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Events


Many of Tokyo's festivals, drawn from ancient roots, are scheduled according to the lunar calendar.  Although many of Japan's holidays remain fixed from year to year, some are subject to change and should be confirmed.

 

January
1 January: New Year's Day. Public holiday. Special foods:  broth, herring roe, black beans, dried chestnuts and seaweed—are served. Throughout the week, families visit shrines and temples. Everyone strives to pay debts incurred from the previous year.

2 January: Kokyo Ippan Sanga. The Imperial Palace opens its grounds to the public for one of only two open houses during the year (the other is 23 December, the emperor's birthday). The royal family makes an appearance before great crowds. 1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku. For information, call 3213-1111.

6 January: Dezomeshiki Parade. Firemen perform acrobatic tricks atop tall bamboo ladders. The parade route is along Harumi Chuo-dori (Ginza Station on the Hibiya, Ginza or Marunouchi lines). For information, call 3212-2111.

10 January: Coming-of-Age Day. Public holiday. Young people who have turned 20 during the preceding year are honored.

Late January: Plum Blossom Festivals. These red and white flowers are believed to offer protection against evil and various diseases. The plum-blossom festivals reach their peak mid February-mid March at parks, gardens and shrines throughout the Tokyo area. For more information about projected times and viewing sites, call 5321-3307.


Throughout January: Performance. The New National Theatre is home to many opera, ballet, contemporary dance and theater performances. 1-1-1 Honcho, Shibuya-ku (Hatsudai Station on the Keio/Shinjuki line). For information, call 5351-3011. For tickets, call 5352-9999.


Early January: New Year Holiday Season. Government offices and some businesses close during this time. Some companies close as early as 23 December and do not reopen until the second week of January. Concludes early January

Early January: Tokyo Millenario. This New Year's festival centers around a dazzling light sculpture and gallery. Tokyo International Forum, near Tokyo Station. For information, call 5447-0954.

 

February
Early February: Setsubun. According to the lunar calendar, this day marks the end of winter. Temples and shrines throughout Tokyo hold bean-throwing contests to scare away the devils and bad luck.

Early-Mid February: Tokyo Marathon. Prize money for this 26-mile race through Tokyo suburbs is more than US$50,000. For information, call 5245-7085.

11 February: National Foundation Day. Public holiday.
 

March
Early March: Hina Matsuri. During the Doll Festival, traditional Japanese Hina dolls and miniature household articles are typically displayed in homes with young girls and at other locations throughout the city. The dolls represent the emperor, empress and other members of the court dressed in ancient costume.

20 March: Vernal Equinox. Public holiday. Buddhist temples hold special services, and people pray for the souls of the departed.
 
Late March: Tokyo International Anime Fair. This annual event draws approximately 15,000 industry members and 50,000 fans. Weekend events for the public include a competitive film festival, character shows, live performances, voice-actor lessons and exhibits from nearly 150 businesses. Tokyo Big Sight, 3-21-1 Ariake, Koto-ku. For information, call 5530-1111. For tickets, call Ticket Pia at 983-222.

Late March: Cherry Blossom Viewing. Generally, the cherry trees in parks and shrines around the city reach full bloom during late March and the first two weeks in April. Friends and colleagues gather under the trees to eat, drink and sing traditional songs into the night hours. The best viewing spots are the Imperial Palace, which opens its front road for bicycling on Sundays (phone 3211-5020), and Ueno Park in Taito-ku (Ueno Station, phone 3827-7752 or 3832-0084). Chidorigafuchi Minakami Park in Chiyodaku (Kudanshita station, phone 3264-2111) offers viewing by boat. Sumida Park in Asakusa (Asakusa Station, phone 5608-1111) is almost as famous as Ueno Park. For more information about projected times and sites, call 5231-3307. Continues through early May

 

April
Early-Late April: Baseball. Three professional baseball teams play in Tokyo. The popular Yomiuri Giants  and the Nippon Ham Fighters share the Tokyo Dome (phone 5800-9999). The Yakult Swallows play at Meiji Jingu Stadium (phone 3404-8999). Advance tickets are sold by many hotels' front desk or concierge and travel agents. Continues through late November


8 April: Hana Matsuri. On the birthday of Buddha, statues of the diety are shown in temples, and sweet tea (amacha) is poured over them in a gesture of devotion. Children place flowers next to statues of the infant Buddha.

29, 30 April: Golden Week. This week of continuous national holidays includes Greenery Day (April 29), Constitution Day (May 3), Nation's Holiday (May 4) and Children's Day (May 5). This is one of Japan's busiest holiday seasons, and many government offices and businesses are closed. Continues through 5 May

Throughout April: Cherry Blossom Viewing. The cherry trees in parks and shrines around the city reach full bloom during late March and the first two weeks in April. Friends and colleagues gather under the trees to eat, drink and sing traditional songs into the night hours. The best viewing spots are the Imperial Palace, which opens its front road for bicycling on Sundays (phone 3211-5020), and Ueno Park in Taito-ku (Ueno Station, phone 3827-7752 or 3832-0084). Chidorigafuchi Minakami Park in Chiyodaku (Kudanshita station, phone 3264-2111) offers viewing by boat. Sumida Park in Asakusa (Asakusa Station, phone 5608-1111) is almost as famous as Ueno Park. For more information about projected times and sites, call 5231-3307. Continues through early May.

 

 

May
Mid May: Kanda Matsuri. This biannual festival commemorates the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in Edo more than 400 years ago. Marked by parades with elaborate portable shrines and costumes. Celebrated on the weekend nearest 15 May. Kanda Myojin Shrine, 2-16-2 Soto Kanda (Ochanomizu Station). For more information, call 3254-0753.

1-5 May: Golden Week. This week of continuous national holidays includes Greenery Day (April 29), Constitution Day (May 3), Nation's Holiday (May 4) and Children's Day (May 5). This is one of Japan's busiest holiday seasons, and many government offices and businesses are closed. Concludes 5 May.

21, 22 May: Sanja Festival. This three-day celebration at Asakusa Shrine is filled with excitement as portable shrines in lacquer and gold are hoisted and carried around the Asakusa district by happi-coated men and women. 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Phone 3844-1575..
 

June
Early-Late June: Iris Blooming Festivals. Though not as famous or as widely celebrated as the cherry blossoms, the irises in parks and gardens throughout the city should not to be missed. A highlight is the 820-foot trail framed by approximately 1,500 Edo irises that reach their peak bloom in mid June at Yoyogi Park, 1-1 Yoyogi-kamizonocho, Shibuya-ku (JR Harajuku station). Phone 3379-5511. Continues through mid July
 

July 
Mid-Late July: Obon. Most people take a week off during this time to visit their hometown and pay homage to ancestors or to vacation overseas. Many shops in Tokyo are closed. This holiday is based on the lunar calendar, so its date varies between mid July and mid August. Bon-dance festivals continue throughout the monthlong period. Continues through mid August

18 July: Maritime Day. Public holiday. Third Monday of July.

30 July: Fireworks. Tokyo's grandest fireworks display of the year is launched on the last Saturday in July over the Sumida River in Asakusa. The best places to watch are between the Kototol and Shirahige bridges or at the Komagata Bridge. For information, call 5388-3141 or 5608-1111.
  

September
15 September: Respect for the Aged Day. Public holiday.

23 September: Autumnal Equinox Day. Public holiday.

 

October
Early-Late October: Tokyo International Film Festival. The largest film festival in Asia markets itself as one of the top 12 major festivals in the world. Features competitive screenings of international and Asian features, along with works by new directors, world cinema and classic Japanese films. Also star guest appearances, industry forums, symposiums, exhibits and other events. Bunkamura and other cinemas in the Shibuya district. For information, call 3524-1081.

11 October: Health and Sports Day. Public holiday.

Mid October: Oeshiki Festival. A Buddhist festival commemorated by a procession toward the Honmonji Temple. Participants carry large lanterns decorated with paper flowers. 1-1-1 Ikegami, Otoku (Ikegami station on the Tokyu Ikegami line). Phone 3313-6241.

 

November
3 November: Culture Day. Public holiday.

Mid- November: Shichi-go-san. During the Children's Festival, children ages 3, 5 and 7 are dressed in traditional kimonos and taken to shrines by their parents so that prayers may be said for good health and future blessings.

23 November: Labor Appreciation Day. Public holiday.

Mid November: Tokyo International Women's Marathon. Course begins and ends at the National Stadium, 10 Kasumigaoka-machi, Shinjuku-ku (JR Sendagaya Station). For information, call 5411-7050 or 3542-2682.

Mid November: City Marathon. In conjunction with the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, the city hosts a marathon open to the public, both men and women. Participants begin at Jingu-Gaien circle and join the Women's Marathon course on Gaien-Higashi Road. For information, call 5411-7050 or 3542-2682.
 

December
23 December: Emperor's Birthday. Public holiday. One of only two days in the year when the Imperial Palace is open to the public. 1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku.

25 December: Christmas. Though not a public or official religious holiday, it is widely observed in Japan.

14 December: Gishi-sai. To commemorate a famous 1702 samurai vendetta, businessmen costumed as warriors proceed along Sotobori Street to Sengakuji Temple, where the samurai are buried. A memorial service also takes place at Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park, which was owned by the avenged samurai master. Sengakuji Temple, 2-11-1 Takanawa, Minato-ku (Sengakuji Station on the Tozi Asakusa line). Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park, 3-13-9 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku (Ryogoku station on the JR Sobu Line). For information, call Sengakuji Temple at 3441-5560 or Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park at 5608-1111.

Mid- December: Hagoita-ichi at Asakusa Kannon Temple. This "ornamental battledore fair" takes place in the compound of the temple. In the evening, look for the brightly colored paddles used in the ancient shuttlecock game of hanetsuki; they're especially beautiful when lanterns illuminate them. 2-31-8 Asakusa, Taito-ku (Asakusa station). Phone 3842-0181.
 
Late December: Tokyo Millenario. This New Year's festival centers around a dazzling light sculpture and gallery. Tokyo International Forum, near Tokyo Station. For information, call 5447-0954. Continues through early January. 

Late December: New Year Holiday Season. Government offices and some businesses close during this time. Some companies close as early as 23 December and do not reopen until the second week of January.