free things to do in tokyo
Photo by Takashi Ueki used under CC

After a foray to Tokyo Midtown for the 2012 version, the Indonesia Festival is back at the events square of Yoyogi Park this weekend.  The festival will feature 32 booths selling Indonesian food and products as well as lots of traditional and contemporary performances on the stage.  Festivities run from 10am until 7pm on both Saturday and Sunday.  The closest Station is Harajuku/Meijijingumae on the JR Yamanote Lines and the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda and Fukutoshin lines.

The hottest months of summer are traditionally when Japanese commune with and honour the spirits of the dead.  One festival based around this idea is the Mitama Matsuri at the politically complex Yasukuni Shrine. Along the sando – the promenade leading to the main shrine – 30,000 lanterns have been strung from towers of metal scaffolding to create a spectacular approach.   As is typical with summer festivals, there is also plenty of food, beer and music.  The festival runs for 4 days from Saturday, July 13th. The shrine is a 5 minute walk from Kudanshita Station on the Tokyo Metro Honzomon and Tozai Lines as well as the Toei Shinjuku Line.

In a variation of the above, the moat around Kitanomaru Park next to Chidorigafuchi National Cemetary in Sanbancho will be filled with floating lanterns from 6:45pm on Saturday the 13th. Although it’s too late to actually get yourself in a rowboat and float your own lanterns, you can take a stroll around the moat and watch the 700 lanterns bobbing there way across the murky waters. The cemetery is about a 15 minute walk from any of Hanzomon, Takebashi or Kudanshita Stations (that’s probably why you’ve never heard of Sanbancho).

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For something a little less solemn, in the western Tokyo city of Koganei, the Hana-Koganei Summer Festival (link in Japanese) will be happening.  The festival, taking place over both days of the weekend, is a microcosm of pretty much all the major summer festivals in Tokyo.  It will feature teams of taiko drummers, yosakoi dancers and even 5 samba dance teams.  The taiko and yosakoi will happen on Saturday while the samba is on Sunday.  The closest station is Hana-Koganei Station on the Seibu Shunjuku Line.

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