotori 1-3-1, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto 860-0807
Opening Times: Mon - Thur 17:00 – 24:00, Fri - Sat 15:00 – 01:00, Sun – Closed
Address: Nagamineminami 3-1-102, Higashi Ward, Kumamoto 861-8039
Opening Times: Mon - Thur 17:00 – 24:00, Fri - Sat 15:00 – 01:00, Sun – Closed
Address: River Port 9 1B, Kuhonji 1-1-26, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto 862-0976
Opening Times: Lunch: Mon - Wed 11:30 – 15:00, Evenings: 18:00 – 01:00 (from 15:00 on weekends), Thu – Closed
Address: 2 Shinshigai, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto 860-0803
Opening Times: 19:00 – 04:00, Thur – Closed
Address: 8-22 Minamitsuboimachi, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto 860-0848
Opening Times: 12:00 – 22:00, Thur – Closed
Address: 13-8 Shinshigai, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto 860-0803
Opening Times: 15:00 – 01:00 (Sun until 12:00), Tue – Closed
- WORLD BEER TERMINAL KAEN(ワールドビアターミナルカエン)
- 熊本県熊本市中央区下通1-3-1 NADELビル5F
- 熊本県熊本市新市街2 サンタカラヤビル 3F