1. Kameido Tenjin Plum Festival
    Photo: Koro/PixtaKameido Tenjin Plum Festival
  2. Some no Komichi traditional dyeing festival
    Photo: Greco/PixtaSome no Komichi traditional dyeing festival
  3. ゴッホ アライブ東京展
    Photo: Grande Experiences/RB Create

The best things to do in Tokyo this weekend

Time Out Tokyo editors pick the best events, exhibitions and festivals in the city this weekend

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Want to make your weekend an exciting one? We've compiled a list of the best events, festivals, art exhibitions and places to check out in Tokyo for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

While the holidays are long gone, the city is still filled with many stunning illuminations. You can also make the most of the season by checking out the best parks and shrines for winter sakura and plum blossoms.

If that wasn't enough, you can also stop by one of Tokyo's regular markets, like the weekly UNU Farmer's Market near Shibuya.

Read on to find more great things to do in Tokyo this weekend.

Note: Do check the event and venue websites for the latest updates.

Our top picks this weekend

  • Things to do
  • Ochiai

The neighbourhoods of Ochiai and Nakai are famous for their traditional dyeing industries that date back to the Edo period (1603-1868). The annual Some no Komichi festival takes place in Nakai, which is affectionately known as the ‘Town of Dyeing’, where over 300 related businesses flourished between the early Showa era (1926–1989) and the 1930s. These days, the area is still home to a few skilled craftsmen, who work tirelessly to preserve the traditional dyeing techniques.

For this celebration, dozens of colourful fabrics are strung across the Myoshoji River while you’ll find plenty of noren (traditional shop curtains) being displayed along the local shotengai (shopping street). You can also participate in workshops and watch demonstrations held at the local primary school from 11am to 4pm on February 24 and 25.

For a deeper insight into the different dyeing techniques, sign up for the free guided tours. Check the festival website for the latest information.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Harajuku

Succulent crab legs, salmon roe rice bowls and uni (sea urchin) croquettes are just some of the mouthwatering bites you’ll find at the Sakana & Japan Festival. Happening from February 22 to 25, this four-day event at Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo’s largest seafood festivals, where you can feast on fish, crustaceans and the like to your heart’s content.

There’s going to be around 80 stalls offering hot dishes like scallop gratin, spicy seafood hotpot and niboshi (seafood broth) ramen to keep you going on a cold winter day. You’ll also find interesting dishes such as stewed uni and black truffle beef sandwich and shirasu (whitebait) pizza, which will definitely appease serious foodies. Whatever your choice, you can always wash it all down with sake or beer.

This year’s festival is bringing in desserts from Fukushima, including a decadent fruit parfait layered with three kinds of kiwi, cheesecake and panna cotta. There’s also a sumptuous mont blanc made with fresh chestnut paste, vanilla ice cream and a hint of passion fruit. 

Entry to the festival is free. You can pay for meals with cash or e-payment options including Suica, Pasmo, ID, and PayPay.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Umegaoka

Setagaya's Hanegi Park is home to over 600 plum blossom trees. These small, pink flowers bloom when the weather starts to warm up and Hanegi Park celebrates with a month-long festival.

The Setagaya Plum Festival (or Setagaya Ume Matsuri) celebrates the flowering season with events like mochi pounding, tea ceremonies and traditional music performances. Most of these events take place on weekends and holidays. You'll find the event schedule here (in Japanese only).

While you're there, stop by the on-site food stalls for a plum-flavoured treat like sweet mochi daifuku or sour umeboshi. 

  • Things to do
  • Yushima

A popular place for plum blossom fans since olden times, Yushima Tenmangu shrine still draws crowds every year. The plum blossoms might get less hype than the cherry blossoms that follow, but they still make for some gorgeous late-winter scenery.

This year marks the 67th run of the Yushima Tenjin Ume Matsuri. The annual festival is one of Tokyo's most popular late-winter events, and it takes place for a month from February 8 until March 8. The shinto shrine is home to about 300 plum trees, and most of them are around 70 to 80 years old. Approximately 80 percent of them produces white plum blossoms. 

On weekends and holidays – February 10-12, 17-18, 23-25, March 3 – you can look forward to events such as live shamisen (Japanese lute) and taiko drumming as well as flamenco and belly dancing performances.

You’ll also find a number of stalls selling souvenirs from Bunkyo ward as well as local products from Kumamoto (February 10-12), Aomori (Feb 17-18), Shimane and Ishikawa (February 24-25), and Fukushima (March 2-3).

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Samurai Fes
  • Things to do
  • Ueno

Get up close and personal with Japan’s ancient military force: this large-scale festival in Ueno Park revolves around all things samurai. The four-day festival will have a host of performances including sword fights and showdowns between ‘warlords’, as well as plenty of dancing and singing.

Takoyaki, yakiniku, light snacks and beer will be available, in addition to samurai-themed goods at various stalls. You’ll also have an opportunity to try on samurai gear, and see if the traditional armour stirs the warrior within you.

  • Things to do
  • Shibuya

Held every second and fourth Sunday of the month, this antique market gathers around 70 vendors outside Shibuya Garden Tower. You’ll find all sorts of antiques and vintage handicrafts, jewellery, art, home goods, clothing, plants and organic food from all over the world. The market also features a few food and drink stalls, perfect for when you want a breather from all the shopping.

Note that the market will be cancelled in the case of rain.

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  • Things to do
  • Chinatown

Don’t feel discouraged if you haven’t been sticking to your 2023 resolutions. According to the lunar calendar, we still have a few more days before we officially enter the 2024 new year, which begins on February 10. If you want to celebrate the year of the dragon in Japan, there are few better places to visit than Yokohama Chinatown, which has observed Chinese Spring Festival traditions since 1986.

This year’s programme will kick off on the evening of February 9 with a midnight countdown at Yamashitacho Park. The festivities run through February 24, featuring a host of performances, food pop-ups and lantern displays. Here are the highlights to look forward to.

February 11 (Sun), 12 (Mon), 17 (Sat) and 18 (Sun), 1pm-5pm: a showcase of acrobatics, lion and dragon dances, martial arts demonstrations and other spectacles will take to the stage at Yamashitacho Park. Everyone is welcome to catch the performances for free, but you should purchase tickets online in advance for the best seats.

February 23 (Fri), 3.30pm: the Shukumai-yuko procession will begin at Yamashitacho Park, where a dazzling ensemble of lion dancers, rickshaws carrying people dressed as famous Chinese emperors, and other performing artists parade through Kanteibyo Street, Fukken Road, Nishimon Street and Minami-mon Silk Road. The procession will finish back at Yamashitwacho Park.

February 24 (Sat), 5.30pm-7pm: more lion dances will take place during a lantern festival at Masobyo Temple. Get there early if you want to score a free paper lantern (while supplies last) from the ChinaTown80 information centre, and write your new year wish on it.

See the event’s official website to see the full programme.

  • Art
  • Tennozu

Another immersive Van Gogh exhibition has made its way to Tokyo, with floor-to-ceiling projections to simulate the experience of walking into the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter’s greatest masterpieces. Titled ‘Van Gogh Alive’, this immersive digital exhibition is produced by Australian company Grande Experiences and has toured 99 cities worldwide, including Nagoya in 2022 and Kobe in 2023, before it opened in Tokyo in January this year.

On now through March 31 at the Terada Warehouse, the showcase uses up to 40 high-definition projectors and features over 3,000 visuals of Van Gogh’s art. Key pieces like ‘Sunflowers’ (1887) and ‘The Starry Night’ (1889) are vividly brought to life with the accompaniment of classical music, transporting you from Tokyo to Van Gogh’s favourite haunts in cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Arles.

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  • Things to do

The winter-blooming plum – or ume – flowers may not be as spectacular as cherry blossoms, which bloom about a month later and are the symbol of spring in Japan. But the white and pink ume blossoms are still a sight to behold. And they are beloved for their pleasant fragrance that fills the air from early February to mid-March.

Plum trees can, of course, be found all over the city, but the parks, shrines, temples and gardens listed here rank among the top ume-viewing spots, many of which have been popular since the 1600s. Some of these Tokyo attractions are even celebrating the occasion with dedicated plum blossom festivals filled with street food stalls and Japanese cultural performances

  • Art
  • Waseda

Famous worldwide for her polka dot-covered pumpkins and sense-scrambling infinity rooms, Yayoi Kusama has also spent her lengthy career working with colour palettes more advanced than the simple two-tone schemes of her 2D and 3D-rendered fruits. This exhibition, at the artist’s dedicated Tokyo museum, traces in detail the evolution of Kusama’s distinctive colour expression from the late 1940s through to the present decade.

Darkly surreal hues are evident in the earliest work featured here, but following her relocation to the US in 1957, Kusama replaced these with more austere colour schemes as she intently pursued a sense of self-obliteration. This practice in turn evolved by the 1970s – when the artist returned to Japan – into a richly poetic use of colour, as seen in the painting 'Summer Comes to a Hat' (1979) whose hues emit a neon-like glow.

The '80s and '90s then saw Kusama employ colour so intense that it could induce dizziness, aligning in spirit with the disorientation created by her infinity rooms. Some more recent pieces, such as 2021’s poignant 'Every Day I Pray for Love' included here, combine in a single work the above-mentioned extremes of vividness and darkness, in what might be the culmination of a life similarly coloured by both spectacular success and deep despair.

Note that tickets are not available at the door; they must be purchased in advance online.

Text by Darren Gore.

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  • Museums
  • Meguro

If the female offspring of a household are its princesses, then Japanese families celebrate this splendidly with the Hina Matsuri festival. The event, held annual on March 3, involves the setting up in the home of an elaborate set of dolls representing a Heian-era (794-1185) emperor and empress and their subordinates. The event is a time to pray for the happiness and prosperity of a family’s daughter(s), and dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868).

This Hyakudan Hina Matsuri exhibition, held for the first time in four years, is an opportunity to experience the charm of these dolls on a level surely larger and grander than in any home. Each room of Hotel Gajoen Tokyo’s Hyakudan Kaidan (‘The Hundred Stairs’; a designated tangible cultural property) showcases Hina dolls in a variety of stirring scenes. These figures range from creations faithful to the elegance of Heian Imperial Court dress, to new interpretations by contemporary artists.

For the duration of this exhibition, the Hyakudan Kaidan will also feature traditional early spring decorations, such as temari balls hanging from its ornate ceilings.

Text by Darren Gore

  • Things to do

The days may be getting shorter and colder, but even so, Tokyo doesn't turn into a dark and desolate place at this time of year. In fact, from autumn to winter in the city, millions of colourful LED lights are wrapped around trees and buildings, turning Tokyo into a sparkling wonderland. Illuminations, as they’re usually known here, are big in Japan, but Tokyo’s are some of the biggest and the best.

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  • Things to do
  • Sagamiko

Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest has pulled out all the stops for its winter illumination show with a display featuring over six million LEDs. What’s more, this year there’s an entire area dedicated to Japan's beloved robot-cat, Doraemon.

You can hop on the park’s Rainbow Chairlift and sail over colourful stripes before arriving at the top of a hill to see a series of illumination art walls with the blue character and his friends. Walk further inside and you’ll come across a massive dome of Doraemon’s head, as well as a dome with other characters illuminated in colourful lights. Don’t miss the epic 360-degree illumination show where Doraemon-motif and laser lights synchronise to music for four minutes.

There are also plenty of Doraemon-themed meals and snacks you can munch on while you’re here. Order the Melody Hamburg Curry or the Doraemon Orchestra Plate for a proper meal, or a churro or cup of oshiruko (red bean porridge) for something sweet.

  • Things to do
  • Chiba

Chiba is celebrating the winter with plenty of activities until March 10. The trees at Chiba Central Park will be lit up in iridescent lights during the evening (5pm to 10pm; Dec 31 until 3am). It features Japan’s biggest artificial ice skating rink, with its 400 square-metre ‘ice’ being made out of synthetic materials. It costs ¥1,500 per person (¥900 for primary school students and under) to skate on the rink.

After you’ve enjoyed ice skating and admiring the illumination, check out the lounge by the skating rink to warm up with curry udon, char siu pork bowl or tonjiru (pork and vegetable miso soup). There’s also plenty of beer and cocktails, as well as soft drinks too.  

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  • Things to do
  • Yokohama

Taking place around Yokohama Port, Yokohama Sparkling Twilight lights up not only the city but also the sky above it. It's a stunning sight as the fireworks are set off above the illuminated boats crisscrossing the sea in front of Yamashita Park. 

This time around, there are eight five-minute fireworks displays scheduled from October until next February. Depending on the date, the fireworks are launched at either Osanbashi Pier and/or Shinko Pier. This makes the seaside Yamashita Park an ideal vantage point to catch all the explosive action.

Along with the fireworks, Yokohama is also hosting several fringe events in the city, including World Festa Yokohama, Bay Walk Market, Yokohama Oktoberfest and Yokohama Chinatown's Spring Festival. See the event website for updates.

  • Things to do
  • Machida

Head over to Minami-Machida for this adorable Snoopy-themed ice skating rink at outlet mall Grandberry Park. The rink is part of the shopping centre’s Christmas event and can be found at the Oasis Plaza. There are plenty of illustrations depicting Snoopy and his friends, while the rink is also illuminated in seven different colours in the evening.

Gloves are mandatory when skating here and can be purchased at the venue for ¥300. Beginners can either join a ten-minute ice skating lesson daily for ¥1,000, or a 60-minute lesson from 9.30am on December 24, 26, 28, 30 and January 3, 6, 8, 14, 21 and 28. It’s ¥3,500 per person (skate rental included) and reservations have to be made in advance via phone (070 2831 6634) or directly at the venue.

Skate rental is included in the admission fee of ¥2,000 (high school, junior high and primary school students ¥1,700, preschoolers ¥1,200). Visitors who drop by from 6pm will get a discount and pay only ¥1,500 (high school, junior high and primary school students ¥1,200, preschoolers ¥700).

The rink is open from 1pm to 8pm on weekdays and from 11am to 8pm on weekends and holidays; until 6pm on Dec 31. Note that the rink is closed on Jan 1 and Feb 20.

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  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • Roppongi

This large ice skating rink in Tokyo Midtown’s garden area is surrounded by greenery, but if you go skating in the evening, you'll also get the added scenery of pretty illuminations and a view of the lit-up Tokyo Tower. Wearing gloves is mandatory, so if you want to avoid paying extra for a pair (¥300) sold on site, make sure to bring your own. Good news for beginners: Midtown Ice Rink provides 30-minute ice skating lessons on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for ¥700. Note that the lessons won’t take place on holidays and between December 16 and January 3.

The admission ticket includes skate rental, plus a ¥500 coupon that you can redeem at one of Tokyo Midtown’s many restaurants and cafés for a hot drink or snack. The ice rink will close if temperatures are too warm, so make sure to check the website before heading over.

The ice rink is open daily from 11am-9pm (closed on Jan 1).

  • Art
  • Kichijoji

Marking the release of director Hayao Miyazaki’s new film 'The Boy and the Heron' (also known as 'How do You Live?' in Japanese), the museum dedicated to anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli presents a behind-the-scenes look at the hand-drawn animation that contributes so much to the movie’s charm.

In the production process of 'The Boy and the Heron', virtually all of the drawings used were pencil-drawn onto paper, while backgrounds were hand-painted with poster colours. The result is a production in which the presence of Miyazaki and his team of artists and animators is tangible. At this point in the 21st century, the reality is that even most 'hand-drawn' anime productions involve extensive use of digital tools, making ‘The Boy and the Heron’ something of a rarity.

This special exhibition presents the original drawings used in the film’s production process, revealing that in the form of still frames too, Ghibli’s creations possess expressive power. This showcase is divided into three parts, and will tentatively run through to May 2025: check the Ghibli Museum website for details.

Note: Ghibli Museum tickets are not available at the door. See this feature to learn how to get your tickets in advance.

Text by Darren Gore

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  • Art
  • Ginza

For Ginza Graphic Gallery’s 400th exhibition, the long-standing art space is hosting a retrospective on Japanese graphic artist and art director Yoshirotten. The milestone exhibition showcases Yoshirotten's oeuvre, from his early memories of the landscapes that spurred his interest in graphic design to his more recent endeavors.

The first floor of the exhibition features Yoshirotten's work with logo, typeface, spatial design and video, as well as an interactive RGB machine. There’s more on the basement level that’s filled with 16 digital screens. Here you can explore Yoshirotten's work in various fields ranging from fine art to commercial and digital work.

  • Art
  • Hatsudai

Ryuichi Sakamoto, who passed away in 2023, was one of Japan’s most globally influential musicians and composers. Following early success as a member of 1980s techno pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), Tokyo-born Sakamoto established himself as an ever forward-thinking solo artist with music that ranged from electronic experimentation to soundtracks for major feature films. His most well-known work remains ‘Forbidden Colours’, written for 1983movie ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’ (in which Sakamoto also acted, alongside David Bowie).

As demonstrated by this tribute exhibition, from the dawn of the 1990s Sakamoto’s impulse to innovate led him to increasingly incorporate multimedia technology into his work. Exhibition co-curator Daito Manabe of art/technology collective Rhizomatiks, a close friend of Sakamoto, has created new work for this event that is based upon performance data left behind by the late artist. These creations are complemented here by work from the many Japanese and international artists who enjoyed connections with Sakamoto, and a programme of concerts, film screenings and other events.

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  • Art
  • Kamiyacho

Olafur Eliasson creates work that's truly of our time. This Icelandic-Danish artist wows audiences with large-scale installations that play with perceptions of light, colour and other natural phenomena, while simultaneously focusing attention on environmental issues that increasingly threaten our planet.

This inaugural exhibition of Azabudai Hills Gallery, located within the towering Azabudai Hills development, explores ideas central to the artwork that Eliasson has created for the lobby of Azabudai Hills Mori JP Tower. This installation (which shares its title with the exhibition) consists of four 3D sculptures made up of a complex series of polyhedra. These sculptures, made with recycled metal and suspended in an atrium, depict the twisting trajectory of a single point while alluding to the connection between all of creation at an atomic level.

The exhibition features no fewer than 15 works shown in Japan for the first time, including the stunning ‘Firefly biosphere (falling magma star)’ (2023), which is a geometric sculpture containing intricately refracted light. Another must-see is ‘Your split second house’ (2010), in which strobe-illuminated water droplets travel through a dark, 20m-long space.

Text by Darren Gore

  • Art
  • Pop art
  • Roppongi

Keith Haring (1958-1990) is synonymous with the New York street art scene that, from the early 1980s onwards, he played a key role in instigating. Haring’s belief that art should be for everybody inspired him to begin creating now-iconic works in subway stations and other public sites, while a strong sense of social justice saw him imbue his work with direct, easily understood statements. These included criticism of indifference to the HIV-AIDS crisis that was then claiming lives (including, ultimately, Haring’s own), and affirmations of hope for younger generations.

Through around 150 works, including large-scale pieces spanning up to six metres, this retrospective traces Haring’s journey from the underground scene to global celebrity, while demonstrating how his creativity remained a vibrant form of messaging that continues to resonate today. Unique to this exhibition is a rare look at Haring’s activity in late ’80s Tokyo, and the influence that Eastern thought and calligraphy had upon his work.

Text by Darren Gore

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Ueno

Washoku, as Japanese food is known in its homeland, is globally more popular than ever. Conveyor-belt sushi restaurants are a staple of the world’s cities, while the wider public is discovering the nutritional benefits of many traditional Japanese dishes. The year 2020 saw washoku designated as a Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage, and this recognition is now celebrated (belatedly due to the Covid-19 pandemic) by this fascinating large-scale exhibition.

Across multiple zones featuring interactive installations, replica dishes and much more, the Washoku showcase explores how both nature and culture have over centuries shaped a cuisine that for many visitors is one of Japan’s key attractions.

Highlights include a look at how fermentation, now a buzzword with foodies, was developed as a preservation technique that could also stave off boredom with a limited range of ingredients. The scientific similarity between fermentation and simple rotting away is also explained. Life-sized replicas of Edo period (1603-1868) food stalls, meanwhile, reveal the street food origins of sushi and tempura.

Note: The exhibition is closed on Mondays (expect Dec 25, Jan 8, Feb 12 and Feb 19), Dec 28-Jan 1, Jan 9, and Feb 13.

Text by Darren Gore

  • Art
  • Ryogoku

Dedicated to legendary painter and woodblock print artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), the Sumida Hokusai Museum presents an exhibition that introduces the artist's approach to depicting the human form, via work featuring samurai. The assembled prints demonstrate that even when portraying this formidable warrior class clad in armour, Hokusai had an ability to gracefully express the movement of his subjects. He also put great care into rendering facial expressions.

The samurai aspect of Hokusai’s work forms part of what is known as musha-e, a late-18th century sub-genre of ukiyo-e that focused on samurai and other warriors from both history and mythology. Hokusai’s depictions of the shogun who ruled over the samurai, including Tokugawa Ieyasu, are also featured in this exhibition.

Some of the battle scenes seen here might be said to rival 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa', the artist’s most celebrated creation, for expression of sheer power. As revealed here, however, Hokusai also depicted samurai in their less-discussed but equally fascinating peaceful activities around old Edo (present-day Tokyo).

Text by Darren Gore

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  • Art
  • Kiyosumi

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MOT) has for almost a quarter-of-a-century been holding yearly exhibitions, under the banner of MOT Annual, that showcase diverse aspects of contemporary artistic practice in order to stimulate discussion and inquiry. MOT Annual 2023 takes a timely look at the relationship between the notions of ‘creation’, as manifested through the imaginations and craft of artists, and ‘generation’ brought about by such buzzword technologies as artificial intelligence, NFTS and the metaverse.

Around 50 works, by 11 artists including young ‘digital natives’, encourage visitors to perceive the exciting synergies that can be created between ‘creation’ and ‘generation’, two concepts that like analog vs. digital are usually thought of as opposites. Highlights include highly pixelated paintings created using a tablet app by popular NFT artist Zombie Zoo Keeper (the youngest creator featured; born 2012), and Future Sushi, an installation by Etsuko Ichihara that imagines the culinary delights of a dystopian age.

Note: the exhibition is closed from December 28 2023 to January 1 2024.

Text by Darren Gore

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