November 2017: 5 Events Not to Miss in Tokyo

Carey Finn

The madness of Halloween might be over, but November events in Tokyo offer their fair share of fun, festivities and all that other good stuff. It’s the best time of year for 紅葉 (kōyō)—the viewing of autumn leaves, but on the days when you’re not getting out into nature, you’ll want to take note of these free or inexpensive events (and maybe the bonus ones at the bottom, too). Get scrolling, cheapos.

1. Dream Yosacoy Festival (Nov 3-5)

Photo by Marufish used under CC

Where: Mainly around the Odaiba Statue of Liberty Square (access: Daiba or Tokyo Teleport Station); related events around Akihabara (access: Akihabara Station) and Marunouchi (access: Tokyo or Marunouchi Station)
Time: Nov 3 – 5:00-9:00 pm | Nov 4 – 11:30 am-9:00 pm | Nov 5 – 10:00 am-9:00 pm
Admission: Free

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One of our favorite types of Japanese dance festivals, yosakoi (yep, that’s how it’s usually spelled) is an explosion of catchy beats, cool fashion, crazy hair and unreasonably well-choreographed dance moves. It’s characterized by the use of clappers called naruko, but it’s easy to fuse yosakoi moves with more modern music and dance moves, as the contestants of this particular festival tend to do.

Large groups of dancers (around 7,000 split into 100 teams) launch themselves through the streets, treating spectators to a fusion of traditional and modern culture and dance styles. Get there early to secure a spot, as lots of people are expected to show up to see the action. Stick around to check out the other activities as well—like the roughly 20-minute Japan Wa Parade, a cosplay parade for those with traditional Japanese-themed costumes from around 7:00 onwards on both days.  Plus, there will be food and merchandise booths featuring local specialties of disaster-stricken areas in Japan.

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2. Asakusa Tori-no-Ichi Fair (Nov 6, 18, and 30)

Where: Otori Shrine (access: Iriya or Minowa Station)
Time: All day
Admission: Free

Held during the days of the rooster (which, according to the Chinese zodiac, are said to be auspicious) in the Chinese calendar, Tori-no-Ichi is a colorful and long-running fair that dates all the way back to the Edo era. It’s been held in Asakusa ever since, and is all about wishing for luck and prosperity in business endeavors.

The main item being peddled is the kumade, a decorative bamboo rake that’s said to, well, rake in good luck. While elaborate ones can cost hundreds of thousands of yen (don’t worry; if you can’t buy the gorgeous ones, you can still take pictures of them), you can get simpler, smaller ones for ¥1,000¥2,000. For every purchase, merchants will perform a clapping ritual for good fortune. Also, be sure to sink your teeth into some of the tasty food on offer. We recommend the old-style sweets—and, as always, just about anything on a stick (except maybe those chocolate bananas with the eyes).

3. Kagurazaka Street Stage O-edo Tour (Nov 11-12)

Photo by Tiffany Lim used under CC

Where: Around Kagurazaka (access: Kagurazaka, Ushigome-kagurazaka, or Iidabashi Station)
Time: Nov 11 – 3:00 pm-7:30 pm | Nov 12 – 11:30 am-6:00 pm
Admission: Free

Head to the laid-back neighborhood of Kagurazaka—formerly a major geisha quarter, and one of the few places in Tokyo where geisha still work today—on Nov 11 and 12 to experience a weekend’s worth of traditional Japanese culture. You’ll be treated to traditional music performances and poetry recitations, and you can also join a stamp rally that will take you around the streets of Kagurazaka to learn about its history. A limited number of participants can also meet and play parlor games with geisha on the 12th; however, this activity costs 2,500 yen.)

4. Design Festa – Fall (Nov 11-12)

Design Festa attracts visitors from all over Asia.
Design Festa attracts visitors from all over Asia. | Photo by HiroTjp used under CC

Where: Tokyo Big Sight Halls 4-8 (access: Kokusai-tenjijo or Kokusai-tenjijo-seimon Station)
Time: 11:00 am-7:00 pm
Admission: Per day 800 yen (advanced selling) | 1,000 yen (at the door)

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Number 46 in the Tokyo Design Festa series, this edition of the popular art and design showcase will see around 14,000 exhibitors and many more attendees over two days. You’ll find booths and activities dedicated to all kinds of art here: visual art, performance art, fashion, crafts, music, drama, dance, and more. You’ll also get to see some artists at work, as there will be live painting sessions. If you’ve got any interest in the contemporary art/graphic/trendsetting scene, the festa is a must-do. It’s punted as the biggest event of its kind in Asia, so experience it while you’re here in Tokyo.

5. Nabe Festival (Nov 23-26)

Photo by OiMax used under CC

Where: Hibiya Park (access: Hibiya Station)
Time: 10:00 am-8:00 pm (until 5:00 pm on the 26th)
Admission: Free entry; pay as you order

Nabe—or hot pot—is the perfect dish to have as the temperature drops and winter draws near. You can have your fill of this hearty dish at the Nabe Festival, a four-day event featuring different regions’ takes on hot pot. If that’s not enough of a reason for you to go, the event will also have a Nihonshu festival, some stage performances, and merchandise.

Bonus Events

Three other noteworthy November events are:

It’s also worth noting that if you’re around in the first week of November, you can catch the tail-end of the Tokyo International Film Festival at Roppongi Hills (until Nov 3) and the slurp-worthy Tokyo Ramen Show at Komazawa Olympic Park (feeding people until Nov 5). Lastly, although most books are in Japanese, book lovers might also want to give the Kanda Used Book Festival around the neighborhood of Jimbocho (until Nov 5) a peek.

Any other top-notch events you think we should have mentioned? Post in the comments! 

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