May 2018: 5 Events Not to Miss in Tokyo


After a long winter and bouts of rain, it’s finally beginning to feel like spring. June will be rainy and uncomfortably humid, so why not enjoy the nice, warm weather while it lasts by heading out to these events in May? This time, we’ve got festivals galore.

1. Golden Week events (April 28-May 6)

tokyo events may
Photo by IIP Photo Archive used under CC

Where and when: Various locations and times

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Golden Week, a string of holidays in late April to early May, is a welcome respite for Tokyo’s frazzled workforce, a cash cow for the travel and transport industries, and a bane (in terms of price, traffic, and crowd density at tourist areas) to travelers—all at the same time. If you’re in Tokyo for Golden Week, it might be better to just stay where you are and check out the many events that will be held during this time (and read our guide to Golden Week while you’re at it!):

Culture festivals

For starters, get a glimpse of foreign cultures at:

Tokyo Pride

Celebrate love and diversity at Tokyo Rainbow Pride (April 28-May 6). For the duration of the event, there will be various activities—movie screenings, parties, talks, and more—but the highlight is the Pride Festival (May 5-6) at Yoyogi Park Events Square. There will be a Pride parade from 12pm on the 6th.

Food festivals

Meat lovers should head to Niku Fes Tokyo (April 27-May 6) and/or the BBQ & Beer Festival (April 27-May 6), both at Symbol Promenade Park.

Meanwhile, ramen lovers (especially women) should check out the Ramen Girls Festival (April 26-30 and May 2-6) at Nakano Shiki no Mori Park (access: Nakano Station). As the name implies, the event mainly caters to women who love ramen, but also aims to promote the appeal of ramen to women who otherwise don’t like it much. (Although times have changed, ramen used to be seen as a dish typically eaten by men, as many women found ramen too greasy and heavy.)

Traditional festivals

For something more traditional, Fuchu’s Okunitama Shrine (Fuchu or Fuchi-honmachi Station) will be observing the Kurayami Matsuri from April 30-May 6. The highlight of the festival is a procession of mikoshi (portable shrines) in the darkness, which starts at 6pm on May 5th. The procession to return the mikoshi starts from 4am on the 6th, and ends with a ceremony at 9am. If you can, check out the procession on the 4th, which should also be a colorful affair.

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For more celebrations of traditional Japanese culture, Tokyo Tower (access: Akabanebashi or Onarimon Station) will commemorate Children’s Day (May 5) with a koinobori (carp-shaped streamer) display from April 7-May 6. The streamers will be lit up at night.

2. Cinco de Mayo (May 12-13)

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Where: Yume no Hiroba/Symbol Promenade Park (access: Aomi Station)
Time: 10:00 am-9:00 pm
Admission: Free

Although “Cinco de Mayo” literally translates to “the 5th of May,” Tokyo’s version of this celebration will be held from May 12-13, for some reason. This event celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, but it holds more significance for the Mexican-American community in the US than for Mexicans. Just like how American Cinco de Mayo celebrations honor Mexcian culture and Mexican-American ties, Tokyo’s Cinco de Mayo event will be a showcase of Mexican culture, so expect food booths, music and dance performances, booze, and perhaps some cultural workshops as well.

3. Design Festa (May 12-13)

Photo by HiroTjp used under CC

Where: Tokyo Big Sight East Halls 4-8 (access: Kokusai-Tenjijo or Kokusai-Tenjijo-Seimon Station)
Time: 11:00 am-7:00 pm
Admission: Per day: ¥800 in advance | ¥1,000 at the door | 2-day pass: ¥1,500 in advance | ¥1,800 at the door

The biannual Design Festa is known as Asia’s largest art event. With over 12,000 exhibitors and 3,800 booths, this two-day fair is dedicated to all kinds of art—performance art, paintings, live drawing sessions, handmade crafts, fashion, and more—so art enthusiasts are sure to find something that suits their tastes here. Attending in alternative fashion such as steampunk or Lolita (but not in cosplay, as it involves copyrighted characters) is very much welcome at this event.

4. Sanja Matsuri (May 18-20)

Photo by Yoshikazu Takada used under CC

Where: Around Asakusa Station
Admission: Free

Also a major Tokyo festival, Sanja Matsuri features three main mikoshi (portable shrines) in honor of the three founders of Asakusa’s famous temple, Sensoji—which is also the festival’s center of activity. The mikoshi depart from Sensoji early in the morning and are carried around town, as performers—including geisha—join in. Yakuza members are also known to show off their intricate tattoos at this rowdy, energetic festival. Meanwhile, back at Sensoji, there will be taiko performances and traditional dances by miko (shrine maidens).

5. Island Music Festival (May 19-20)

Where: Yume no Hiroba/Symbol Promenade Park (access: Aomi Station)
Time: 10:00 am-9:00 pm
Admission: Free

This event is a celebration of island cultures, specifically those of Hawaii, the Pacific Islands (e.g. Fiji and Tahiti), and Okinawa. Polynesian culture—Maori, Samoan, Tongan, and more—will be well represented here. While details on the official website are sparse as of this writing, the event promises that guests will enjoy the best of island food, music, and dance.

Written by:
Filed under: Events, Things to do
Tags: Art, Cinco De Mayo, Design Festa, Event, Festival, Golden Week, Kanda Masturi, Okinawa, Pride Parade, Sanja Matsuri, Spring
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