By Kenji Iwaasa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer For once, feel free to show up to a party empty-handed.
As the summer season heats up, more and more barbecue places in downtown areas of mostly major cities are allowing people to show up practically empty-handed. Beyond the convenience of often being situated in commercial buildings near train stations, customers can rent barbecue equipment, plates and utensils. Customers also need not take their garbage home with them.
Thanks to such convenience and the overall popularity of barbecuing, these facilities are gaining traction.
On the rooftop floor of the Shin-Yurigaoka L-Mylord store, the seven-story commercial building in front of Odakyu Line’s Shin-Yurigaoka Station in Kawasaki, a barbecuing area opened on May 1.
Odakyu Electric Railway Co., which operates the building, converted one-third of the rooftop parking into a barbecue area in hopes of drawing in residents living along the railway line.
The fee to use the facility, including grills, aluminum trays, charcoal, paper plates and other items, is ¥1,296 per adult. Customers bring food, such as meat and vegetables, and drinks. There is also a service offering a set of food at an additional fee. After barbecuing, visitors can throw out their garbage at the facility before going home.
Up on the rooftop
People such as university students and families congregated in the barbeque area on opening day.
“It’s great because I don’t need to get all the barbecue equipment together or bring the trash home with me,” a female university student in her early 20s said.
“I like the sense of openness offered by the rooftop,” said a man in his early 60s who was visiting with his family.
The barbecue facility is operated by Digisurf Inc. based in Kanagawa Prefecture. The company operates barbecue facilities on the rooftops of commercial buildings, and at parks and other places mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The company has about 60 such facilities in various areas nationwide, with the number of facilities it operates doubling over the past three years, according to the company.
In front of JR Musashi-Sakai Station in Musashino, Tokyo, a private company publicly solicited by the city government will construct a two-story building in January, complete with a rooftop barbecue area.
Eight commercial complexes in central Tokyo operated by Mori Building Co. also have barbecue facilities people can use without bringing any equipment. That list includes one facility in the rooftop garden of Ark Hills South Tower and another at a cafe in the Toranomon Hills complex, both in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
“On weekdays, all these facilities are used by tenant companies for social gatherings or welcome parties, and on weekends, they are crowded with families,” a company spokesperson said.
People can enjoy the outdoors at Wild Magic in front of the Shin-Toyosu Station in Koto Ward, Tokyo.
The new facility, opened in April, gives customers barbecue options in seven areas. On a vast plot of land facing the sea, there are various facilities such as a triangle-roof tent, a pool and bonfire stands. Fees for the barbecue area start at ¥4,860 per person, including food.
Barbecuing is a popular leisure activity, with 21.1 million having taken part in it in 2015, about the same number as those who jogged or did marathons (21.9 million) and amusement park-goers (21.1 million), according to the 2016 white paper on leisure published by the Japan Productivity Center. Barbecuing is gaining ground as a cheap way to have fun in groups.
Able to enjoy responsibly
A darker drive behind more urban barbecue facilities popping up is the deteriorating manners of people barbecuing along rivers and in other places.
A number of complaints have come from nearby residents regarding odors, noises and improper disposal of waste, among other complaints. Some municipalities have begun taking measures to address such situations by banning barbecuing in places other than designated locations and collecting fees from people who barbecue.
Even in facilities located in urban areas, operators receive quite a few complaints, including about noise and odors.
There have been cases in which customers were asked to stop barbecuing because of complaints or a barbecue facility was forced to relocate, according to a barbecue facility operator.
A facility scheduled to open in front of a railway station, with condominiums nearby, is considering introducing barbecue grills that do not emit smoke.
“Urban facilities, where people can easily enjoy a barbecue after paying a fee for use, will increase in the future, but it is important that all pay due consideration to people living near such facilities,” said Tamio Shimojo, the chairman of the Tokyo-based Japan BBQ Association, which is comprised of barbecue lovers and relevant companies nationwide. “I hope people can enjoy barbecuing while exercising restraint and good manners.”
Smart ways to enjoy a barbecue in urban areas
(Compiled based on information provided by the Japan BBQ Association)
■ Check in advance whether you can rent the necessary materials, dispose of garbage or make reservations for food.
■ If you can bring food from home, you should put the items in containers and not bring trays and other things that will need to be disposed of later.
■ Prepare food as much as possible in advance to allow for more time eating.