Spring is coming soon, so what better way to welcome the season than to go out and have some fun? If you’re not sure what to do, no worries—let our guide help you out! This month, we’ve got some traditional festivals, an event for anime lovers and, of course, cherry blossoms on our list.
1. Tokyo Marathon (March 3)
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 Iidabashi, Roppongi, Shinagawa, Tokyo Station, Asakusa, Ginza, and Tsukishima, coming to a finish at Odaiba. Some neighborhoods hold mini-events and performances—marching bands and more—to keep morale up and cheer runners on.
Before the marathon, you might also want to check out related pre-events. Tokyo Marathon Expo—a running-themed trade show featuring the latest in running gear, apparel, and more—will be held on February 28 (11:00 am-9:00 pm) and March 1( 11:00 am-8:00 pm) at the Odaiba-Aomi event area (access: Daiba or Tokyo Teleport Station). Also, from February 1 to March 6, friendship events will be held around the metropolis as part of the Tokyo Marathon Week (which is actually over a month long).
2. Hiwatari-Sai (March 10)
Come join this yearly fire-walking ritual at Mount Takao, during which barefooted monks chant sutras and prayers for good health and other blessings while walking atop smoldering embers. Visitors are welcome to try walking atop the embers as well, but only after they’ve slightly cooled down—safety first, after all! This ritual is said to bring good luck, but for extra luck, auspicious items such as purifying salt will also be sold at the festival.
Note that while this event is organized by Takaosan Yakuoin Temple, which is atop Mount Takao, the fire-walking festival takes place at a public square that’s a 5-minute walk from Takaosanguchi Station.
3. St. Patrick’s Day in Tokyo (March 16-17)
To introduce Ireland and Irish culture to the Japanese, the Irish Network in Japan (INJ) started holding a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Tokyo in 1992, and since then, it’s become an annual tradition to hold it on the weekend closest to the big day. It’s also become Asia’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and it has inspired other locations in Japan to also hold St. Patrick’s Day parades.
The parade is just one part of the celebrations, though. Held on the same weekend is the “I Love Ireland” festival, a celebration of all things Irish. Visitors can enjoy food, music, dances, and—of course—good old Irish beer at the event.
4. Anime Japan (March 23-24)
Anime Japan’s tagline tells you all you need to know about the event: “Here is everything about anime.” This event’s scale grows ever larger each year, so now that the event’s on its sixth year, you can surely expect more from them. What’s more, with 2019’s event being the last Anime Japan of the Heisei era (as the Emperor is abdicating at the end of April 2019), they want to end the era with a bang, hence this year’s event being rock-themed. (“Rock” in katakana also happens to sound like “roku,” or “six” in Japanese.)
Basically, what you can expect from Anime Japan are information on upcoming anime, exhibits, official merchandise booths (including sneak peeks at upcoming merchandise and event exclusives), stage shows, workshops, freebies, cosplay, and seminars on the anime industry (sadly, only in Japanese). In line with this year’s theme, the event will feature exclusive merchandise depicting popular characters rocking it out.
There will also a family area for wholesome, kid-oriented anime; only children of elementary school age and younger, as well as their guardians, can access it.
5. Cherry blossom festivals (from late March)
Where: around Tokyo
Lastly, no guide to events in March would be complete without Japan’s famous cherry blossom festivals. This year, the cherry blossoms are forecast to bloom earlier than expected. There are so many festivals to celebrate the blooming of Japan’s beloved flower, so we’ve got a mega guide and several handy articles to help you. Whether you just want to see them in the daytime, to see them while doing something fun, or to admire them all lit up at night, we’ve got those bases covered. And if those still aren’t enough, we also have a guide to sakura-themed products! Stay tuned as we update these guides.
A famous park, a former black market and a whole heap of museums—get to know Ueno:
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