May-June 2016: 5 Tokyo Events Not to Miss


We’re almost halfway through the year! This spring was unusually cold, but the weather’s finally getting warmer, and soon, it will be summer. Yet before the hot and humid days of summer begin in around July, get ready for an uncomfortable period of hot but rainy (and humid!) weather in June. But don’t let the weather get to you; keep yourself entertained by attending these Tokyo events.

1. Golden Week events (week of May 1-8)

You can read more about Golden Week here, but, to sum things up, this is a cluster of public holidays (with the first one actually being on April 29th). They don’t take up a full week, but because of the consecutive holidays from May 3-5, it is common for Japanese take a full week off from work. As such, this is peak travel season in Japan. It might be a pain to travel around Japan during this time, but it also means that there’s no shortage of events in Tokyo during this week. Yoyogi Park in Harajuku will be hosting several events, including Cambodia Festival, Tokyo Rainbow Pride, and Salsa Street—all on the same weekend of May 7-8. Odaiba’s also looking busy, with a Hawaii Festival from April 29-May 8 at the Venus Fort outlet mall (nearest station: Aomi); a celebration of Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo from May 3-5 at Aomi J (also near Aomi Station); and Nikufes (an event for meat lovers) and Odaiba Oktoberfest, both at Symbol Promenade Park (nearest station: Ariake or Kokusai-Tenjijo) from April 28-May 8.

If you want to learn more about Buddhism, there’s Kohgen, which is a series of events (some are free, while others aren’t) from April 29-May 5 at Nihonbashi, Kanda Myojin (near Akihabara or Ochanomizu Station), and Zojo-ji (near Daimon, Onarimon, or Shibakoen Station). Most activities are Japanese, but there are a few in English, such as a guided tour of Zojo-ji and Zen meditation sessions. Not all activities are solemn or even directly connected to Buddhism (if at all), as there will be a tea ceremony, paper crafting workshops, and more.

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You can also eat your heart out at Yomiuriland amusement park’s Local Gourmet Festival, where you can sample different regional specialties without leaving Tokyo. Park admission is 1,800 yen, and it’s close to Keio Yomiuriland or Yomiuriland-mae Station.

2. Sanja Matsuri (May 15)

sanja matsuri may june tokyo events
Photo by Yoshikazu Takada used under CC

Where: Around Senso-ji (Asakusa Station)

Held in honor of the founders of the famous Senso-ji, the rowdy Sanja Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s three great Shinto festival, and as such, it gets quite crowded—think millions. Dancers, geisha, performers, and people carrying mikoshi (portable shrines) begin their procession from Senso-ji, make their way around the neighborhood, and return to the temple at night. Yakuza have also been known to take part in this event, showing off their elaborate tattoos, although police have been cracking down on yakuza participation.

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3. Art events: Tokyo International Art Fair (May 13-14) and Design Festa (May 14-15)

art may june tokyo events
Photo by HiroTjp used under CC

Where: Tokyo International Art Fair – B3F Space O, Omotesando Hills Main Building (Harajuku, Meiji-jingumae, or Omotesando Station), Tokyo Big Sight West Halls (Kokusai-tenjijo or Ariake Station)

We decided to group these two together, as both are art events that take place on the same week. Marking its second year, the Tokyo International Art Fair will feature over 150 exhibitors from 40 countries, showcasing both traditional and contemporary art. Visitors can also buy some of the featured artworks. On the 13th, the event takes place from 6:00-9:00 pm, with an admission fee of 1,500 yen for the VIP opening and a private viewing. Admission is free on the 14th, and the event will take place from 11:00 am-7:00 pm.

Design Festa, now on its 43rd event, is branded as Asia’s largest arts event, with 3,400 booths and 12,000 exhibitors. It’s an event for all kinds of art, be it fashion, performance art, paintings, or handmade crafts and accessories. Admission per day is 800 yen for an advanced ticket, and 1,000 yen at the door. Two-day tickets are available for 1,500 yen in advance, or 1,800 yen at the door.

4. Sanno Matsuri (June 7-17)

sanno matsuri may june tokyo events
Photo by superidoljp used under CC

Where: around Hie Shrine (Kokkai-gijidomae, Akasaka, or Akasaka-Mitsuke Station)

One of Tokyo’s best-known festivals, the Sanno Matsuri is held during even-numbered years, alternating with Kanda Matsuri, which takes place during odd-numbered years. The main procession, which will be held on June 10 this year, begins and ends at Hie Shrine, and passes the vicinity of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Station, Nihonbashi, and Ginza. This procession of mikoshi and costumed performers starts early in the morning, around 8:00 am, and ends at night. If you want to start your day right, you can visit Hie Shrine on the morning of the parade and walk through a large ring of straw, which is supposed to purify your soul.

From June 7-17, as part of the festivities, there will also be other activities at Hie Shrine, such as tea ceremonies, plays, music performances, and ikebana (flower arrangement) demonstrations.

5. Firefly festivals (throughout June)

may june tokyo events
Photo by Takuma Kimura used under CC

There may seem to be a lull in events in June, but this is a chance to enjoy nature and see some fireflies. June being mating season for fireflies, this is the time they come aglow. We’ll soon be updating our post on firefly festivals in Tokyo, so stay tuned!

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