November 2016: 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 (kouyou)—the viewing of autumn leaves, but on the days when you’re not getting out into nature, you’ll want to note these top five (inexpensive) events (and maybe the bonus ones at the bottom, too). Get scrolling, cheapos.

november events in tokyo
Yosakoi action in Tokyo. | Photo by saj1205 used under CC

1. Meiji Jingu Shrine Yabusame (Nov.3)

Horseback archery is an ancient tradition.
Horseback archery is an ancient tradition. | Photo by kazuletokyoite used under CC

Why not celebrate Culture Day with a blast from Japan’s warrior past? This event at Meiji Jingu is one of the few yearly chances to see horseback archery (read that again, slowly: horse.back.archery.) performed by pros in cool outfits.

Archery alone is difficult enough, but yabusame takes the challenge to a whole new level by having riders shoot their arrows while the horse is galloping along at a clip. This tradition, which has been around for close to a thousand years, makes for some impressive viewing (and tricky photographing).

Where: Meiji Jingu Shrine, Harajuku/Yoyogi
Time: 1pm-12am
Admission: Free

2. Dream Yosacoy Festival (Nov. 4-6)

It's a vibrant dance festival.
It’s a vibrant dance festival. | Photo by Marufish used under CC

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.

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In this particular festival, large groups of dancers (there are 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—500,000 people are expected to show up to see the action.

Where: Odaiba, Marunouchi and Yurakucho
Time: 10am-9pm
Admission: Free

3. Asakusa Tori-no-Ichi Fair (Nov. 11 and Nov. 23)

Glitter and gold at the Tori-no-Ichi festival.
Glitter and gold at the Tori-no-Ichi festival. | Photo by Meredith.P

Held on set days (of the Rooster) in the month of November, the Tori-no-Ichi is a colorful fair that’s all about wishing for luck and prosperity in business endeavors. Held in the downtown area of Asakusa since the Edo era (when it was a celebration to welcome in the new year), the fair is a long-running tradition that delights locals and tourists alike until the early hours of the morning.

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If you attend, be sure to get one of the decorated bamboo rakes (for good luck) and 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).

Where: Otori Shrine, Asakusa
Time: Until late
Admission: Free

4. Doburoku Matsuri (Nov. 28)

Brewing up some sake.
Brewing up some sake. | Photo by tokyofoodcast used under CC

Doburoku translates to home-brewed sake, and this festival translates to a merry old time (and possibly a hangover—you have been warned). Doburoku festivals are popular across the country, and this one, held at Koami Shrine in the Chuo ward, happens to be one of the two major matsuri in the Kanto region. In other words, if you’re interested in sake and this sort of event sounds like it might appeal to you, this is the one to  attend.

Visitors get to sip on some sake that has been offered in prayer for good grain harvests, health and luck. You can also enjoy a Shinto dance performance at lunchtime, and the shrine itself is worth a look-around as it has some rather elaborate sculptures.

Where: Koami Jinja, Nihonbashi
Time: 9am-6pm
Admission: Free

5. Design Festa – Fall (Nov. 27-28)

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

Number 44 in the Tokyo Design Festa series, this edition of the popular art and design showcase will see more than 10,000 exhibitors and many more attendees. In addition to the original visual offerings, there will be live music, drama, dance and other performances. Movies will also be screened, so there’s no chance of getting bored.

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.

Where: Tokyo Big Sight, Odaiba
Time: 11am-7pm
Admission: 800 yen (advance sales)

Bonus Events

Two other noteworthy November events are the long-running Tokyo Metropolitan Tourism Chrysanthemum Exhibition (completely free) and the Snow Bank Pay it Forward weekend in Yoyogi Park, where you can (in theory) snowboard in the middle of Tokyo.

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 (until Nov. 3), Tokyo Design Week (until Nov. 7) and the slurp-worthy Tokyo Ramen Show (feeding people until Nov. 6). Book lovers might also want to give the Kanda Used Book Festival (until Nov. 6) a peek.

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

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