In the blink of an eye, we’re more than halfway through the first month of the year. We hope that 2018 has been good to you cheapos so far.
If you made a New Year’s resolution to go out and explore the city, here’s your handy guide to Tokyo February events. Aside from these festivities, keep an eye out on the plum blossoms—they start blooming in late February, and we’ve got a guide here—and, if you’ve got plans for Valentine’s Day, we’ve got some ideas for you as well.
1. Setsubun (Feb 3)
Where: Various temples and shrines all over Tokyo
When: Usually from 12:00 pm onward
Drive out bad luck and evil spirits in your life, and welcome good fortune with Setsubun, a festival during which people throw soybeans while chanting, “Out with demons; in with good fortune!”
This bean-throwing ceremony is held in most temples and shrines around Tokyo—even small ones—but if you want to go big, Senso-ji (access: Asakusa Station), Zojo-ji (access: Daimon, Onarimon, Shibakoen, or Hamamatsucho Station), Toyokawa Inari Tokyo Betsuin (access: Akasaka-Mitsuke or Nagatacho Station), and Tomioka Hachimangu (access: Monzen-Nakacho Station) are known for having large-scale Setsubun celebrations. These larger celebrations sometimes have celebrities helping to throw beans. They usually also have other activities lined up, such as ritualistic dances, performances, and distribution of free food and goodies to visitors.
2. Tokaigi Game Party Japan/Japan Amusement Expo (Feb 10-11)
Where: Makuhari Messe, Halls 1-8 (access: Kaihim-Makuhari Station)
Time: 10:00 am-6:00 pm (Feb. 10), 10:00 am-5:00 pm (Feb. 11)
Admission: 1,500 yen per day (advanced selling) | 2,000 yen (at the door) | 2,500 yen for a two-day pass (advanced selling only)
While the Tokaigi Game Party isn’t on the same scale or level of renown as Tokyo Game Show, this is one event that gamers of all kinds might want to attend. Most of the event is devoted to console, online, and mobile games — with tournaments, live performances of game music, gaming merchandise, indie and retro games, hands-on gaming booths, and even a game-themed food court. However, there’s also an area for “analog” games like card games, board games, and even mahjong.
The Tokaigi Game Party is part of the Japan Amusement Expo (JAEPO), a trade fair for arcade games and amusement park attractions. If you want to get a sneak peek at the latest arcade games (and maybe even test-play them), check JAEPO out, as a ticket to the Tokaigi Game Party grants you access to the JAEPO (and vice-versa).
Premium passes are also available online (no on-site selling for these!) for 1,600 yen per day, or 2,700 yen for two days. It’s unclear what the perks are, but it seems that premium ticket-holders get priority when queuing at game booths. Unfortunately, the ticketing page is only in Japanese.
3. Chinese New Year celebrations (Feb 16-Mar 2)
Where: Yokohama Chinatown (access: Motomachi-Chukagai or Ishikawacho Station)
Time: Varies depending on activity
For 2018, the Lunar New Year will be on February 16, and you can be sure that the residents of Yokohama Chinatown will have colorful, festive celebrations to ring it in. For starters, there will be a countdown event on the 15th, right before the stroke of midnight brings about the New Year.
Expect dragon and lion dances (there will be lion dances around Chinatown from 4:00-8:00 pm on the 16th), Peking opera, martial arts demos, traditional song-and-dance numbers, and more. To mark the closing of the celebrations, there will be a lantern festival at Mazu Temple at night on March 2.
4. Tokyo Marathon (Feb 25)
Where: Various areas in Tokyo, from Shinjuku to Odaiba
Time: All day
Even if you’re not cheering for anyone, check out the Tokyo Marathon for the human interest aspect—it’s known for having costumed runners, which makes the event a spectacle and a novelty. The organizers have cracked down on costumes that are way too out there, so unfortunately, the (in)famous runner dressed as Jesus hasn’t been seen since 2014, but you’re still sure to see plenty of interesting costumes.
The marathon kicks off at Shinjuku at 9 am and passes through various neighborhoods such as Iidabashi, Asakusa, Ginza, Nihonbashi, and coming to a finish at Tokyo Station. Certain areas have mini-events and performances to keep morale up and cheer runners on.
Additionally, while the marathon itself is on the 25th, there will be a number of pre-events in the week leading up to the marathon. One is the Tokyo Marathon Expo (Feb. 22-24, 11:00 am-9:00 pm; up to 8:00 pm on the 24th), a free-admission event at the West Hall of Tokyo Big Sight (access: Kokusai-
5. Edo Nagashibina (Feb 25)
Where: Sumida Park, near Azuma Bridge
Time: From 11:30 am
Said to be a precursor to the Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival), Nagashibina (or the Doll-Floating Ceremony) is a tradition that dates back to the Heian era. It involves setting paper dolls afloat down a river to wash away impurities and misfortune, and to pray for children’s safety. The tradition isn’t as widespread nowadays; Asakusa is one of the few places that keeps this tradition alive. The ceremony itself isn’t that long, but this is a good opportunity to see the geisha of Asakusa, who help with the ceremony.
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