In the blink of an eye, we’re more than halfway through the first month of the year. We hope that 2017 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 onwards
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, “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 featuring celebrities. Some even hand out rice cakes and other freebies to visitors.
2. Tokaigi Game Party Japan/Japan Amusement Expo (Feb 11-12)
Where: Makuhari Messe, Halls 1-8 (access: Kaihim-Makuhari Station)
Time: 10:00 am-6:00 pm (Feb. 11), 10:00 am-5:00 pm (Feb. 12)
Admission: 1,500 yen per day (advanced selling), 2,000 yen at the door) / 2,500 yen for a two-day pass
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. And we don’t just mean console or mobile phone games! Indeed, most of the event is devoted to such games—with tournaments, live performances of game music, gaming merchandise, indie and retro games, and hands-on gaming booths. But yes, there is a booth for “analog” games like card games, board games, and even mahjong.
The Tokaigi Game Party is part of the Japan Amusement Expo (JAEPO), which is a trade fair for arcade games and amusement park attractions, and 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. Wonder Festival (Feb 19)
Where: Makuhari Messe Halls 1-8 (access: Kaihim-makuhari Station)
Time: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Admission: 2,500 yen (free for elementary school-aged students and younger)
You’re never too old to collect things! Said to be the world’s biggest event for figures and garage kits (assembly-scale model kits), Wonder Festival is a biannual event that’s held in winter (February) and summer (July). Both amateur creators and figure/toy companies roll out the goods and put them on display at the event, so figure collectors can get a sneak peek at new and upcoming releases. There are figures for characters from Japanese and non-Japanese media alike, so you don’t have to be a fan of anime, manga, or Japanese video games to enjoy the event. Be sure to check out the cosplayers as well!
4. Tokyo Marathon (Feb 26)
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 9:00 am and passes through various neighborhoods such as Iidabashi, Asakusa, Ginza, Nihonbashi, Shinagawa, and coming to a finish at Tokyo Station. Certain areas have mini-events and performances to keep morale up and cheer runners on.
5. Edo Nagashibina (Feb 26)
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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