Ring in the new year in Tokyo with hatsumode at the nearest shrine, watch flocks of young Japanese in gorgeous furisode for their Coming of Age celebrations, and go paint the town red at any of the January Tokyo events listed below.
Illuminations at Caretta Shiodome. © othree
6 October 2018 - 14 January 2019
Event: Exotic × Modern: French Art Deco and Inspiration From Afar
Location: Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
Time: 10:00am - 6:00pm
Admission: ¥1200 (concession prices available)
Closed: Second and fourth Wednesdays; 28 December 2018 - 4 January 2019.
Inspiration for creating works of art knows no bounds. This exhibition showcases a variety of works across all kinds of media - paintings, sculptures, and fashion - to show just how non-European cultures and arts impacted and influenced the Art Deco movement of inter-war France. We suppose it’s kind of a way of giving credit where it’s due.
6 October 2018 - 20 January 2019
Event: Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum 15th Anniversary Exhibition: Catastrophe and the Power of Art
Location: Mori Art Museum
Time: 10:00am -10:00pm (L.A. 9:30pm), Tues: 10:00am - 5:00pm (L.A. 4:30pm)
Admission: ¥1800 (Concessions available)
Coming hot on the heels of what’s been a rather catastrophic summer for many areas in Japan, this timely exhibition at the Mori Art Museum explores what art can do for us in times of chaos and grief. Media coverage and disaster relief works aside, the exhibition collects and considers the role that artists and their art play in responding to disasters. Can art offer new visions, hopes for a better future, make sense of grief and destruction, or simply allow us to understand ourselves in the wake of catastrophe? If you’ve been pondering these questions recently, this is the exhibition to go to.
3 November 2018 to 28 February 2019
Event: Yebisu Garden Place Winter Illumination
Location: Yebisu Garden Place
Time: Varies by event - see website
Winter illuminations abound all over Tokyo as soon as the temperature begins to dip, but the annual glow-up at Yebisu Garden Place must be one of the most impressive. Besides the glitzy Christmas tree, the illuminations include one of the world’s largest chandeliers - from renowned crystal manufacturer Baccarat, no less. With almost 100,000 lights around, it’s sure to brighten any dreary winter’s day.
Marunouchi Naka-dori Illuminations © othree
8 November 2018 - 17 February 2019
Clocking in at 17 consecutive years, the annual Marunouchi Illuminations is one of the longest-running Tokyo light-ups of its kind. Naturally, it's a favourite with many Tokyo residents. Walking down the champagne-coloured, fairy light-strewn, gently glittering Naka-dori never fails to induce starry-eyed Christmassy feelings in us. Sometimes literally. Naka-dori stretches for around 500 meters, from near Tokyo Station to the vicinity of the Peninsula Hotel.
15 November 2018 - 14 February 2019
If you’re looking for winter illuminations that are just that touch more extra than the usual fairy lights, get thee to Caretta Shiodome. This Shiodome shopping complex tends to go the extra mile for its Christmas light-ups, with a light and music extravaganza.
This year, it’s all about princesses. Specifically, Disney and Pixar princesses from films such as ’Tangled’ and ‘Frozen.’ The illumination-performances run every 15-20 minutes or so between opening times, but you might want to check the calendar on their website. Bring your children - they’ll have a blast.
28 November 2018 - 20 January 2019
Event: Munch: A Retrospective Art
Location: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Time: 9.30am-5.30pm (until 8pm on Fridays during Special Exhibitions)
Admission: ¥2400 (Concessions available)
Closed: closed every 1st and 3rd Mon (Tue if Mon is a holiday). 31 December & 1 January
The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is back with another excellent retrospective. This time, their exhibition focuses on Edvard Munch, best known for his much-parodied masterpiece ‘The Scream.’ As seems to be the case with many artists, he received scant appreciation for his art during his lifetime. This exhibition showcases almost a hundred of his works created over 60-odd years from oil paintings to master prints, exploring subjects like landscapes, anxiety, and loneliness. A must-see for fans of Expressionism and Post-Impressionist art.
Fox masks. © fukapon
31 December 2018 - 1 January 2019
Event: Oji Fox Parade
Location: Shozoku Inari Shrine, Oji
Time: 9:30pm onwards (Parade at 12:00am)
The Oji Fox Parade has been held annually for at least a century or two - it’s old enough that it inspired an Ando Hiroshige woodblock print. For hatsumode, the first prayer of the year, local residents in Oji transform themselves into a procession of foxes and walk from Shozoku Shrine to nearby Oji Inari Shrine. Whether you’re a participant or an onlooker, it’s a charming and fun event for all. As usual, there’ll be festival food and drink to keep you warm on this winter’s night.
1 - 3 January 2019
Time: 24 hours
Augment those New Year’s resolutions and start 2019 on the right foot by visiting a shrine for hatsumode - the first shrine visit and prayers of the new year over the first 3 days of January. Meiji Jingu Shrine in Harajuku and Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa are two of the most popular spots in Tokyo, but they’re also the most crowded. You’ll see long queues and food stalls at these places, so it’s not all that different from your average festival! Head to any local shrine for hatsumode and you’ll have a good time.
6 January 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. So, if that happens, you can try your luck again on 20 January.
Scenes from a Tokyo flea market. © dreamylyricist
6 January 2019
Event: Hanazono Shrine Antique Market
Location: Hanazono Shrine
Time: 6:30am - 3:00pm
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. If it rains, expect it not to run.
11 - 20 January 2019
Event: Furusato Festival Tokyo
Location: Tokyo Dome City
Time: 10:00am - 9:00pm (ends 6:00pm on 20 January)
Admission: ¥1700 (Concessions available)
If you’ve ever wanted to travel across the whole of Japan but lacked the time and money, hit up the Furusato Festival Tokyo in Tokyo Dome City. Stalls here serve a variety of local dishes from the north to the south of the country, so you can eat your way across Japan without spending time on trains or planes. Besides the food, though, you’ll get to see and experience the most vibrant festivals and performances from across Japan here. Highlights include a giant float from Aomori Prefecture’s Nebuta Festival and Akita Kanto Festival. Eat, drink, and party your way across the nation - all in one place!
12 - 14 January 2019
Event: New Year Ballet Dance
Location: New National Theatre
Time: 2:00pm - 4:30pm
Admission: From ¥3240
‘Japan’ and ‘ballet’ aren’t two words that usually go together in a single sentence, but trust us when we say that it is entirely worth watching a ballet production at the New National Theatre in Tokyo - the performances are world-class. Ring in the New Year with any one of these three different ballets! Les Sylphides is dance for dance's sake; Petrouchka is an almost Shakespearean story of puppets in dance form; and The Firebird is choreographed by star contemporary dance choreographer Megumi Nakamura.
Tickets aren’t exactly cheap, but given the consummate skill, exquisite costumes, and high costs of production, ballet performances are usually worth the price.
A sumo match in Ryogoku Kokugikan © aussieassault
13 - 27 January 2019
How about kicking off 2019 with the first major sumo tournament of the year? Six are held over the year, and the first one just happens to be in Tokyo. Should you go? Well, watching a video of sumo wrestlers just isn’t the same as witnessing the electric atmosphere live. Plus, each match lasts a minute tops - it’s perfect for people with short attention spans, like young children. And you can even eat and drink in the stadium while you watch matches. Get a glimpse of this fascinating, closed world at the tournament.
Check out our guide on how to purchase tickets for a sumo match
15 - 16 January 2019
Event: Setagaya Boroichi
Location: Boroichi-dori, Setagaya
Time: 9:00am – 8:00pm
Running annually for more than 430 years now, the Boroichi is Tokyo’s largest and oldest flea market. It’s huge: you’ll find around 700 stalls crammed into a narrow strip of road, selling anything from secondhand kimono to antique ceramics to woodblock prints. You’ll probably find everything you’re looking for, and even more that you’re not. Don’t worry about the cold, since you’ll be jostling along with 200,000 other market-goers - it adds to the spirit of the event. Just eat some of the market’s famous daikan mochi rice cakes and you’ll be good to go.
Boroichi runs twice a year, once in December and once in January. So if you can’t make it this year, head over for the first one of 2019 next month.
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
- It's essential you have travel insurance for Tokyo - we recommend World Nomads