Free things to do in Tokyo
The famed triple Tori no Ichi markets at Hanazono Shrine get underway with a warm-up festival on the first night of each set of days, while the main event is the following day. There'll be 60-odd stalls selling decorative kumade rakes, said to bring good fortune for business, plus 200 other vendors hawking food and other festival knickknacks. The second festival, known as Ni no Tori, is on November 13, while the last celebration takes place on November 25. Don't miss this annual favourite, the roots of which reach back deep into the Edo era.
Various happenings will be taking place around Mount Takao in November, including kokeshi doll demonstrations and sales of masuzake, the curious boxed beverage (on weekends and holidays). The main attraction is of course the autumn foliage, with the maple trees around the area turning fiery red and yellow. Primary event locations include the Takao Forest Center at the foot of the mountain, Kiyotaki Station and the Ju-Itchome tea house on the hillside. Check out the official website for further details, and consider heading over by train – finding parking here can be a nightmare.
This festival begins as autumn turns the surrounding icho (ginkgo) leaves yellow. Adding to the event’s popularity are temporary stalls selling noted products from different regions of Japan – the food and drink stalls will be set up around the Jingu Gaien softball stadium and training grounds.
This solo exhibition follows Tsuyoshi Tane, an architect who works in Paris at DGT, a firm which he co-founded with Dan Dorell and Lina Ghotmeh. He rose to fame when DGT won the international competition to design the new Estonian National Museum which opened in 2016. Tane is also known for his collaborations with those outside of the architecture world, including conductor Seiji Ozawa. This time, his works will be displayed in two different exhibitions. Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery will play host to ‘Digging & Building’, a set of large-scale installations, while at the architecture-focused TOTOGallery Ma, visitors can follow Tane’s ‘archaeological research’ methodology.
This Shiodome shopping complex always puts a lot of work into its Christmas light-ups, and this year is no exception: for this year, the Caretta Illumination will have a 'Princess Story' theme inspired by Disney and Pixar films like 'Tangled' and 'Frozen'. It's blatantly commercial, sure, but still worth a quick look on a dark winter evening. Just like last year, the illumination display will stay up until Valentine's Day. Also, from November 21st, as they'll have a special light up dedicated to 'The Incredibles' at 5pm each day.
Marunouchi Naka-dori, always one of the most popular Tokyo illumination spots, will be lit up with countless champagne-coloured, extra-low energy LED bulbs this year too, making for a display that's as environmentally friendly as it is stylish. Just strolling down the glittering street, which is lined with fancy boutiques and cafés, makes for a nice post-dinner date option.
One of the top illumination events in Tokyo in terms of scale, and boasting hundreds of thousands of LEDs strung all around the complex, Tokyo Dome City’s light-up has an ‘Edo Elegance Japanese Beauty’ theme this winter inspired by traditional Japanese crafts. You can also look forward to Edo Kiriko transformed into a kaleidoscope, glowing origami cranes and other quirky contraptions, while the restaurants and cafés around the facility offer special candy-themed menus.
An annual wintertime display at Yebisu Garden Place, this one incorporates a Baccarat chandelier that's 5m tall and 3m wide – making it one of the largest chandeliers in the world – and decorated with 250 lights, 230 of which symbolise the number of years from the company’s establishment to the construction of the chandelier in 1994. In total – including lesser displays in areas such as the Entrance Pavilion, Clock Plaza, Promenade, Center Plaza and Glass Square – the venue makes use of almost 100,000 lights. The festivities are kicked off with a lighting ceremony on November 3.
Held every autumn since 2011, Yokohama's Smart Illumination show makes use of the latest in energy-efficient lighting technology to turn the city's waterfront areas into a sea of colour. Workshops and interactive installations complete the lineup, so make sure to head south to Yokohama in late autumn and see this spectacle light up the evening. Note that although the main festival takes place from October 31 to November 4, the illuminations will remain in place until December 31.
KYOTOGRAPHIE is a highly-acclaimed international photography festival held annually in Kyoto and for the first time, it’s organising an offshoot event in Tokyo. For this special Tokyo edition, the most popular works from KYOTOGRAPHIE 2018 (the sixth year of the festival) will be exhibited in Tokyo. Expect sensational works by the late Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase who’s widely known for images depicting his domestic married life; celebrated French graphic designer-photographer Jean-Paul Goude; and contemporary Chinese photographer Liu Colin, who incorporates camouflage tricks into his arresting visuals. Catch the exhibitions at multiple locations, such as Fuji Film Square, Chanel Nexus Hall, and the Institut français du Japon.