Happy New Year, cheapos! If you want to kick off the month of January with some fun, start with these events. And if you want to welcome 2021 the Japanese way, 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).

Note: Due to anti-coronavirus measures, events may be canceled at any time. Always check official sites on the day before attending an event.

1. 7 Lucky Gods Pilgrimage

Lucky gods
Photo by Gregory Lane

Ring in the new year by setting off on a Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage—a tradition dating back to Tokyo’s Edo period to pray for blessings and wealth for the upcoming year at various temples and shrines. The pilgrimage is usually completed anytime before the 10th of January—either solo or with others. Follow this link for popular pilgrimage routes in the Yanaka, Shinjuku, Nihonbashi and Shinagawa areas.

2. January Grand Sumo Tournament

sumo in tokyo
Photo by Chris Lewis used under CC

Held every January, this is the first of Japan’s six annual sumo tournaments, known as honbasho. While the fights are broadcast on NHK, nothing beats the atmosphere of the tense final matches of the day. Tickets can be purchased online. For this event, there will not be any general arena seating (aka the cheap tickets).

3. Earth Garden Winter Festival

earth winter garden
Photo by iStock.com/Roman Babakin

A two-day outdoor market at Yoyogi Park where the food, workshops, and products being offered all promote ecological living—so you can feel good about going and also what you bring home. The event square will also have a stream of musical performances spanning both days.

4. Matsuda Wintersweet Tree Festival

Photo by Matsuda Town

See a stunning display of more than 1,000 wintersweet trees and their yellow blossoms spread across Matsuda Yadoriki Park in Kanagawa Prefecture. On weekends, there are stalls selling food, local farm products, crafts and souvenirs.

(Another flowery day trip idea: Visit Atami’s plum garden for winter plum blossoms).

5. Music for Isolation – Winter Live *Moved to online*

The Tokyo-based duo of Rie Takeuchi (baritone saxophone) and Gideon Juckes (tuba) present their first online concert, broadcast live from the fireside of a 100-year-old Tokyo farmhouse. The concert will be performed in low lighting, with warmth and light from a wood fire. It will be delivered with high-quality sound and vision.

Bonus events: Winter illuminations

Many illumination events will continue lighting up the city well into the new year.

This post is updated annually. Last update: December 29, 2020.

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