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A woman offers a microbrew during the Great Japan Beer Festival at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo. The annual two-day event in early May attracted more than 3,000 visitors, including dozens of U.S. servicemembers.

A woman offers a microbrew during the Great Japan Beer Festival at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo. The annual two-day event in early May attracted more than 3,000 visitors, including dozens of U.S. servicemembers. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

A woman offers a microbrew during the Great Japan Beer Festival at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo. The annual two-day event in early May attracted more than 3,000 visitors, including dozens of U.S. servicemembers.

A woman offers a microbrew during the Great Japan Beer Festival at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo. The annual two-day event in early May attracted more than 3,000 visitors, including dozens of U.S. servicemembers. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

A Japanese man samples one of more than 120 micro-brewed beers during the Great Japan Beer Festival at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo.

A Japanese man samples one of more than 120 micro-brewed beers during the Great Japan Beer Festival at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Hundreds of people with plastic shot glasses in hand cram into Garden Hall at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo for the Great Japan Beer Festival 2006.

Hundreds of people with plastic shot glasses in hand cram into Garden Hall at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo for the Great Japan Beer Festival 2006. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Seaman Dan Carlson of the USS Kitty Hawk samples one of the more than 120 micro-brewed beers on tap.

Seaman Dan Carlson of the USS Kitty Hawk samples one of the more than 120 micro-brewed beers on tap. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

For beer lovers, this was paradise, or perhaps “beeradise.”

Thousands of people crammed into Garden Hall at Yebisu Garden Place in Ebisu on May 6-7 for Tokyo’s Great Japan Beer Festival 2006, where more than 120 micro-brewed varieties sat on tap for all to enjoy.

Shot-sized plastic cups were handed out at the door. Some people purchased slightly larger shot glasses before supplies vanished, while others could be spotted filling mugs brought from home.

Advance tickets were 3,500 yen (about $32) available at convenience stores across Tokyo. There was a 500 yen (about $4.50) entry fee on festival day, but surrounded by a seemingly endless supply of beer, few seemed to care about cost.

“This place is heaven. I died and went to heaven,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Adele Hill. Hill is a hospital corpsman at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Yokosuka Naval Base and came with a group of 20. “I’m actually not that much of a beer fan, but this place is cool.”

Seaman Dan Carlson of the USS Kitty Hawk had just arrived in Japan the day before the event.

“I haven’t even caught up on my sleep yet,” he said. “A guy … who moved into the rack beside me said, ‘Hey man, you like beer?’ That was enough to get me out.”

The Great Japan Beer Festival was founded in 1998 by the Japan Craft Beer Association. Held annually in Tokyo and Osaka, it’s attracted more than 50,000 visitors.

According to its Web site at www.beertaster.org, the Japan Craft Beer Association was created by chairman Ryouji R. Oda in July 1994 to promote BeerTaster and craft beers here and around the world. Six years later, the BeerTaster Organization was formed as a nonprofit group dedicated to spotlighting beer’s culture, history and technology.

Camp Zama’s tour office sponsored a daylong trip to the May 6 festival.

Seaman Jenna Willard, who also works at the Yokosuka hospital, was among several U.S. servicemembers taking part for the first time.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, but when we walked in, I was in awe,” she said. “Shot glasses of beer. 4,000 yen to come in and try all these beers. I’m for it.”

Likewise for Seaman Peder Oase, another Kitty Hawk sailor, who used the occasion to celebrate his first week in Japan on a two-year assignment.

“I’m a fervent beer lover,” he said. “I’m glad this happened, ’cause I was getting homesick. … The atmosphere is pleasant. The Japanese do have very good beer, and I’m an authority on it. They’re very serious about their beer.”

On tap

A look at some upcoming events sponsored by the Japan Craft Beer Association:

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