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 the holiday 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, and the Rugby World Cup is worth checking out too, but October also has some events in store for those who want a glimpse of traditional Japanese culture.
1.Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony (Oct 5-6 | Oct 19-20)
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. 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 to introduce visitors to traditional Japanese culture—ikebana (flower arrangement), craft workshops, musical performances, and more.
Dates and venues
When: Oct 5–6 | 9:50 am–4:30 pm (reception from 9:30 am-3:20 pm)
Where: Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
Access: Musashi-Koganei or Hana-Kogaenei Station, then a bus ride to Koganei-koen Nishi-guchi)
When:Oct 19–20 | 9:30 am–5 pm (reception from 9:30 am–3:30 pm)
Where: Hamarikyu Gardens
Access: Shiodome Station
¥300 per tea ceremony | ¥700 for tea gathering | free for traditional Japanese performances
2. Ikebukuro Fukuro Matsuri/Tokyo Yosakoi Contest (Oct 12–13)
We featured the first half of Ikebukuro’s Fukuro Matsuri in our September events guide, so be sure not to miss the exciting, lively second half! 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 pm). Putting aside any rivalries, the teams will enthusiastically dance to the closing song, and bystanders are welcome to join in too.
3. Various Halloween events (throughout October)
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. There are events all over Tokyo: Kagurazaka, Roppongi, Omotesando, Ikebukuro, Kawasaki and, of course, Shibuya (where the largest Halloween street party is held). And you don’t have to worry about not being in Japan on the big day itself (Thursday in 2019), 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!
4. Kawagoe Festival (Oct 19–20)
Kawagoe is affectionately nicknamed “Little Edo” because some of its streets still resemble those of the Edo period. The town is located in Saitama Prefecture, so not technically a Tokyo event, but it’s just 30 minutes away from Tokyo’s 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. Stick around into the evening as that’s when things become even rowdier and livelier—with 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 as early as possible. If you arrive in the evening just for the lit-up floats, you might not be able to enjoy the festival that much due to the huge crowd.
5. Tokyo Ramen Show (Oct 24–Nov 4)
As the name implies, the Tokyo Ramen Show is where you’ll want to be at if you love ramen. You’ll find well-loved ramen from all over Japan—all for less than ¥900 a bowl. Admission is free, but until September 30, you can buy a ramen ticket from 7-11’s ticket machines in advance for ¥864. (Note that convenience-store ticket machines might not have information in English.) On site, a ramen ticket costs ¥880.
There will also be some event-exclusive ramen dishes, as well as a contest for Japan’s best ramen. Not to mention, you’ll be eating for a good cause as proceeds from the event will go to disaster relief efforts.
There are certain times in the year that can make your visit to Tokyo less than idea.