Festival season will be in full swing in August, as revelers and spectators—many of whom will be clad in yukata—will, undaunted by the heat, come together to have a good time. There are way too many events for us to keep track—even small neighborhoods may have mini festivals of their own—but here are five of our picks for you to check out in August. And if these still aren’t enough for you, you might want to check out a fireworks festival or two. If you’re into geeky stuff, there are actually a few other geek-oriented events than Summer Comiket—we’ve got you covered with our pop culture events guide.
1. teamLab Jungle and Learn and Play! Future Park (July 28-Sept. 10)
Where: 9/F Hikarie Hall, Shibuya Hikarie (access: Shibuya Station)
Time: 10:00 am-9:30 pm most days
7:00 pm-9:30 pm on July 28, Sept. 1, and Sept. 5-8 | Closed on Aug. 7 and 21, and Sept. 4 | Until 5:30 pm on Aug. 10
- Kids Noon: Advanced selling: 2,000 yen for adults; 1,600 yen for students of high school age and above; 1,000 yen for children of middle school age and under | Same day: 2,200 yen for adults; 1,800 yen for students; 1,200 yen for children
- Art Night (only for ages 15 and above): Advanced selling: 3,200 yen for adults; 2,200 yen for students of high school age and above | Same day: 3,400 yen for adults; 2,200 yen for students
teamLab—the digital art geniuses that brought you last year’s interactive, immersive art installation, DMM.Planets—is at it again with another masterpiece. This time, to commemorate Hikarie’s fifth anniversary, teamLab will hold an exhibit for kids and adults alike in the shopping complex. The exhibit will have two components: the family-friendly Kids Noon and the art, light, and music festival Art Night. Children below the age of 15 are not allowed during Art Night—not that there’s anything unwholesome about the installations; we presume it’s because there will be booze. Note that while all exhibit installations will be in the same venue, entry to Kids Noon and Art Night require separate tickets. While not that cheap, one look at teamLab’s track record will tell you that this exhibit is worth every yen.
2. Asagaya Tanabata Festival (Aug. 4-8)
Where: Asagaya Pearl Center (access: Asagaya Station)
Time: All day
With origins in Chinese lore, Tanabata is a celebration—usually held in July or August—of the meeting of legendary star-crossed lovers, the cowherd and the weaver girl. In Japan, it is common to celebrate it on July 7th, but Asagaya saves its festivities for August. This Tanabata festival in Asagaya’s main shopping street was originally conceived in 1954 by local merchants seeking to attract customers to the area, and this year marks its 64th iteration. A source of pride and joy for residents, the festival features papier-mache decorations, not only of traditional elements of Japanese culture, but also of pop-culture icons. The event also doubles as a competition for the best decoration; with many elaborate, detailed pieces, you can definitely see the competitive spirit.
3. Summer Comiket (Aug. 11-13)
Where: Tokyo Big Sight (Kokusai-Tenjijo Station)
Hours: 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Summer Comiket is arguably Tokyo’s biggest and best-known pop-culture event in summer. Fans seeking to buy doujinshi (fan-made comics) or Comiket-exclusive official merchandise, cosplayers, photographers, and spectators all converge in Tokyo Big Sight for three days of geekery. Admission is entirely free, but be prepared to pay 800 yen if you’re planning to cosplay, as most Japanese cosplay events have strict rules about not arriving or leaving in cosplay as a show of consideration to the public. And of course, prepare your wallet and plan ahead if you’re thinking of buying anything. Comiket being huge, it is not the place for window-shopping; be sure to check your favorite artists’ or series’ websites and/or social media accounts to know where their booths will be located.
More importantly, stay hydrated—note that Comiket is extremely crowded, so as much as you may enjoy what Comiket has to offer, don’t forget that it’s still sweltering (and packed) outside and most likely stuffy (and just as packed) inside.
4. Bon dance festivals (various dates and locations)
According to Japanese Buddhism, Obon (also known as Bon, or the Bon Festival) in August is the time of year when the dead visit the living. Bon dances, or Bon odori, are an offshoot of this belief, as these dances were held to welcome deceased ancestors. While most Japanese these days not particularly religious, Bon dances live on, and that’s why August is filled with Bon festivals galore. Here are a few of them. They usually start at around sundown and last until around 9:00 pm.
- Aug. 2-5: Tsukiji Honganji Bon Odori at Tsukiji Honganji Temple (access: Tsukiji Station)
- Aug. 4-5: Bon Odori at Ikegami Honmonji Temple’s Mitama Matsuri (access: Ikegami Station)
- Aug. 5: Local Bon festival around Ryogoku Station
- August 25-26: Hibiya Park Marunouchi Ondo Bon Odori Festival (access: Hibiya Station)
- August 25-27: Roppongi Hills Bon Odori (access: Roppongi Station)
Different regions have their own take on the Bon dance, and one such variation is the Awa Odori, which originated in Tokushima Prefecture. Compared to the common version of the Bon dance, the Awa Odori is characterized by frenzied movements, and the steps and music alternate between mellow and energetic. It’s a sight to behold not only because of the moves, but also because of the dancers’ colorful costumes. The most famous Awa Odori festival in Tokyo is the Koenji Awa Odori Festival, which will be held right outside Koenji Station on August 26 and 27. This event has been known to attract as many as a million visitors, so while it doesn’t start until 5:00 pm, be there early if you want to secure a good spot.
Alternatively, Shimokitazawa Ichibangai’s Awa Odori (access: Shimokitazawa Station) is another Awa Odori event with a much smaller crowd.
5. Asakusa Samba Carnival (Aug. 26)
Where: From Umamichi Street to Kaminarimon Street (access: Asakusa Station)
Hours: 10:00 am-4:00 pm
It may not be traditionally Japanese, but the Asakusa Samba Carnival has become one of Tokyo’s most-awaited summer festivals. Now on its 36th year, this colorful festival has recently managed to draw around 500,000 visitors a year. This year will see 18 teams battling it out for the title of best team. Just like with the Koenji Awa Odori, arrive early to stake out a good location! Also, note that drones and selfie sticks are strictly not allowed at the festival.
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