2021—a year that has been both very long and all too short, is coming to a close. Before the year ends, though, here are some festivities to help you end the year with some good vibes.

And these aren’t the only events worth checking out, as winter illuminations and Christmas markets are very much a thing in Tokyo in December. Look out as well for New Year countdown events in our NYE guide.

1. The Japanese Beautiful Boys Exhibition (Dec 4-12)

A free exhibition of illustrations focusing on traditional Japanese historical dramas. Illustrations of famous Japanese actors, Hashizo Okawa and Masaki Kyomoto, dressed as samurai, ninja, and more. The venue is Ginza’s Gallery Pied-nu.

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2. Mutek Japan 2021 (Dec 8 – 12)

Mutek is a hard to pigeon-hole five-day music festival that combines electronic music, art and technology (hence the name—Music + Technology).

Events are spread out over multiple venues in Shibuya and Odaiba with tickets for individual sessions available for as low as ¥2,000.

3. Gishi-sai (Dec 14)

Also known as the 47 Ronin Festival and the Ako Gishi-sai, this event commemorates the 47 loyal samurai who avenged their fallen lord by killing his enemy, after which they committed ritual suicide—the stuff of numerous works of fiction.

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The date of this event is always fixed at December 14th, the day that these samurai raided their enemy’s mansion. On this day, the Gishi-sai begins with a memorial service and a tea offering to the gods, after which locals dressed as the 47 samurai depart from the Sengakuji Temple and make a solemn procession around the area. The memorial and tea offering start at 11 am and 12 pm, respectively, and the procession ends—again, in the temple grounds—between 3 pm and 3:30 pm.

Learn more about this event with a handy write-up by fellow cheapo Grigoris.

For 2021, due to COVID-19, the organizers are quite confusingly saying that the event is going ahead, but they’re asking the public for “self-restraint”. We’re not sure if this means you’re supposed to refrain from going or just be subdued while watching!

4. Sensoji Hagoita-ichi Fair (Dec 17–19)

Hagoita | Photo by Grigoris Miliaresis

Hagoita are wooden paddles that are used to play hanetsuki, a Japanese badminton-like game. Over time, they became regarded as an auspicious symbol—they’re used for hitting, after all, so maybe they could “hit” bad luck as well; get it? Thus, at Sensoji’s hagoita market, of which—just like with the first two events—the dates are fixed annually, you’ll see elaborate, purely ornamental hagoita, which are meant to welcome good luck and drive away bad luck.

While you can find smaller and simpler ones for reasonable prices, the large ones with several ornate details can reach six-digit prices. They can make for beautiful souvenirs, and it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on supposedly lucky items for the upcoming year. But even if you don’t intend on buying anything, it’s worth a visit to marvel at the beautiful hagoita on display.

For those who want to take in the ambiance of a Japanese festival, this would be a good choice, as it’ll have not only hagoita, but also food stalls—’cause hey, gotta provide some grub for visitors and vendors alike.

5. Winter Comiket (Dec 30–31)

If you’re into Japanese pop culture, comics and cosplay, be sure not to miss Winter Comiket, the major geeky year-ender. This event draws tons of doujinshi (fan-made comics) collectors, cosplayers, and photographers every year, so be prepared for crowds and queues (yes, even to take photos of the more popular cosplayers).

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While pre-COVID Comikets were four days long, for 2021 the event will be over two days only. Additionally, organizers are putting quite severe restrictions on numbers. If you want to attend, you will need to apply well in advance with tickets being allocated by lottery. Although entry technically used to be free, that’s not longer the case. Tickets for “early entry” (getting in before everyone else) are ¥5,000 while regular entry tickets are ¥2,000.

If you plan to cosplay the entry price has gone up to ¥3,500, with tickets also allocated by lottery. If you manage to jump through the hoops, read our guide to cosplaying at Comiket to learn about Japanese cosplay event etiquette and what to expect.

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Filed under: Events | Things to do
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