When you're spending time in a city as big as Tokyo, it's never too early to start planning for the week ahead. You can pack a lot of living into seven days, whether you're someone who likes to spend an afternoon at the museum or prefers to stay out late clubbing. We've sifted through hundreds of listings to weed out a handful of the week's best events, gigs, festivals and things to do.
The best things to do this week
A Hong Kong-born photographer and montage artist, Wing Chan grew up in the shadows of the old Kowloon Walled City, worked at a noodle factory from age six and eventually became an award-winning commercial designer. Chan turns the chaos of urban life into harmonious images by employing the technique of photomontages – a selection of which will be on display at Ginza's Gallery Kanon.
Specialising in traditional Japanese art – from calligraphy works and letters to paintings – Kyobashi's Kashima Arts gallery has been making a name for itself with these biannual art markets. Held every spring and autumn, their Bisai now returns for its first 2017 edition and will again help introduce Tokyoites to lesser-known pieces that date back all the way to the Edo era.
Look back at the roller coaster ride of a career enjoyed by cult filmmaker Seijun Suzuki, who passed away in February at the age of 93, with this retrospective that focuses particularly on the Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill director's early- and mid-career productions.
Now here's a Golden Week food event for every carnivore out there: the nationally popular Nikufes once again heads back to Odaiba, where 26 restaurants from both Tokyo and further afield gather for ten days of meaty madness, serving up their juiciest delicacies at reasonable prices. Complementing all the meat-chewing are craft beers, non-meat snacks and decadent desserts.
It's been a good 28 years since the World Bonsai Convention last visited Japan. First held in 1989 in Saitama, arguably the birthplace of bonsai, it takes place once every four years and has travelled as far as the US, South Korea and Germany for past editions. But it's returning to its roots this time, and sure looks appetising for mini-tree enthusiasts.
A master of the abstract and avant-garde, painter Genichiro Inokuma spent around 20 years in New York during the ’50s and ’60s. Shot during that time and now assembled in 'Walls in NYC', a new photo book, Inokuma's photographs of the Big Apple's graffiti- and poster-covered walls are the focus of this display at the artsy Utrecht bookstore.
The halls, shops and surrounds of Ochanomizu's Waterras development will echo with groovy tunes during this three-day celebration of jazz, which coincides with the Unesco-certified International Jazz Day. Stop by to catch the Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Orchestra, Meiji University's Big Sounds Society Orchestra and many other performers – all for free.
Representing over 170,000 artists, from established names to amateurs, Japan's largest handicraft market deals in everything from bags and clothing to chopsticks and sweets, and now returns for its annual mega-bash. The Minne Handmade Market will see over 1,800 booths set up, so finding something you like is pretty much guaranteed.
Unleash your inner gardener or just sit down for some coffee and a scone under the flowers at Ebisu's Garden Place, where this plant-focused celebration takes over in preparation for Golden Week. In addition to a plentiful selection of food trucks, you can look forward to a wide range of sustainability- and gardening-themed workshops.
That's it, the warm season is officially here: aiming to recreate a 'little piece of Ibiza' in Tokyo, this fun and family-friendly seaside music happening returns to Yumenoshima Marina out in Shin-Kiba for its first 2017 edition. Resident 'Sunset Music Navigator' Calm will be joined by British-born, Tokyo-based hybrid dance purveyor Ian O'Brien on the day.
Japan's first all-outdoor film festival has been held out in the forests of Yamanashi on two consecutive summers now, but the organisers are turning up the heat further with this Golden Week special. Take a break from the city and watch movies under the night sky – every day will see a different programme composed of everything from short films to full-length features.
The 'hundred-step staircase' (Hyakudan Kaidan) pavilion at Meguro's Gajoen, a Registered Tangible Cultural Asset of Japan, highlights uber-cute cat art over Golden Week for no particular reason – not that you need one to display pieces as purry as these. Get ready to snap some selfies with your artsy feline friends.
An integral part of legendary Bristol jungle/D&B label and collective Full Cycle together with Roni Size, Krust and Suv, DJ Die remains a fiercely innovative and exciting musician – more than two decades after the zenith of the Bristol sound. Catch him in Shibuya over a very long Friday night.
Held all across Germany to celebrate the coming of spring, Frühlingsfest is also a familiar feature on Yokohama's Golden Week calendar. There's always plenty of fun stuff to look forward to for kids, with this year's edition featuring gorgeous, antique-style wooden merry-go-rounds and more modern pirate ships in which to place the young 'uns.
One of Japan's most in-demand photographers right now, veteran snapper Kishin Shinoyama’s display at Shibuya's Atsukobarouh gallery certainly has an interesting theme. Known for his celebrity portraits and nudes, Shinoyama has turned his camera to lifeless beauty this time, shooting almost disturbingly expressive portraits of Japan's high-end 'love dolls'.
With Ultra Japan now an annual – and wildly popular – highlight for the neon-and-frills crowd, new entrant Electric Daisy Carnival is trying to entice the capital’s party people with a lineup that includes EDM megastars like Armin Van Buuren, Afrojack, Martin Garrix and Zedd, plus good ol' Norman Cook, better known as Fatboy Slim. Check it out at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium and Makuhari Beach Park over the weekend.
With temperatures likely to hit summery heights during Golden Week, you can never have enough options when it comes to ice-cold boozy drinks. Adding to the city's already significant output in that department is beverage giant Kirin, which is opening this pop-up bar at Daikanyama's T-Site. With drinks going for a wallet-friendly ¥100, we expect to spend quite a while here mixing, matching and imbibing.
Marking the Unesco-certified International Jazz Day, record store Jazzy Sport's Shimokitazawa outpost hosts this pop-up photo exhibition showcasing shots from the ongoing Tokyo Jazz Joints project. There's a tiny bar at the entrance, so you can combine sipping and appraising after work.
The best free things to do this week
Tsukiji gallery Fugensha is highlighting the unique work of amateur photographer Sakae Ishida, who recently released his first photobook – at the age of 90, no less. Consisting of monochrome images taken in Ishida's native Kochi prefecture around the year 1955, 'Work is Life' is a fascinating look at the daily lives of local miners and farmers in early postwar Japan. Around 30 silver gelatine prints will be on display, while the photographer himself will be giving a talk on April 14 (from 7pm, ¥2,000, bookings here).
Since 1967, the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs has been helping ship promising artists overseas to spend some quality time with masters of their respective disciplines. In the late '90s, the agency presumably realised that the public might be interested in the fruits of these activities, and so the annual 'Domani' exhibition was born. A recent feature participant in this highly regarded show, the Yamagata-based Tomiyuki Kaneko now shows off his hypnotic ink drawings at the Mizuma Gallery. Themed on the Japanese dragon deity Kuraokami, who is said to govern over water, the pieces draw on local folklore and spiritualism, and will be displayed alongside production notes and other related materials.
Creative group Rhizomatiks – best known for their work on the stage productions of J-poppers Perfume – will be showing off their accomplishments at this tenth-anniversary exhibition. This group of multimedia creatives and engineers have garnered attention around the world for their original production methods and use of cutting-edge technology – including 3D scanning and data visualisation – and split their operation into three sections ('Research', 'Architecture' and 'Design') last year. This display will introduce visitors to their production techniques and provide sneak previews of upcoming Rhizomatiks undertakings.
A master of the abstract and avant-garde, painter Genichiro Inokuma (1902-1993) spent around 20 years in New York during the ’50s and ’60s. Shot during that time and now assembled in 'Walls in NYC', a new photo book released by the Marugame Genichiro Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art in Kagawa prefecture, Inokuma's photographs of the Big Apple's graffiti- and poster-covered walls are the focus of this display at the artsy Utrecht bookstore. Including all 154 pictures in the series, the exhibition makes for an interesting look into a time when New York's cityscape was far less polished and orderly than it is today.
The halls, shops and surrounds of Ochanomizu's Waterras development will echo with groovy tunes during this three-day celebration of jazz, which coincides with the Unesco-certified International Jazz Day. Stop by to catch the Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Orchestra, Meiji University's Big Sounds Society Orchestra and many other performers – all gigs are free to attend, while the event also includes a market, street performances and plentiful fun for the young 'uns.
A Hong Kong-born photographer and montage artist now based partially in New York, Wing Chan grew up in the shadows of the old Kowloon Walled City, worked at a noodle factory from age six and eventually became an award-winning commercial designer after studies in the US. Having returned to his native city in 2011, Chan turns the chaos of urban life into harmonious images by employing the technique of photomontages – a selection of which will be on display at Ginza's Gallery Kanon, one of the many artsy spaces housed inside the always fascinating Okuno Building. An opening reception will take place from 5pm on April 20.
Marking the Unesco-certified International Jazz Day, record store Jazzy Sport's Shimokitazawa outpost hosts this pop-up photo exhibition showcasing shots from the ongoing Tokyo Jazz Joints project. There's a tiny bar at the entrance, so you can combine sipping and appraising after work – the venue stays open until 11pm. Check out some of Tokyo's best jazz joints here
The ancient Okunitama Shrine out in Fuchu is said to have been founded in the year 111, and the annual Kurayami Matsuri is its most notable event. Translating as 'darkness festival', the festivities go on for a week, with float parades, performances and plenty of family-friendly fun taking place on each day from April 30. The highlight comes on the evening of May 5, when eight mikoshi shrines are carried through the grounds to the beat of huge taiko drums, followed by a spectacular yabusame (horseback archery) demonstration.
Odaiba's annual tribute to the Aloha State returns to VenusFort under the theme 'Mahalo'. The festival will see a packed lineup of artists performing Hawaiian music, while the popular hula and Tahitian dance performances will also be making a comeback. Shoppers will want to check out the Hawaiian market and food stall lineup, while those looking for a more educational experience can take part in one of the ukulele workshops. If your idea of a 'tropical' day in Tokyo involves strolling around a shopping mall with a Kona beer and some garlic shrimp in hand, this party will tick all the boxes.
Neighbouring Vietnam, Thailand and Laos all have their annual and well-attended Yoyogi Park festivals, but Cambodia is now also making a run for the prize: the kingdom brings back its own celebration for the third year in a row, featuring performances of traditional dance and rather more modern pop, plus plenty of local food, drink and handicrafts.