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    Photo: Joshua Gateley/ESPN ImagesSky Brown competing in Women’s Skateboard Park during X Games Summer 2021.

8 things we’re looking forward to in Japan in 2022

Japan’s first X Games, a soft opening of the Ghibli Park, new additions to Tokyo Disneyland and more

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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Is it just us, or did 2021 end before it even began? Ah well, that means we’re much closer to the grand new openings and other exciting happenings promised for 2022. Some of the biggest projects we’ll list here – like the long-awaited Studio Ghibli theme park – are ones that we’ve been waiting ages for. But even more developments are likely to be announced at the beginning of next year, so don’t be surprised if you see even more venues added to this list once 2022 gets going. 

On top of major annual events we look forward to every year, including Roppongi Art Night and the international photography festival Kyotographie, here are the things coming in 2022 that have us giddy for the new year.

RECOMMENDED: 17 best new openings in Tokyo in 2021

What to look forward to

  • Travel
  • Transport & Travel

All we’ve ever wanted was a theme park dedicated to the world of Studio Ghibli – and now we’re finally getting it. The Ghibli Park, set to open in the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park near Nagoya, is a mammoth undertaking that will feature indoor playgrounds, life-size models of classic characters, shops and even a cinema. Because of all the work involved, the full venue won’t be ready until 2023, but some sections will be ready for a soft opening in autumn of 2022. 

The sections that are set to open next autumn are the Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Large Warehouse, as well as the Dondoko Forest. 

Kyotographie 2022
Photo: Asano Takeshi

Kyotographie 2022

An international photography festival set in some of Kyoto’s most compelling spaces, Kyotographie is set to return to Japan’s former capital next spring for what will be the festival’s tenth anniversary. For this momentous edition of the festival, Kyotographie founders Lucille Reyboz and Yusuke Nakanishi selected the theme of ‘One’ to emphasise the uniqueness of every individual diversifying our collective experience. 

This upcoming festival will look a bit different from previous events, with a special programme dedicated to celebrating ten female Japanese photographers, including the likes of Noriko Hayashi and Momo Okabe. Other pieces to look forward to include the works of renowned photographers such as Irving Penn, Guy Bourdin and Prince Gyasi against the backdrop of venues like Kennin-ji Temple, the Demachi Masugata Shopping Arcade and the Lake Biwa Canal Museum.  

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  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

Thought it would be a while before Japan would host another gripping world sporting event? Guess again. Next April, Japan will be hosting its very first X Games, where the world’s top skateboarders, motocross riders and BMX cyclists compete in a series of fast-paced tournaments.

Though the 2020 Olympic Games took place without any spectators, those who were looking forward to watching the BMX and skateboarding competitions live might just get their chance at the Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba next spring. 

Tickets for the event have yet to go on sale, but we’re crossing our fingers for the return of previous X Games champions including Aori Nishimura, Genki Watanabe, Sakura Yosozumi and Rim Nakamura. 

  • Art
  • Art

Taking place across three seasons in the art islands of Japan next year is the Setouchi Triennale – a large-scale contemporary art festival featuring creators and designers from around the world. The festival was inaugurated in 2010 and has regularly taken place across 15 different islands in the Seto Inland Sea ever since.

The majority of international exhibitions and festivals had to be postponed due to logistical issues over the last two years, but the trajectory of the upcoming triennale looks promising. What’s more, the beginning of the festival next spring will coincide with the opening of a luxurious ryokan along with the unveiling of a new gallery and installations on the island of Naoshima. 

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  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

Gone are the days of curfews and early closing times – Roppongi Art Night is returning next March with more late-night exhibitions. While the after-dark festival usually only lasts one evening of the year, this year Art Night is stretching over the entire weekend of March 18 to 21 2022. There are no details regarding the programme and participating artists at the time of writing, but we’ll definitely keep you updated.

  • Art
  • Art

Most of teamLab’s site-specific exhibitions are available year-round, but this wintertime light-up in Ibaraki is only as long as the plum blossom season. Set to be held in the historical Kairakuen Garden from February 1 to March 31, this outdoor teamLab exhibition is a forest of interactive digital artworks. 

The exhibition takes place in conjunction with the annual Mito Plum Blossom Festival, one of eastern Japan’s biggest events. Garden visitors can picnic beneath the many varieties of plum blossoms and take part in the festival’s events and workshops. Visitors who enter the park before 5pm must re-enter in order to see the teamLab installations from 6pm. 

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Universal Studios Japan’s new Pokémon Parade
Photo: Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan’s new Pokémon Parade

In a surprising but welcome crossover, Universal Studios Japan and The Pokémon Company have announced plans to open a Pokémon theme park within USJ. To celebrate its alliance with Pokémon, Universal Studios Japan will be opening a new parade in spring 2022 featuring Pikachu and other popular characters from the franchise. 

The ‘No Limit! Parade’ will also be the first time appearance of the characters from Super Mario Bros since the opening of the park’s Super Mario World. Expect spectacular floats, dazzling performances and catchy tunes as USJ’s eclectic band of characters grows bigger than ever. 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

While Tokyo Disney Resort was forced to close for a period during the pandemic, both the Disneyland and DisneySea theme parks have unveiled a series of exciting new developments over the past few months. Disneyland unveiled a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ castle and village in the late summer of 2020 and DisneySea is constructing an entirely new area called Fantasy Springs set to open in 2023. 

Something to look forward to in 2022, however, is the Tokyo Disney Resort Toy Story Hotel, set to open on Tuesday April 5. With rooms made to look like Andy’s bedroom from the franchise, guests can put themselves in the shoes of the toys that audiences around the world have grown to love over generations. 

A look back on 2021

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