shitamachi tanabata matsuri

July and August are The months to enjoy events and festivals in Japan: let’s see 5 top things to do in Tokyo.

Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri (5-9 July 2019)

The Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri is an annual festival held between Asakusa and Ueno around July 7, Tanabata. More precisely, the festival takes place along Kappabashi Dori, one of the most popular commercial streets in Tokyo, stretching for 1.2 km. During the weekend, the street is closed to traffic to allow for Saturday’s parade and Sunday’s live performances.

The most intriguing aspect of the Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri are its super colorful paper streamers that people hang on the road, with Tokyo Skytree in the background. These decorations with a ball (kusudama) on top  were first used in Sendai, right after WWII and have since been a must each year for Tanabata. The main event is the parade (Saturday, about 1pm), but you can enjoy the festival everyday midday-evening.

To know more about the romantic Tanabata festival, check my article here.

Earth Garden Summer Festival (6-7 July 2019)

Developed to promote a sustainable way of living, the Earth Garden at Yoyogi Park will make you reevaluate your approach to nature. The focal point is the market, held four times a year, one per season. You will find plants, kitchen and house ware made with eco-friendly materials and organic products. You can take part in workshops, the kids can play in a designated area, and the whole family can enjoy live performances. Bonus: if you bring your own glass and plate you’ll get a discount at the stalls.

Mitama Matsuri (13-16 July 2019)

Mitama Matsuri (soul festival) at Yasukuni-jinja celebrates Obon, the festival of lights. The usually very quiet Yasukuni-jinja lights up with 30000 lanterns at 6pm every day during the festival. Initially, Mitama Matsuri was to commemorate those that had died during wars; today, it’s a day to wear yukata and spend the evening outside. If you make a request beforehand, you will be able to light up your own lantern (3000 yen for a small one; 12000 for a big one). Keep in mind that there would be stalls offering refreshments, but not in the style of a typical Japanese festival; alcohol is also prohibited.

Japan Traditional Culture Festa Vol. 10 (18-21 July 2019)

At Ueno Park (near the fountain) you will be able to bite into Japanese traditional culture, not just metaphorically . In fact you will find stalls packed with traditional foods, and enjoy a number of activities. From rickshaw rides, indigo dying, to taiko drummers live performances and so on. This time the main theme of the festival are Japanese ghosts/spirits, yokai. You can have a yokai-themed portrait made, or buy some prints or product.

Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival (27 July – if raining it gets posticipated to the next day)

Unmissable in the list of things to do in Tokyo in July. It’s not summer without fireworks! This festival originated in the XVIII century and soon became a competition among the two most important firework makers. Today’s Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival attracts about 1 million visitors each year. You have different option to watch the fireworks, like buying tickets for events on terraces nearby (or climb up Tokyo SkyTree) or come beforehand and get your perfect spot. Otherwise you may have to queue and won’t be able to see much. The best spots are along the road, at highway intersections or nearby parks. The fireworks will be launched from two different locations – the event starts at 7pm and lasts 90 minutes.


Cover photo: Laika ac from USA [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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