It’s October. If you live in Tokyo, you know what that means—shops like Don Quijote will start playing “This is Halloween” on loop as Halloween has grown to be a big deal and a cause for rowdy celebration in recent years. Of course, Halloween parties and parades make up part of our list of events not to miss, but October also has some events in store for film buffs and those who want a glimpse of traditional Japanese culture.
1. Ikebukuro Fukuro Matsuri/Tokyo Yosakoi Contest (Oct 7-8)
Where: around the West Exit of Ikebukuro Station
Time: 11:00 am-around 8:00 pm
While we didn’t feature the first half of Ikebukuro’s Fukuro Matsuri in our September events guide, as it was overshadowed by other events, the second half of this festival is not to be missed for its liveliness. Also known as the Tokyo Yosakoi Contest, this festival is devoted to yosakoi, an energetic traditional dance characterized by the use of clappers called “naruko”. Although the dance has traditional origins, it’s common nowadays to fuse the basic elements of yosakoi with modern music and/or dance moves.
Since this event is a contest, you’ll see many different teams do their best to perform their own takes on yosakoi. If you’d like to try dancing along, drop by or stay on until the closing ceremony on the last day, after the awarding (which usually ends past 7:00 pm). Putting aside any rivalries, the teams will enthusiastically dance to the closing song, and bystanders are welcome to join in, too.
2. Various Halloween events (throughout October)
Where: Various locations
Halloween is October’s biggest event in Tokyo. Halloween celebrations have really taken off in recent years, with the number of events, as well as the scale, steadily increasing each year. With events in Kagurazaka, Roppongi, Omotesando, Ikebukuro, Kawasaki and, of course, Shibuya (where the largest Halloween street party is held), you don’t have to worry about not being in Japan on the big day itself (which falls on a Tuesday this year, anyway), as there will be several events leading up to the 31st. The events come in different levels of family-friendliness, ranging from “perfect for small children” to “maybe it’s not such a good idea to bring kids here”. Check out our handy guide to Halloween in Tokyo to get you started!
3. Kawagoe Festival (Oct 14-15)
Where: around Kawagoe (access: Kawagoe, Honkawagoe or Kawagoeshi Station)
Time: 1:30 pm-9:00 pm (Oct. 14); 10:00 am-9:00 pm (Oct. 15)
Affectionately nicknamed as “Little Edo” because some of its streets still resemble those of the Edo period, Kawagoe is technically in Saitama Prefecture, but it’s just 30-40 minutes away from Ikebukuro Station. Its major festival, which is over 300 years old, has been designated as an National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property, which should tell you that it’s of historical and cultural value.
The festival features large, towering, elaborate floats that are paraded around Kurazukuri Street. Stay on until nighttime as much as possible, as that’s when things become even rowdier and livelier—there will be traditional music performances, dancing, and paper lanterns. And of course, for a truly colorful sight, the floats will be lit up.
While Kawagoe is the closest station to the festival, it might also be the most crowded, as this festival is quite the crowd-drawer. You might want to consider using Honkawagoe or Kawagoeshi Stations. Arrive early as much as possible; if you arrive at night just for the lit-up floats, you might not be able to enjoy the festival that much due to the huge crowd.
4. Tokyo International Film Festival (Oct 25-Nov 3)
Where: Roppongi Hills and Ex Theater Roppongi (access: Roppongi Station)
Time: Schedule TBA as of writing
Admission: Varies depending on activity. Free for some related events/activities.
The 29th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) will screen more than 200 films, including some upcoming releases, from different countries. Don’t let the “film festival” in the name intimidate you—you don’t have to be a connoisseur of art-house films to enjoy the festival. While the schedule and full lineup is still TBA as of this writing, rest assured that the festival doesn’t just feature art films. Mainstream hits are also part of the lineup; in fact, the opening film of this year’s TIFF is Fullmetal Alchemist, the live-action adaptation of the manga and anime of the same name. Meanwhile, the closing film will be An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, the sequel to An Inconvenient Truth.
For most TIFF screenings, buying tickets online is required. Be on the lookout for updates, as tickets for much-awaited films sell out easily. Some screenings, such as the world premiere of Fullmetal Alchemist, will distribute tickets by lottery.
5. Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony (Oct 7-8 | Oct 21-22)
- Oct. 7-8 – Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum (access: Musashi-Koganei or Hana-Kogaenei Station, then a bus ride to Koganei-koen Nishi-guchi)
- Oct. 21-22 at Hamarikyu Gardens (access: Shiodome Station)
- Oct. 7-8 – 9:50 am-4:10 pm (reception from 9:30 am-3:30 pm)
- Oct. 21-22 – 9:30 am-4:10 pm (reception from 9:30 am-3:40 pm)
Admission: 300 yen for some ceremonies | 700 yen for others | Free for traditional Japanese performances
If you want to experience a Japanese tea ceremony for yourself and learn about its intricacies, this is the event for you. At each venue, there will be various tea ceremonies held by different tea ceremony schools (hence the different admission fees). Some will have Japanese-to-English interpreters, so don’t worry about not knowing any Japanese.
Aside from tea ceremonies, there will be some workshops and performances—ikebana (flower arrangement), shamisen and more.
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