May 2017: 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 7)

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!):

  • For starters, get a glimpse of foreign cultures with the Cambodia Festival (May 3-4, 10:00 am-7:00 pm) at Yoyogi Park Events Square (Harajuku/Meiji-jingumae Station), Cinco de Mayo (May 4-6, 10:00 am-9:00 pm) at Symbol Promenade Park/Yume no Hiroba (Aomi Station), Odaiba Oktoberfest’s spring edition (April 28-May 7, also at Yume no Hiroba), and Hawaii Festival (April 29-May 7) at Venus Fort (Tokyo Teleport Station).
  • Learn about Okinawa at the Haisai Festa (May 3-7, 11:00 am-8:00 pm) at La Cittadella (Kawasaki Station)—don’t confuse this with another Okinawa festival, though (see below for more details).
  • Celebrate love and diversity at Tokyo Rainbow Pride (April 29-May 7, 11:00 am-8:00 pm), which will end with a pride parade on the 7th, at Yoyogi Park Events Square.
  • Meat lovers should head to Niku Fes Tokyo 2017 Wonderland (April 28-May 7) at Symbol Promenade Park. It will be held from 10:00 am-9:00 pm on most days, but on April 28, May 1, and May 2, it will take place from 12:00-9:00 pm, and from 10:00 am-8:00 pm on the last day.
  • 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 6 pm on May 5th. The procession to return the mikoshi starts from 4 am on the 6th, and ends with a ceremony at 9 am. If you can, check out the procession on the 4th, which should also be a colorful affair.

2. Kanda Matsuri (May 11-17, main event May 13-14)

Photo by SnippyHolloW used under CC

Where: Kanda Myojin (access: Ochanomizu or Akihabara Station), and around Kanda, Nihonbashi, and Otemachi
Admission: Free

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Held during odd-numbered years and alternating with the Sanno Matsuri, Kanda Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s three major Shinto festivals. The main event takes place on the weekend of May 13-14. It starts at Kanda Myojin—one of Tokyo’s famous shrines—on Saturday morning with a grand procession of over 200 mikoshi and people in traditional clothing, and goes around the neighborhoods of Kanda, Nihonbashi, and Otemachi. The next day’s parade features mikoshi from different neighborhoods and communities. The other events that comprise Kanda Matsuri—such as a ceremony to transfer the shrine’s deities to the mikoshi at night on the 12th, and a Noh performance on the 15th—are smaller in scale and do not take place all day.

3. Sanja Matsuri (May 19-21)

Photo by Yoshikazu Takada used under CC

Where: Around Asakusa Station
Admission: Free

Also a major Tokyo festival, Sanja Matsuri features three main mikoshi in honor of the three founders of Asakusa’s famous temple, Senso-ji – which is also the festival’s center of activity. The mikoshi depart from Senso-ji 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 Senso-ji, there will be taiko performances and traditional dances by miko (shrine maidens).

4. Okinawa Matsuri (May 20-21)

Where: Yoyogi Park Events Square (access: Harajuku or Meiji-jingumae Station)
Time: 11:00 am-9:00 pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate all things related to Japan’s southernmost prefecture without having to travel all the way there by visiting the Okinawa Matsuri. Sample Okinawa’s finest food and beverages (don’t miss their indigenous alcoholic drink, awamori, if you love booze), shop for traditional handicrafts, and enjoy performances—including Okinawa’s traditional dance, eisa—by Okinawan artists. In previous years, spending a minimum amount at the event could get you a chance to win a trip to Okinawa, so if you’ve ever wanted to take a trip there, attending this festival might just bring you one step closer towards that end.

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5. Design Festa (May 27-28)

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 yen in advance/1,000 yen at the door | (two-day pass) 1,500 yen in advance / 1,800 yen 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.

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