In Tokyo this weekend? You’re in luck – there are early summer festivals happening all over the city. Here’s a short guide to what’s on, where and when. Get your camera ready – this is the capital city at its best!
The controversial Yasukuni Shrine will be holding its well-known Mitama Festival from Sunday, with 30 000 lanterns strung up along the approach to the shrine. Whatever your thoughts on the politically sensitive place are, the lights are undeniably picturesque. And with booze and food on sale and music in the background, the atmosphere will probably be a lot less sombre than usual – making it a good time to visit.
Meanwhile, over in Enoshima, the Tenno Festival will be happening at Hetsunomiya Shrine this Sunday. You’ll be able to watch a large mikoshi (portable shrine) carted across the bridge linking the little island to the mainland, with a major dunking happening along the way.
If you love the ocean but you don’t feel like missioning to the coast, you can always check out the Ocean People’s Tokyo festivities at Yoyogi Park. That’s right – an ocean festival with no water in sight (except perhaps rain). There’ll be food and chilled music, and the whole event is aimed at raising awareness of ocean problems.
That’s not it – you’ve still got a Kansai-style bon odori dance to enjoy at Tsukudajima between 6-9.30pm from Sunday to Tuesday. The area used to be a tiny island, but it was expanded and filled over the years. To see the dance, you’ll need to make your way to 1-2 Tsukuda, near Tsukishima Station.
If you’re free at 1pm on Monday, you can also catch a small, but amusing festival at Gonshoji Temple in Omori, Ota-ku. Mizudome-no-mai, an event that goes back 500 years, sees grown men, acting as dragons, being dragged around in bags of straw in an attempt to get the rain to stop. Seems like Tokyo might need it!
One of the symbols of summer in Japan is fuurin, small wind bells often made of glass. They make a beautiful tinkly noise and make great gifts for family back home (just be sure to wrap them well). You can see and buy fuurin from all over the country at Nishiarai Daishi Temple in Adachi-ku from this Sunday till August 3rd.
The Ueno Summer Festival also kicks off on Saturday, with stalls set up around Shinobazu Pond selling antiques, plants and other goods. Small events will be scattered around Ueno, building up to a big parade on the 21st, with a bizarrely untimely ice sculpture display on the 23rd – but more about all of that in the next Cheapo Weekend.
Finally, for health-conscious/hipster-ish cheapos, the Market of the Sun farmers’ market is on again at Tsukishima Children’s Park, so you can stock up on cheap organic veggies and homemade goods.
Tokyo and Japan have a reputation for the strange and unusual museums.