As if in the blink of an eye, 2016 is coming to a close. Before the year ends, though, here are some festivities that might help you end your year on a good note. And these aren’t the only events worth checking out, as winter illuminations and Christmas markets are very much a thing in Tokyo in December. Look out, as well, for New Year countdown events—we’ll be updating our guide as soon as new information comes our way!
1. Tokyo Comic Con (December 2-4)
Where: Makuhari Messe (access: Kaihimmakuhari Station)
Time: December 2 (preview night): 5:00-8:00 pm | December 3: 10:00 am-7:00 pm ” December 4: 10:00 am-6:00 pm
Admission: Advanced selling — 2,000 yen for preview night, 1,800 yen for regular days, 900 yen for middle and high schoolers and younger) | At the door — 2,200 yen for preview night, 2,000 yen for regular days, 1,000 yen for middle and high schoolers
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Get ready for Tokyo’s first Comic Con! Affiliated with Silicon Valley Comic Con, this event will have cosplayers, an artists’ alley, and exhibits (with props and costumes from films like Titanic, The Dark Knight, and The Terminator on display).
And of course, what is a Comic Con without celebrity guests? There will be autograph and photo opportunities with Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter films), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye from the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Billy Boyd (Pippin from the Lord of the Rings trilogy), and… the face of Marvel himself, Stan Lee. Unfortunately, these meet-and-greets are not included in the admission fee, so you’ll have to pay extra… and the fees are steep.
Even if you don’t plan to splurge on meet-and-greets, though, the cosplayers, displays, and the fact that Tokyo now has a large-scale fan convention that’s oriented more towards Western media are still good reasons to give the event a try.
2. Gishi-sai (December 14)
Where: Sengakuji Temple (access: Sengakuji Station)
Time: 11:00 am-3:30 pm
Also known as the 47 Ronin Festival and the Ako Gishi-sai, this event commemorates the 47 loyal samurai who avenged their fallen lord by killing his enemy, after which they committed ritual suicide—the stuff of numerous works of fiction.
The date of this event is always fixed at December 14th, the day that these samurai raided their enemy’s mansion. On this day, the Gishi-sai begins with a memorial service and a tea offering to the gods, after which locals dressed as the 47 samurai depart from the Sengakuji temple and make a solemn procession around the area. The memorial and tea offering start at 11 am and 12 pm, respectively, and the procession ends—again, in the temple grounds—between 3:00-3:30 pm.
Learn more about this event with a handy write-up by fellow cheapo Grigoris.
3. Sensoji Hagoita-ichi Fair (December 17-19)
Where: Sensoji (access: Asakusa Station)
Time: All day
Hagoita are wooden paddles that are used to play hanetsuki, a Japanese badminton-like game. Over time, they became regarded as an auspicious symbol—they’re used for hitting, after all, so maybe they could “hit” bad luck as well; get it? Thus, at Sensoji’s hagoita market, you’ll see elaborate, purely ornamental hagoita, which are meant to welcome good luck and drive away bad luck.
While you can find smaller and simpler ones for reasonable prices, the large ones with several ornate details can reach six-digit prices. They can make for beautiful souvenirs, and it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on supposedly lucky items for the upcoming year. But even if you don’t intend on buying anything, it’s worth a visit to marvel at the beautiful hagoita on display.
4. Winter Comiket (December 29-31)
Where: Tokyo Big Sight (access: Kokusai-tenjijo Station)
Time: 10:00 am-4:00 pm
If you’re into Japanese pop culture and/or you like taking photos of cosplayers, be sure not to miss Winter Comiket, the major geeky year-ender. This free event draws huge crowds of doujinshi (fan-made comics) collectors, cosplayers, and photographers every year, so be prepared for crowds and queues galore (yes, even to take photos of the more popular cosplayers).
If there’s anything you want to buy, whether it’s doujinshi or Comiket-exclusive official merchandise, arrive early and be sure to know what you want and which booths to visit beforehand (which you can do by buying a catalogue from doujinshi shops), as this event is so huge that it’s impossible to check out everything from booth to booth.
If you plan to cosplay and make the most of your day (time can pass very quickly at Comiket!), arrive early and prepare to pay 800 yen as a cosplay registration fee. (Read our guide to cosplaying at Comiket)
5. Oji Inari Shrine Fox Parade
Where: Around Oji Station
Time: Sundown until New Year’s Day (around 2:00 am)
Now here’s an interesting and fun way to celebrate the New Year! According to legends, foxes would dress as humans and visit Oji Shrine on New Year’s Eve. The tables have turned—it’s the humans’ turn to dress up as foxes, as the residents of Oji welcome the New Year by holding a parade that anyone in traditional Japanese attire plus anything fox-related (e.g. a mask, fox ears, fox makeup) can join.
Pre-registration is required to join the parade, though, so check their website (Japanese only), as registration starts in late November. The parade will make its way to Oji Inari Shrine, where there will be a service held for the New Year. In addition to the parade, you can have your face painted for a fee, shop for fox merchandise like masks, and keep yourself warm with some food and drink.
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