TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1st – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 4th
FESTIVAL | Chichibu Yomatsuri (Night Festival)
📅 Saturday, December 3rd
Chichibu Yomatsuri is one of Tokyo’s three major hikiyama matsuri, or float festivals. The event is held at the ancient Chichibu Shrine in Saitama Prefecture, just under two hours away from Tokyo by train. The traditional festival will feature an impressive collection of lantern-lit floats and end with a fireworks display (hanabi). Chichibu Yomatsuri will run from 5 PM to 10 PM, and admission is free.
NATURE | Rikugien Illuminations
📅 Saturday, November 19th – Wednesday, December 7th
It’s time to bid farewell to fall: the final days of Rikugien Gardens’ fall foliage illuminations are here. As one of Tokyo’s oldest Edo gardens, it has some of the most beautiful fall night displays, rivaled only by the city’s winter illuminations. Lights are on at 4:30 PM, with the last entry at 9 PM.
ART | Mari Takemoto Before And Again
📅 Saturday, November 12, 2016 – Saturday, February 4, 2017
Shibuya’s Open Letter is hosting a gallery installation by Mari Takemoto, entitled Before and Again. Takemoto is known for reworking pre-existing materials like glass, mirrors, and textiles and creating unique pieces to suit the exhibition space. The venue is open every Sunday from noon to 7 PM, and admission is free.
LIGHT SHOW | Caretta Shiodome Illuminations
📅 Thursday, November 17, 2016 – Tuesday, February 14, 2017
The Caretta Shiodome Illuminations are arguably the city’s best. Rather than a walk-through, the Shiodome shopping mall hosts light shows every 20 minutes. Last year’s show was so popular that this year’s event will extend well into February. Shows start at 5 PM, happening intermittently until 11 PM. Admission is free.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 5th – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11th
CULTURE | Akibasan Fire Festival
📅 Tuesday, December 6th
The Akibasan Kongen Yabuse Matsuri, or the Akibasan Protection from Fire Festival, has been held continuously for over 500 years. Its purpose is to bestow protection from flames, and priests perform fire tricks and activities around a bonfire. The festival is held from 3 PM to 8 PM at Akibasan Shrine in Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. The event is free.
FESTIVAL | Oji Kumade Ichi (Bamboo Rake Festival)
📅 Tuesday, December 6th
Kumade are decorative bamboo ‘rakes’ sold at year’s end in Tori-no-Ichi, also known as Bird or Rooster Fairs. The kumade are thought to bring good luck and come in all shapes and sizes, decorated with cranes, maneki neko, gold coins, tortoises, and all manner of lucky charms. When one is sold, the buyer and seller recite ‘kanai anzen, shobai hanjo’ (family safety, business success) and clap their hands in a time-honored ritual. The festival is at Oji Inari Shrine.
MARKET | Sekino Boroichi Market
📅 Friday, December 9th – Saturday, December 10th
There is a little bit of everything at the Sekino Boroichi Market, an outdoor flea market that has been going on for over 250 years. Find everything from handmade crafts and souvenirs to hot food and drinks. The market will be held from 9 AM to 10 PM each day around the northern exit of Musashiseki Station.
FESTIVAL | Farmers and Kids Festa 2016
📅 Saturday, December 10th – Sunday, December 11th
The Farmers and Kids Festa is an agricultural fair held in Hibiya Park, with the aim of teaching children about where their food comes from. There will be educational talks from local farmers as well as meet-and-greets with some of the animals. It is a perfect winter event for the entire family, especially the kids. The fair will be held from 10 AM to 4 PM each day.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 12th – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18th
CULTURE | 47 Ronin Winter Festival
📅 Wednesday, December 14th
Also known as Gishi-sai, the 47 Ronin Winter Festival commemorates the famed loyal 47 ronin (or ako roshi, masterless samurai) who took revenge for their master. It is a somber religious event featuring a graveside memorial service at the resting site of the samurai, followed by a tea ceremony and memorial service. The graveside ceremony begins at Sengaku-ji at 11 AM, followed by the tea ceremony and memorial from noon to 1 PM. Entry is free.
MARKET | Hanakawado Hakidaore-Ichi Shoe Market
📅 Saturday, December 17th – Sunday, December 18th
Round out your holiday shopping with the Hanakawado Hakidaore-ichi. The market features all the fashion accessories one could want, from shoes and bags to hats and leather goods. Everything is sold at low, low prices by local retailers and wholesalers. The event will be held in Hanakawado Park from 10 AM to 5 PM daily.
FAIR | Hagoita-Ichi (Good Luck Paddle Fair)
📅 Saturday, December 17th – Monday, December 19th
Sensoji Temple hosts their annual Hagoita-ichi every December. During the event, lucky decorative paddles known as hagoita are sold to patrons eager for good fortune in the new year. The paddles are similar in shape to the handheld bats used in hanetsuki, a traditional New Year’s game. The fair originated from the custom of giving hagoita to pray for the health of young girls.
FESTIVAL | World Christmas Festival
📅 Saturday, December 17th – Sunday, December 18th
The World Christmas Festival at Yoyogi Park is a perfect way to celebrate the season. There will be music, food, and goods for sale along Keyaki Namiki Avenue. Admission is free, and the event runs from 10 AM to 7 PM.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 19th – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 25th
ILLUMINATION | Winter Cherry Illumination
📅 Friday, October 21, 2016 – Sunday, January 15, 2017
Ueno Park is a popular spot to catch the cherry blossoms during spring, but now they are giving the trees a second chance to shine. During the event, thousands of colorful fairy lights will adorn the sakura-lined avenue in a stunning illumination display. Visit the park anytime between 5 PM and 8 PM to see the display. Entry is free.
FESTIVAL | Nishiarai Daishi Sojiji End-of-Year Festival
📅 Wednesday, December 21st
Known in Japanese as Osame-no-Daishi, this end-of-year festival is one of the last chances to pick up lucky charms, gifts, and talismans before the new year. There will also be food and snacks for sale. The event is held at Nishiarai Daishi Sojiji (Temple) from 9 AM to 9 PM on the day of the festival.
ART | Tokyo Michi Terrace
📅 Saturday, December 24th – Wednesday, December 28th
The main event of the Tokyo Michi Terrace, or Michi Terasu, is the decorative light-up display on Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi side. The building’s old-fashioned façade makes the perfect backdrop for the festive display. There will also be objets d’art scattered around the surrounding neighborhoods of Central Tokyo. Admission is free.
LIGHT SHOW | Midtown Christmas
📅 Tuesday, November 15th – Sunday, December 25th
Tokyo Midtown, one of Roppongi’s high-end shopping and multipurpose centers, is renown for its Starlight Garden light show. The winter display takes place in the square behind Midtown and will feature nearly 300,000 color-changing LED lights. There will also be Christmas trees and other festive displays set up around the mall. Entry is free, and the Starlight Garden will run from 5 PM to 11 PM.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 26th – SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31st
OTAKU | Winter Comiket
📅 Thursday, December 29th – Saturday, December 31st
Tokyo Big Sight is hosting the winter edition of Comiket, one of Tokyo’s largest comic events. The bi-annual event is focused on doujinshi, or independent manga, by amateur and up-and-coming artists. Admission is free, but those in costume are asked to pay 800 yen. Winter Comiket runs from 10 AM to 4 PM daily.
LIGHT SHOW | Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination
📅 Thursday, November 10, 2016 – Sunday, February 19, 2017
Tokyo Dome City is hosting its annual winter illumination. This time, the theme is Italy – gondolas, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and other iconic Italian figures will be up on display and draped with twinkling LEDs for everyone to admire and enjoy. Lights will be on from 5 PM to 1 AM, and admission is free.
FESTIVAL | Oji Inari-Jinja Fox Parade
📅 Saturday, December 31, 2016 – Sunday, January 1, 2017
According to Japanese myth, foxes, or kitsune, have the ability to disguise themselves as humans. And on the night of December 31st, they are rumored to come from all over Japan to pay a visit to the Oji Inari-Jinja Shrine, which celebrates the first shrine visit of the year (hatsumode) while paying tribute to the legend. People wear fox masks, and all manner of kitsune-related goods will be for sale. The celebration starts at 9:30 AM until midnight, the morning of January 1st.
CELEBRATE | New Year’s Eve Tokyo
📅 Saturday, December 31st – January 1, 2017
Catch the New Year’s Eve countdown and balloon tribute at downtown’s Tokyo Tower, or gather at Shibuya Crossing for a rowdier celebration. Or if you just cannot picture a New Year’s Eve without fireworks, Tokyo Disneyland holds a spectacular display in their park which can be seen across Tokyo Bay. Once the new year is here, make your way to your local Shinto shrine and celebrate the Japanese way with hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year.