Happy New Year, cheapos! If you want to kick it off with some fun, start with these events. (And if you want to welcome 2018 the Japanese way, don’t forget to check out our post on Japanese New Year customs and traditions, such as hatsumode (the first temple/shrine visit of the year) and hatsuhinode (seeing the first sunrise).
1. New Year Haneda Edo Festival (Jan 1-3)
Where: Haneda Airport International Passenger Terminal (access: Haneda Airport International Terminal Station)
Time: 11:00 am-7:00 pm
Haneda Airport is definitely more than that other gateway to Tokyo—in fact, it’s been highly rated by SKYTRAX, an air transport rating institution, for a few years now. It’s not surprising then that Haneda Airport’s management would like to promote it—which is why the airport has held a few Edo festivals for the past few years. These festivals are held a few times a year, and they usually kick off the New Year with one such event, so if you want to experience traditional Japanese culture, head on over to Haneda Airport. Unlike Narita, it’s in Tokyo, so it shouldn’t be that difficult or troublesome to get to.
Prepare to be transported back in time as you witness a samurai and geisha parade, typical Edo-era street performances, stage performances, crafts workshops, a lion dance to welcome the New Year, and more. This year’s theme—which is also the plot of the event’s musical stage performance—is “Tsunayoshi Tokugawa’s Love Story,” a fictionalized account of the real-life dog-loving shogun of the same name. The shogun has decided to welcome 2018 by passing a “Kindness to Animals” decree, and he has fallen in love with an oiran (courtesan) against his overbearing mother’s wishes.
Want to blend right in with the townsfolk? There will be a photo corner where you can dress up and pose for photos. Alternatively, you can arrive dressed in Japanese traditional attire to get free entry to the Ennichi (street fair), where you can play mini-games and win prizes. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend a minimum of ¥500 in the international terminal to gain entry to the street fair area.
Lastly, you can take part in a New Year tradition at this festival—mochi (rice cake) pounding sessions.
2. Furusato Matsuri (January 12-21)
Where: Tokyo Dome (access: Suidobashi, Korakuen, or Kasuga Station)
Time: 10:00 am-9:00 pm (Jan. 12-20), 10:00 am-6:00 pm (Jan. 21)
Admission: 1,500 yen (advanced selling) | 1,700 yen (at the door) | discount tickets also available
Is it possible to sample the different specialties of Japan’s prefectures, witness their major festivals, and buy their local handicrafts… without having to leave Tokyo? Well, yes, thanks to the Furusato Matsuri, which will mark its 10th anniversary in 2018. Think of this huge event as a sampler of each prefecture’s pride and joy—their signature dishes and products, festivals, dances, and even their yuru-kyara (official mascots). At this event, you’ll get to learn not only about well-known prefectures like Kyoto and Hokkaido, but also about the less popular ones, like Tottori and Kochi.
As for discount tickets, there’s a special weekday-only ticket for 1,200 yen (advanced selling), or 1,400 yen at the door. For entry past 4:00 pm, there’s a night pass that goes for 1,200 yen. And if you plan to drop by on multiple days (which is perfectly understandable, as the stage events vary per day), you can buy a special ticket that’s only sold online (here—website in Japanese) for 4,000 yen.
3. Setagaya Boroichi (January 15-16)
Where: Boroichi-dori (access: Setagaya or Kamimachi Station)
Time: 9:00 am-9:00 pm
If you missed Tokyo’s oldest flea market last December, worry not, as the second half of the Setagaya Boroichi will be held in January. With over 700 vendors selling everything under the sun, there’s bound to be something for you, whether you’re a collector of all things vintage or you’re just looking for some household items. To give you an idea of how popular the Setagaya Boroichi is, it’s said to attract over 200,000 visitors each day, so if you want to get dibs and great bargains on rare/unique items, it’s best to go early. And don’t forget to grab some of their signature food, daikan mochi, while you’re at it!
4. Tokyo Auto Salon (January 12-14)
Where: Makuhari Messe (access: Kaihimmakuhari Station)
Time: Jan. 12 – 2:00 pm-7:00 pm, Jan. 13 – 9:00 pm-7:00 pm, Jan. 14 – 9:00 pm-5:00 pm
Admission: Jan. 12: 3,000 yen (advanced selling) and 3,500 yen (at the door) | Jan. 13-14: 2,000 yen (advanced selling) and 2,500 yen (at the door); 1,800 yen for kids and teens aged 13-18
Don’t miss this event if you’re into cars, as the Tokyo Auto Salon is one of the world’s largest auto shows. The event will feature not only new/upcoming cars, but also new technologies, accessories, parts, and related merchandise. The first day is the business day, which means that it’s only open to industry insiders and the press, but if you have a premium ticket (which will be sold in limited quantities), you too can visit on the 12th from 2:00 pm.
5. Japan Brewers’ Cup (January 26-28)
Where: Osanbashi Hall (access: Nihonodori Station)
Time: Jan. 26 – 4:00 pm-10:00 pm | Jan. 27 – 11:00 am-9:00 pm | Jan. 28 – 11:00 am-7:00 pm
Admission: 500 yen
Drink up at the Japan Brewers’ Cup! Held at an event hall at the end of Osanbashi Pier (which means a great view of the bay), it’s not to be missed if you’re a craft beer enthusiast. It’s both a beer competition—with judges making their assessments in the morning—and a festival for beer lovers. And what a festival it’s going to be—this year, it’ll have 32 Japanese craft breweries and six craft beer importers, offering a total of 300 varieties of beer. For an inexpensive entrance fee, you can get a drink for as little as 300 yen. (The beer here costs 300-500 yen, on average.) Of course, it’s better to have beer with some munchies, so there will be some food booths, too. Additionally, the event will provide some entertainment; for instance, in previous years, guests were treated to performances by “beer idols”—no, not some random drunk folks, but cutesy J-pop singers chosen to endorse beer.
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