With the arrival of the cherry blossoms, spring finally feels like it's in full swing. From art exhibitions to blossom viewing festivals, there are all kinds of events across the metropolis to get you in the mood for spring.
Sakura in full bloom. © T.Kiya
9 February 2019 - 26 May 2019
Event: Roppongi Crossing 2019: Connexions - Japanese Contemporary Art Here and Now!
Location: Mori Art Museum, (Roppongi)
Time: 10:00am - 10:00pm (Last Admission: 9:30pm）
10:00am - 5:00pm on Tuesdays (Last Admission 4:30pm)
Opening hours extended on 30 April and 25 May
Admission: ¥1800 (Concession rates available)
For the average visitor looking for the best of Japanese and Asian contemporary art in one place, there are few better places than the Mori Art Museum. Located on the 53rd floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi, their well-curated and accessible art exhibitions rarely disappoint. Their current exhibition is the sixth edition of Roppongi Crossing, which they hold every three years as an overview of the Japanese contemporary art scene.
This year’s theme, Connexions, is fairly self-explanatory. Expect close examinations of modern communication, social media, social critiques of increasing political and economic polarization, and the like. It’ll be a thought-provoking afternoon on holiday.
9 February - 7 April 2019
Event: Lineage of Eccentrics: The Miraculous World of Edo Painting
Location: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Time: 9:30am – 5:30pm (Last admission 5:00pm)
Opening hours extended on Fridays 9:30am - 8:00pm (Last admission 7:30pm)
Admission: ¥1600 (Concession rates available)
Closed: Mondays (except 1 April)
The history of Japanese art is as rich and varied as that of any other country, and one of the most underrated group of painters is the “Eccentric” painters of the Edo period. In this definitive exhibition, visitors will enjoy a stunning range of major works by eight non-conformist painters of that time, including Ito Jakuchu, Nagasawa Rotetsu, and Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Think imagery along the lines of bizarre, fun, grotesque, and wildly imaginative. It’s sure to appeal to contemporary aesthetic sensibilities, and just good fun all around.
8 March - 7 April 2019
Event: Tokyo Art Book Fair: Ginza Edition at Ginza Sony Park
Location: Ginza Sony Park
Time: 10:00am – 8:00pm
Admission: From ¥4,000
The Ginza Edition of the Tokyo Art Book fair is a small-scale, month-long series of events. We say small-scale only in a comparative sense: the full-blown Art Book Fair - held in July this year - is a veritable visual and literary feast of rather epic proportions that brings publishers, artists, and galleries from all around the world to the city. Still, the Ginza event isn’t too shabby at all - it’s aimed at connecting the audience directly with the makers, so you’ll get to meet and interact with the people and artisans making those zines and books you love. Plus, there are even some workshops to try out. If you love books and art, checking this out is a no-brainer.
Illuminated sakura at Rikugien © Zengame
21 March - 3 April 2019
Event: Rikugien Cherry Blossom Lightup 2019
Time: Sundown - 9:00pm (Last Admission: 8:30pm)
Around late March to early April, everyone can enjoy one of Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape gardens after dark. Rikugien’s annual celebrations mean the return of the spring illuminations, when the park and its cherry trees will be lit up when evening falls. Bring your friends after work and enjoy some matcha and Japanese sweets at the teahouse (last orders are at around 7:30pm). You’re sure to have a magical hanami party here.
12 March - 19 May 2018
Event: Cherry Blossom Viewing at the Tokyo National Museum
Location: Tokyo National Museum
Time: 9:30am - 5:00pm (Last Admission 4:30pm)
Opening hours extended on Fridays and Saturdays, until 9:00pm; and on 30 April and 3 May until 6:00pm
Admission: Various depending on events. See official website.
Come spring each year, the Tokyo National Museum opens its garden to the public. Located behind the main building, the Museum Garden is home to five historic teahouses, not to mention around 10 varieties of gorgeous cherry trees. When you need a break from the various indoor cherry-themed art exhibitions, step outside into the gardens and enjoy the fresh air and vibrant spring greens. Check out the official website for the full list of lectures, concerts, and other events organised in tandem with the cherry blossoms.
14 March - 9 June 2019
Event: Parabola of Pre-Raphaelitism
Location: Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum
Time: 10:00am - 6:00pm (Last Admission: 5:30pm)
Opening hours extended on Fridays to 9:00pm
There’s more to this exhibition than a slightly odd, abstract title. The Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum has a fabulous exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelites, a secret society of young painters, poets, and art critics. Considered avant-garde for their time, their works were highly emotive and evocative. Lovers of this style of art will enjoy the depth and breadth of the works on display. There are approximately 150 works including oils, watercolours, drawings, tapestries, and stained glass. Unmissable.
Sakura season boating at Chidorigafuchi Moat. © shuzo serikawa
19 March - 7 April 2019
Event: Spring Festival in The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Location: National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Time: 10:00am -5:00pm
Cherry blossoms are a beloved motif in Japanese art. In spring, not only can you appreciate scads of real sakura outdoors, you can enjoy artworks of them too. Head to the National Museum of Modern Art for a collection of masterpieces featuring – you guessed it – cherry blossoms. Spring is truly here!
The museum is conveniently located for those visiting the Imperial Palace, and a must-see place particularly in spring when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. You can view Japanese paintings acclaimed as masterpieces along with cherry blossoms, thereby enjoying Japan’s graceful spring.
24 March - 9 April 2019
Event: Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival
Time: All day (Illuminations from 6:00pm - 9:00pm)
Nakameguro Canal is one of Tokyo’s most iconic cherry blossom-viewing spots. In the evening between these dates, vendors set up food stalls along the canal, and between the eating and drinking (pink champagne abounds), it’s altogether a very merry time of the year. Most importantly, the cherry trees lining the canal will be lit up with twinkling lights, alongside charming lanterns with the names of businesses and local people written on them. It’s a most magical sight. Don’t forget to catch the last of the blossoms in early April.
7 April 2019
Billed as the largest outdoor antique market in Japan, the event attracts shoppers from all walks of life. There is quite literally everything and anything old here: Taisho-period glassware, ceramics, rusty coins, gorgeous jewelry, secondhand kimono ranging from dirt cheap to a few hundred dollars… Whether you’re looking for a cheap bargain or a rare gem from the 1880s, you’re sure to find something for your budget. Haggling is best very early in the morning or towards the end of the day, though you can spend the whole day browsing.
The market is closed in case of rain, but this market is held twice a month - and thrice this month. So, if that happens, you can try your luck again on 21 and 28 April.
Azaleas at Nezu Shrine © prelude2000
7 April 2019
Here's another fun reason to visit Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku: there's a small but regular antique fair happening there almost every Sunday. The Hanazono Shrine Blue Sky Antique Fair - which is the full name in Japanese, roughly translated - is not exactly endless sprawl and shopping, since there are only 25~30 stalls maximum at any given time. Smaller items are the focus here, rather than large furniture or statement pieces.
The market runs from sunrise to sunset, though visiting in the morning is best since many stalls tend to close around 3pm. (Come around then for the best bargains.) Check the calendar above before you go. This month, it’s being held on 7, 14, 21, and 28 April. If it rains, expect it not to run.
7 April - 6 May 2019
Event: Bunkyo Tsutsuji Matsuri
Location: Nezu Shrine
Time: time of event (see format in example below)
Flower festivals are a huge visitor draw for shrines and temples, and Nezu Shrine’s Tsutsuji Matsuri or Azalea Festival coincides with the blooming of over 3000 azalea plants in its 300-year old garden. The entry fee is nominal, but gives you access to a large garden of azalea bushes stretching as far as the eye can see, ranging from shades of cream and pink to deepest fuchsia. Have a beverage at the teahouse (open for two weeks between) and various performances throughout the month at the shrine.
The first week of May is the last week to catch the azaleas before this garden is closed to the public again.
8 April 2019
Literally meaning the ‘Flower Festival,’ Hana Matsuri is held on 8 April every year to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. They’ll be serving hydrangea tea to visitors, and you can purchase some limited-edition temple merchandise on this day. The Hana Matsuri isn’t just limited to Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, so if you don’t feel like jostling with the crowds, most Buddhist temples will hold some kind of small celebration or commemoration on this day.
At the UNU Farmer’s Market. © Dick Thomas Johnson
13 - 14 April 2019
Event: Tokyo Coffee Festival
Location: United Nations University, Aoyama
Time: 11:00am - 5:00pm
The Farmer’s Market in front of United Nations University has been running every weekend for years. This weekend, head over to caffeinate yourself at Japan’s biggest coffee event. With over 60 stalls selling anything and everything coffee-related from snacks to accessories to equipment, even if you don』t drink coffee, you might just find yourself converted by the end of it. Stock up on fresh veg from the market while sipping on a cup of joe!
13 April 2019
Event: Asakusa Kannon-ura Ichiyo Sakura Festival
Location: Asakusa Kannon-ura
Time: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Cherry blossoms are an excuse to throw many festivals. The biggest draw at this particular annual festival in Asakusa - besides the gorgeous yaezakura (late-booming cherry trees), flea market, and street food - is the Edo Yoshiwara Oiran Parade. Local residents dress up as Edo-period courtesans and walk through the streets, recreating the geisha processions of old. It’s remarkably elaborate and glamorous. Unsurprisingly, it also attracts throngs of people.
They warn that the festival may be rescheduled to 15 April in case of rain, so check online before heading out.
Wisteria at Kameido Shrine © Zengame
14 April - 6 May 2019
Event: Wisteria Festival
Location: Kameido Tenjin Shrine
Time: All day
Even more alluring than cherry blossoms may be the purple wisteria flowers. If you missed the cherries, late April to early May is a fantastic time to see them. Kameido Tenjin Shrine is a Tokyo favourite for wisteria-viewing, and is popularly billed as one of the best places in the metropolis for these flowers. Clusters of lavender-colored wisteria - planted during the Edo period - dangle from trellises above a tranquil pond filled with koi fish and turtles, creating a gorgeous reflection. Come for the flowers, stay for the festival food.
20 - 21 April 2019
Event: Earth Day Tokyo 2019
Location: Yoyogi Park Events Square
Time: 10:00am – 7:00pm
Sustainability is the name of the game at this event in Yoyogi Park celebrating Earth Day. Expect two days of art, healing vibes, and music, and the chance to find out about eco-friendly companies, environmental NPOs and charities in Japan. Also, vegetarians usually have a tough time eating out in Japan - there are vastly fewer, readily-available options - but at the Earth Day Kitchen Zone, delicious vegetarian (and even vegan!) food choices abounds.
A parade during Tokyo Rainbow Pride. © Lauren Anderson
28 April - 6 May 2019
Same-sex marriage still isn’t legal in Japan, but the LGBTQ community in Tokyo has a rip-roaring Pride festival every year. Tokyo Rainbow Pride runs over Golden Week, and there are more than 60 events around town where you can celebrate with the community, regardless of your own orientation or gender. 28 and 29 April sees a festival in Yoyogi Park. For a full lineup of all the fun, queer events, visit the website.
Bonus: if you’re a Spotify user, have a look at the 2018 Tokyo Rainbow Pride website and you’ll find a fantastic Spotify playlist curated by the organizers, featuring LGBT musical favorites across various genres. Madonna and Michael Jackson songs make appearances.
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Truly Tokyo Google map:
- Open the Tokyo map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online with Klook for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals.
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how.
- It's essential you have travel insurance for Tokyo - we recommend World Nomads