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 fun November events in Tokyo (and maybe the bonus ones at the bottom, too). Get scrolling, cheapos.
1. Asakusa Tori-no-Ichi Fair (Nov 1, 13, and 25)
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. This year’s event dates are Novemeber 1, November 13 and November 25 at Otori Shrine. 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).
2. Dream Yosacoy Festival
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 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.
3. Kagurazaka Street Stage O-edo Tour
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—to experience a weekend’s worth of traditional Japanese culture. You’ll be treated to traditional music performances, traditional storytelling and theater, poetry recitations, and more. You can also join a stamp rally that will take you around the streets of Kagurazaka to learn about its history.
4. Design Festa – Fall
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. Iga Ueno Ninja Festival
While it’s not true that the western Japanese town of Iga – a town historically associated with ninjas in ancient times – is looking to hire ninjas, you can still be a ninja for a day at this three-day event at Ueno Park. As Iga is sometimes referred to as Iga Ueno, and it also has its own Ueno Park, it makes sense that the city of Iga chose Tokyo’s Ueno Park to host this event.
Here, you can get acquainted with ninja culture, as well as Iga’s history and traditions. There will be stage shows, an activity corner where you can try throwing shuriken like a ninja, performers dressed as ninjas, a fun quiz about ninjas, and booths selling products from Iga. It’s guaranteed to be great fun for kids and kids at heart!
Tokyo and Japan have a reputation for the strange and unusual museums.
Bonus Tokyo November Events for 2018
Some other noteworthy events are:
- the annual yabusame (horseback archery) demonstration at Meiji Jingu Shrine on Nov 3rd (Culture Day, a public holiday);
- the long-running Tokyo Metropolitan Tourism Chrysanthemum Exhibition (Nov 1-23 at Hibiya Park; completely free);
- the Cheese Festa (Nov 10-11 at the event hall on the third floor of Ebis 303, near Ebisu Station);
- the Snow Bank Pay it Forward weekend (Nov 10-11) in Yoyogi Park, where you can (in theory) snowboard in the middle of Tokyo.
A famous park, a former black market and a whole heap of museums—get to know Ueno: