July marks the start of summer festival season, so while festival mania won’t have hit fever pitch quite yet by then, we’d say that July should be more eventful than rainy and humid June. For starters, many fireworks festivals—including the famous, long-standing Sumida River Fireworks Festival—will take place in July. But that’s not all—we’ve got also listed a few other events worth checking out:
1. Edo Neko Chaya (June 15-Aug. 31)
Where: Ryogoku Station Event Square (access: Ryogoku Station west exit)
Time: 11:00 am-8:00 pm
Admission: ¥1,500 (¥1,200 for junior high and high school students)
We weren’t able to add this to our list of June events not to miss, so we’re making up for that by adding it here. Cat cafes have been a thing in Japan for quite a while, but what sets Edo Neko Chaya (Edo Cat Teahouse) apart is that it’s a summertime-only attraction that takes aesthetic inspiration from ukiyo-e (woodblock print art) and Edo-era architecture. You’ll see cats playing around and lounging about in areas modeled after an Edo-era bathhouse, pleasure quarter, teahouse, and more.
What’s more is that many of the cats here are rescues looking for a good home, so after the event, you can take the cats home (after carrying out the necessary procedures, of course—ask the staff for details). You can also buy some adorable cat-themed merchandise; proceeds will go to animal welfare programs.
This is the first time for such an event to be held, so if you love cats and you’re in town, don’t miss this. There’s no indication as to whether tickets will be sold on site, so if you want to play it safe, it’s best to buy tickets on Loppi (link in Japanese).
Note that visitors have a time limit of one hour to enjoy the event. To stay longer, it’ll cost an extra ¥500 per 20 minutes. Children of elementary school age or below are not allowed.
2. Shitamachi Tanabata Festival (July 5-9 | Main festivities July 7-8)
Where: Around Ueno and Asakusa (access: Ueno, Asakusa, or Iriya Station)
Time: Saturday, 10:00 am-8:00 pm | Sunday, 10:00 am-7:00 pm
Taking place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, Tanabata—the Star Festival—celebrates the once-a-year meeting of the cowherd Hikoboshi and weaving girl Orihime (aka the stars Altair and Vega). While it’s common to celebrate Tanabata on July 7th, the celebration date may vary depending on the area (though they all take place sometime in between July and August).
One Tanabata festival worth attending is the Shitamachi Tanabata Festival. The festivities take place along a stretch of the road that’s around 1.2 km long, from Ueno to Asakusa’s Kappabashi Street (a.k.a. Asakusa’s Kitchen Town). Asakusa, however, will be the center of festivities, so it’s best to get there from Asakusa Station. On the 5th and 9th, there won’t be much to do other than the usual Tanabata practice of writing wishes on paper strips.
The weekend is when you’d want to check out this festival, as there will be a parade from 1pm on Saturday. It will feature rickshaws, police motorbikes, street performers, and more. Meanwhile, on Sunday, visitors will be treated to dances and other performances, as well as a flea market. And of course, on both days, there will be food booths for everyone to enjoy some grub.
3. Eco Edo Nihonbashi / Art Aquarium (July 6-Sept. 24)
Where: Eco Edo in general: Around Nihonbashi | Art Aquarium: Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall, 5/F Coredo Muromachi 1
Time: Eco Edo in general: all day
Art Aquarium: 11:00 am-10:30 pm (Sundays to Fridays) | 11 am-11:30 pm (Saturdays and holidays)
Admission: Eco Edo in general: Free for most activities
Art Aquarium: ¥1,000 (adults) | ¥600 (kids from age 4 to elementary school age) for Art Aquarium
Eco Edo is a fascinating attempt to recreate the ambiance of the Edo period with modern technology such as digital art. Nihonbashi is currently a bustling business district, but every now and then, real estate developers, local groups, and other institutions make attempts to pay homage to the area’s roots as the heart of Edo (as Tokyo was formerly known).
This summer, visitors are invited to enjoy the cooling breeze at Eco Edo. What we know as of this writing is that this district-wide event will feature “digital fireworks”—that is, the use of projection mapping to simulate fireworks as reflected on a river’s surface— and lanterns with goldfish designs. Participating shops and restaurants will feature special menu items and merchandise, mostly with a goldfish theme. Perks will also be available for yukata-clad visitors.
Don’t miss the Art Aquarium, a colorful exhibit featuring goldfish in ornamental bowls, tanks, and ponds. What’s so special about seeing goldfish, you ask? Well, with the help of digital art and some special effects, the exhibit will be lit (pun intended).
7:00 pm onwards is Night Aquarium time, when you can enjoy booze (not included in the cost of admission, of course), DJs, and more. On some nights, there will be special events (which require additional fees) such as maiko (apprentice geisha) performances.
4. Tokyo Hula Festa in Ikebukuro (July 20-22)
Where: Around Ikebukuro (access: Ikebukuro Station)
Time: 6:00 pm-8:00 pm (July 20) | Around noon-8:00 pm (July 21-22)
With Hawaii being a popular destination for Japanese tourists, as well as Japan and Hawaii having some cultural connections, it’s no surprise that Tokyo has its share of Hawaiian festivals. This summer, chill and try to imagine that you’re on a Hawaiian beach with Ikebukuro’s Tokyo Hula Festa.
The 20th is the pre-event night, while the main event starts on the 21st. Hula performances from different competing teams will be held in various areas around Ikebukuro, with the main area being Ikebukuro West Gate Park. (There will also be performances in Sunshine City and Tobu’s Sky Deck Square, among others). The event will have hula workshops, although registrations are now closed. But if you want to get your hips moving, you’re welcome to join the Hula Night, where anyone—regardless of skill level or experience—can try dancing the hula on stage. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone—it’s going to be a group performance!
5. Shinjuku Eisa Festival (Jul. 28)
Where: Around Shinjuku’s east and west exits (access: Shinjuku Station)
Time: 12:00 am-8:00 pm
This is your chance to see eisa, Okinawa’s traditional dance, without having to travel to Okinawa. Featuring brightly clad performers dancing, singing, and chanting to the accompaniment of drums and the sanshin (a three-stringed instrument that originated in Okinawa), eisa is an upbeat, colorful, energetic spectacle. It offers a different feel and sound from many other Japanese festivals, and the different teams performing at this festival will surely not disappoint. This is one of Tokyo’s popular summer festivals, so expect crowds gathering to watch the performances. Arrive as early as possible.
Our favorite (read: cheapest) maid cafes in Akihabara. These types of cafes are one of Japan’s pop culture icons.