There seems to be a fascination in Japan with winter markets, and in particular German-style Christmas markets. If you too like your holiday season with a bit of European flair, are searching for that special handmade ornament, or just want to drink some hot wine, read on for a round-up of some of the happenings in and around Tokyo.
Tokyo Christmas Market
Access: Hibiya Station
With a name like that, you’d expect it to be the Christmas market to beat all other Christmas markets, and it looks like it’s shaping up to be just that, seeing as it has the backing of the German Tourism Association and the German Embassy.
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Taking place from 11:00am-10:00 pm from December 16-25 at the fountain plaza of Hibiya Park, it is mostly a market for European food and alcohol, but there are also a few booths selling decor. Details are sparse as of this writing (November 2016), but crafters can most likely expect workshops (such as ornament making) this year as well. The full list of stage events has yet to be announced, but it’s been confirmed that this year’s highlight will be a choir visiting all the way from Germany.
Soramachi (Sky Town) Christmas Market
Access: Oshiage Station
At the Skytree, the market is called “Soramachi (Sky Town) Christmas Market” as part of their Tokyo Sky Tree Town Dream Christmas. The market, which already started on November 10th (talk about early!) and will run until the 25th, is held at the Sky Arena on the fourth floor of Soramachi, and is open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Shop for Christmas kitsch while surrounded by illuminations: they boast that the market is bigger than last year’s, with the garden on the fourth floor all lit up for winter from November 10th to December 4th, as well as an illumination show four times an hour from November 10th to December 25th. Even the Sky Tree itself will be lit up in festive Christmas colors from 4:30 pm-10:00 pm from November 10th to December 25th.
Meanwhile, at the market, look out for German ornaments and decorations, lights, hot wine, stollen, premium beer, and sausage. Additionally, from December 10-25, every 30 minutes from 5:30 pm onward, there will also be a projection mapping show for you to enjoy. Even if you don’t have any dosh to spend on imported trinkets, you can soak up the festive atmosphere and maybe spring for some spiced grog to keep warm.
Roppongi Hills Christmas Market
Access: Roppongi Station
The Roppongi Hills Christmas Market (November 26-December 25) is also good for a gander. Like the one at Soramachi, this one is German-themed, too, and its organizers promise that you can find over 1,000 items here. You can get Christmas ornaments imported from Germany, as well as some Advent calendars and handmade trinkets.
For your stomach, there’s more wine and sausage, along with goulash, fruitcake, and soft pretzels (might be worth a go just for this); drinks and pastries are sold starting from a few hundred yen.
Related to this Christmas market is the Christmas Tree Shop on Hillside, the first floor of Roppongi Hills. Also going on for the same duration as the Christmas market, this is where you can buy wreaths, poinsettias, and of course, trees. The trees start at 1,500 yen for a miniature-sized one.
And don’t forget to check out the illuminations! The Christmas market and tree shop are but a part of Roppongi Hills’ Christmas celebrations, with 2016’s theme being dubbed as Artelligent Christmas. Other highlights of Artelligent Christmas are illuminations around Roppongi Hills and Keyaki-zaka (the lovely tree-lined street nearby), a Christmas chorale, and – for booze-lovers – Whisky Hills Lounge in Hills Cafe/Space and various spots around Roppongi Hills, where you can sample different whiskies from all over the world as you enjoy the Christmas spirit.
World Christmas Festival
Access: Harajuku or Meiji-jingumae Station
From December 24th-25th (11:00 am-6:00 pm), the World Christmas Festival will be held at the events square in Yoyogi Park. Like most Yoyogi Park events, it will feature food booths, music performances, and a flea market, though it is doubtful that the ambiance will be like that of a German Christmas market.
Access: Setagaya or Kamimachi Station
The Setagaya Boroichi—boroichi literally means rag market—is not specifically for Christmas; rather, it’s a winter and New Year event. Still, if you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping at a bargain, and maybe give your non-Japanese friends some unique Japanese antiques, you might want to head on over to this over-400-year-old flea market.
Being held since the 1570s, this market was, historically, a place where farm implements, as well as rags for mending and reinforcing clothes, were sold. In contemporary times, the market has become known for antique farm tools, beautiful antiques, New Year decor, used clothes, toys, and food—in particular, Daikan-mochi rice cakes are the signature food of this event.
Held on Boro Street, between Setagaya and Kamimachi Stations, the market is open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm on December 15 and 16. If you miss this one, there will be another one early next year, from January 15 to 16. The event dates are fixed, so if you miss these two markets, you know when to check them out the next time around.
Yokohama Akarenga (Red Brick Warehouse) Christmas Market
Access: Bashamichi Station
This may not be in Tokyo, but Yokohama is just 60-90 minutes away, and it sure is picturesque. The Christmas Market in Yokohama Akarenga will be held from November 26th-December 25th—from 11:00 am-10:00 pm (until 11:00 pm from the 19th-25th)—at Akarenga Soko (the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse), which consists of some handsome old buildings at the edge of the bay.
Here you’ll find wooden stalls, a Christmas tree with classic lights and decorations (which will be lit up from 4:00 pm until closing), Christmas cake, baumkuchen (the circular spit cake that, for some reason, seems popular in Japan), more hot wine and stollen, premium beer, and yes—sausage. The market will also feature crafts workshops and meet-and-greet sessions with Santa Claus on certain dates. Plus, while not part of the Christmas Market, there’s also an ice rink in the same complex!
While bargains are definitely to be had at Boroichi (and most likely at Yoyogi Park’s Christmas flea market), the others may only have select deals. However, all are free to enter and soak up the atmosphere, and some tasty seasonal snacks can be found on the cheap. If you have a favorite market that we missed, let us know in the comments!
And be sure to check out our guide to winter illuminations in Tokyo.