December 2018 events in Tokyo

Plan your December in Tokyo with our events calendar of the best things to do, including illuminations, Christmas markets, concerts and art exhibits
Illumination at Roppongi Hills | Time Out Tokyo
By Time Out Tokyo Editors

December is when Tokyo turns all sparkly – thanks to the illumination shows, of course – while Christmas markets, ice skating rinks and other seasonal favourites also open up across the city. And the holiday cheer only gets louder as we get closer to New Year's, with a mouth-watering menu of parties, markets and other events taking place over those well-earned vacation days.

Our December highlights

Things to do

Bungu Joshi Haku 2018

icon-location-pin Tokyo Ryutsu Center, Heiwajima

Ignore the name, as stationery lovers of all genders can rejoice: this three-day festival is all about paper, pens, notebooks and all other writing supplies. There will be plenty of stalls by stationery brands, including those selling original goods for the festival, plus workshops and more. If you want to hunt for specific items, check the website before heading out to the nearly 4000sqm space.


Setagaya Boroichi

icon-location-pin Boroichi-dori, Kamimachi

Around 700 stalls line the street during the annual Setagaya Boroichi, a venerable flea market that's been going on for more than 430 years now. Held twice a year – on December 15-16, and again on January 15-16 – the event attracts tens of thousands of visitors, making it one of the highlights on Setagaya's yearly calendar. The main area of the market is along Boroichi-dori, a street which centres on the Setagaya Daikan Yashiki, the old, thatched-roof local magistrate’s residence. We’d recommend hopping off the train at Setagaya Station on the Setagaya Line, walking along Boroichi-dori, and then leaving from Kamimachi Station. The Setagaya Line is a light railway, and tickets are bought either when you get on the train or as you enter the platform, so you’ll have a smoother trip if you get the fare ready beforehand (¥150 for adults, ¥80 for children). And if you don't mind the long lines, it's worth sampling one of the market's popular daikan mochi rice cakes – the Boroichi's de facto official food.

Art, Painting

Munch Exhibition

icon-location-pin Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Ueno

This retrospective exhibition celebrates the work of iconic Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, most famous for his masterpiece ‘The Scream’. Munch's work was heavily influenced by Impressionists the likes of Claude Monet and Edouard Manet, and he became a part of the Post-Impressionist movement, which was led by Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne.  Munch did not receive much appreciation for his art in his time, but he was eventually hailed as a pioneer of Expressionism in the world of fine arts. Nearly 100 pieces of his work will be exhibited, including oil paintings and master prints courtesy of the Munch Museum in Oslo. While there are multiple versions of ‘The Scream’, this is the first time the version created with oil paint and tempera is being shown in Japan.  Explore 60-plus years’ worth of paintings depicting deep human emotions such as anxiety and loneliness, as well as stunning natural landscapes of Norway, and works from his final years which feature vibrant, pigmented colours.

Things to do


icon-location-pin Sensoji Temple, Asakusa

The New Year tradition of playing hanetsuki – a badminton-esque game popular among girls during the Edo era – may have all but died out, but that hasn't stopped the wooden paddles used in the sport (known as hagoita) from selling by the bucketload every year. Of course, the decorative pieces sold during the Hagoita-ichi, depicting everything from kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers to contemporary singers and anime characters, are intended to be used as ornaments and lucky charms rather than to hit shuttlecocks. The three-day fair attracts 300,000 people every year and is still a hotbed of Edo tradition, including the curious custom that sees shopkeepers and shoppers clap in unison when another paddle is sold.


The Weeknd

icon-location-pin Makuhari Messe, Makuhari

Canadian Abel Tesfaye landed on the scene in 2011 and never quite left, with songs such as the single ‘Starboy’ to his contribution to the Black Panther soundtrack propelling right up the charts, and multiple tours to follow. Yet Japan was never graced with a performance – until now. Luckily for us, he’s finally heading to Chiba’s Makuhari Messe as part of his Asian tour. Expect frenzied fans bellowing The Weeknd’s distinctive mix of falsetto and sing-speaking; this might just be one for the books.

Things to do

Oji Fox Parade

icon-location-pin Shozoku Inari Shrine, Oji

This annual event sees local residents dress up as foxes and parade from Shozoku Shrine to nearby Oji Inari Shrine for the first prayer of the year (hatsumode). Having also served as the theme for one of ukiyo-e master Ando Hiroshige's pieces, the Fox Parade always gathers a respectable turnout of both participants and onlookers - and there are tasty snacks and drinks available too.