Our January highlights
The Oedo Antique Market, the largest and oldest outdoor market of its kind in Japan, is great for picking up some cool art, unique handicrafts or vintage decorative items. Keep an eye out for real Edo-era treasures hidden among the heaps of merchandise, which range from ceramics and clothing to ukiyo-e prints. You can visit the bazaar at two different locations throughout the month...
Head over to Tokyo Opera City's concert hall and enjoy their monthly lunchtime performance entirely free of charge. This 45-minute recital, which is part of the ‘Visual Organ Concert’ series, usually consists of four pieces. Expect stellar acoustics from the 3,826-pipe organ, which holds pride of place in the pyramid-like space that's all decked out in a stunning oak wood finish...
In Kanagawa's Prefectural gallery, five exhibition rooms are joining forces in a new exhibit that's ambitious both in subject explored and space utilized. Each of the five rooms will display contemporary art installations, the theme of which is 'Truth is in the Air' – art that serves to reveal essential truths that can't be seen by the naked eye but as certainly present all around us...
The annual Furusato Matsuri (‘Hometown Festival’) is a chance for the residents of Japan’s other prefectures to dazzle Tokyoites with their region’s unique culture – and, of course, its food. After you’ve sampled enough specialities at the food stalls, sit back and watch recreations of up to 20 popular regional festivals including Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri and the Akita Kanto Matsuri, or cheer on your favourite at the costume character dance contest.
This long-running textile fair happens every spring and summer – but this year, they’re debuting an inaugural winter fair. At ‘Sunny Winter Weave’, you can browse through a vast selection of seasonal fabric and knit goods from January 18 to 20. The following week, the fair will go back to its roots, with the ‘Waiting for Spring’ fair running from January 25 to 27. Here you’ll find more accessories, textiles and interiors goods for sale.
Honouring Daikoku, the deity of fortune, this annual January celebration at Kanda Shrine attracts revellers looking to secure a helping of good luck for the year ahead, and also includes a few interesting 'performances'. The hocho-shiki ritual (from noon on January 27) sees a master of the cutting arts demonstrate some serious kitchen knife moves in chopping up fish...
Sure, snuggling up underneath your kotatsu with a roasted sweet potato is pretty damn comfy, but the real way forward is to eat it outdoors, handed to you steaming from a cart – and this week-long event in Shinagawa lets you do exactly that. The size of the festival area is huge, so there will be plenty of stands covering sweet potato types you wouldn't usually be able to eat in Tokyo, plus all sorts of other yaki-imo-flavoured snacks and drinks...
This winter, Shimokitazawa Cage is partnering with Corona to recreate a Finnish bathing experience right here in Tokyo's bohemian hub. From January 19 to March 17, the space will host a Finnish sauna tent plus two cold baths; yes, you read that right – COLD baths in winter. As per Finnish bathing tradition, you're supposed to alternate between the two extreme temperatures and this will, surprisingly, help you deal with the freezing chills. Right next to the sauna area is a line of Asian food stalls, plus plenty of Corona beers for sale...
Espace Louis Vuitton's latest exhibition features work by the late Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto. This installation is quite unique as it encourages guests to interact with it by walking through the space and immersing themselves in both kinetic and optical ways.
Visitors to the Tokyo National Museum can see a demonstration of the reproduction of Katsushika Hokusai's (1760-1849) world-famous woodblock print ‘The Great Wave’. Hokusai may be credited with creating the master drawing of this iconic seascape with Mt Fuji in the background, but the polychrome woodblock print was actually made in collaboration with two other artisans – a carver and a printer. To be held on just two days (Jan 26 and Mar 30), there are two bilingual (English and Japanese) sessions per day, limited to 80 people each. The hour-long session will showcase the final step, which is the printing process. Don't miss this rare chance to witness Japan's traditional printing technique, which has been passed down from one generation to the next through the centuries.
Free events in January
Wood craftsman Eiichi Tanaka teams up with wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionery) artist Shiho Sakamoto to showcase their works of art, where dainty, highly detailed handcrafted sweets will be placed on exquisite lacquerware. The concept of the duo’s exhibition focuses on art pieces that are made for specific purposes other than just being simple home décor items. If you see something you like, the exhibited pieces can be purchased on the spot.
Head over to Tokyo Opera City's concert hall and enjoy their monthly lunchtime performance entirely free of charge. This 45-minute recital, which is part of the ‘Visual Organ Concert’ series, usually consists of four pieces. Expect stellar acoustics from the 3,826-pipe organ, which holds pride of place in the pyramid-like space that's all decked out in a stunning oak wood finish. Since no reservations are required, you can simply arrive around 11:30am and grab a seat in the giant concert hall. Check the calendar on the official website for further details.
Free foot bath in Shibuya Station? We're there – and we have to admit, this is one clever and unique marketing idea for Oranamin C, one of Japan's most popular vitamin drink. The next time you're travelling on the Yamanote line towards Ebisu Station (on weekends and holidays), don't forget to pop into the event space located right on the platform and relax your tired feet in the one of the two foot baths, while sipping on a bottle of the said drink. There's a Oranamin C-themed photo wall, too, just in case you feel like sharing the deets on your Instagram.
Honouring Daikoku, the deity of fortune, this annual January celebration at Kanda Shrine attracts revellers looking to secure a helping of good luck for the year ahead, and also includes a few interesting 'performances'. The hocho-shiki ritual (from noon on January 27) sees a master of the cutting arts demonstrate some serious kitchen knife moves in chopping up fish, while a pre-Coming of Age classic features fresh adults soaked in cold water (January 26, from 10am). Old-school festival music accompanies the action.
Want to dive deeper into Japanese culture? This dance workshop is the perfect place to start, where you'll be fitted in a yukata and taught how to dance Nihon buyo, a traditional kind of dance that has a history of nearly 400 years. The workshop is free and takes place at the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center every Sunday, excluding some specific dates during other holidays.
Believe it or not, you can actually get a pretty good view of the starry night sky from certain areas around Tokyo. When the sky is clear, head on out to Mitaka and join a Stargazing Party with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). Learn more about the night sky at these 'parties' which happen on a regular schedule roughly every two weeks. To sign-up, visit their online calendar which shares information on what particular planet or star they will be focusing on (do note that registration for each session starts about a week and a half before the event date). The session usually starts off with an orientation followed by a look out of a 50cm teloscope where you can get a better look at the constellations and planets visible. Finally, you'll get to practice your stargazing with smaller telescopes provided at your own leisure.
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.