Few Tokyoites look forward to June, which is usually when the rainy season ushers in the wettest time of the year. Still, don’t let the rain dampen your parade, because there’s so much to enjoy this month.
Irises at Horokiri Shobukoen Garden © zengame
Bring your brolly and head outside, because irises and hydrangeas come into their own in June, blooming bright purple and blue. Warmer weather means more opportunities to drink at beer festivals and shrine processions. And of course, if it does prove too wet, there’s always the option of going to one of the many special exhibitions at Tokyo’s museums.
1 - 20 June 2018
Event: Katsushika Iris Festival
Location: Horikiri Shobukoen Garden
Time: 8:00am - 6:00pm (between festival dates)
Website: Katsushika.lg.jp (Japanese)
It seems like the flower festivals never end in Tokyo! Head over to Horikiri Shobukoen Garden in Katsushika City for several hours of iris-viewing - around 6000 iris plants as far as the eye can see, a lush and vibrant sea of purple and green (and other colours in between). While the garden is usually open from 9:00am to 5:00pm, opening hours are extended during this period. Early bird flower photographers are sure to appreciate the additional hour of morning light. It almost goes without saying that there will also be other events during this time in the park, like live music performances. Everyone loves a good festival.
2 - 3 June 2018
Event: Great Japan Beer Festival Tokyo 2018
Location: Yebisu Garden Place "The Garden Hall"
Time: 11:30am - 3:00pm and 4:00pm - 7:30pm (Saturday); 1:00pm - 4:30pm (Sunday)
Admission: ¥5,200 (¥4,800 advance tickets)
Beer drinkers, rejoice! Tokyo’s largest beer festival is back again, with a whopping 120-plus varieties of craft beer available for sipping. The entrance fee might seem a little steep, but it comes with a special beer glass. From then on it’s an all-you-can-drink for the next few hours until time’s up. Each session is limited to around 1000 visitors, so serious beer fans should consider picking up their tickets in advance or risk disappointment on the day. It’s a popular event, so expect queues on the day.
3 June 2018
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 17 June.
Day and night (1938) by M.C. Escher © pedrosimoes7
6 June - 29 July 2018
Event: The Miracle of M.C. Escher: Prints from The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Location: Ueno Royal Museum
Time: 10:00am - 5:00pm (10:00am - 8:00pm on Fridays)
Admission: ¥1600 (concession rates available)
Even if you haven’t heard of M.C. Escher, you’ve most likely encountered one of the mind-bending, dizzying optical illusions that are his hallmark. Some of his best pieces have been flown in to Tokyo all the way from the Israel Museum - a grand total of around 150 pieces. Experience them in person at the Ueno Royal Museum’s exhibition, held in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of his birth. It’ll be an afternoon to make your head spin.
7 - 17 June 2018
Event: Sanno Matsuri
Location: Hie Shrine
Time: All day (see website for schedule)
Website: Tenkamatsuri.jp (Japanese)
Along with Kanda Matsuri and Sanja Matsuri, Sanno Matsuri is one of the three great festivals of Tokyo. It’s a result of tradition rather than size - it’s a much smaller festival than it was a few hundred years ago - but it’s a lively celebration nonetheless. The Sanno Matsuri takes place over the same dates every year, peaking with the main parade usually taking place on the weekend between these dates.
Even if you can’t make it to the parade, with various events taking place every day on Hie Shrine grounds ranging from tea events to taiko performances, there’s never a dull moment here.
9 - 10 June 2018
Event: Okinawa Matsuri
Location: Yoyogi Park Events Square
Time: 11:00am - 9:00pm
Website: Okifes.Tokyo (Japanese)
The Okinawa Festival is back again, bringing that famous southern island charm all the way to the big city. This is your chance to delve into the culture of the Ryukyu Islands. Head over to Yoyogi Park and sample all manner of Okinawan specialities from Goya chanpuru (stir-fried bitter gourd) to rafute (braised belly pork) and cap it off with some Orion beer or awamori (Okinawan liquor). Musical performances and traditional Okinawan dances - Eisa - along with the lively twanging of the sanshin (Okinawan three-stringed instrument) make the festivities especially lively.
An assortment of superheroes at the Tokyo Toy Show © _temaki_
9 - 10 June 2018
Despite Toys R’ Us’s recent demise, toys still play a huge role in the world - not least because playing with toys shouldn’t be limited to kids alone. Children and adults who love their pop culture, animations, and games should make a beeline for the Tokyo Toy Show in Odaiba. It’s the biggest show for the toy trade, and they open up to members of the general public on the weekend. With workshops, photo opportunities, demonstrations, and games galore, it’s great for kids, families, adults - anyone really!
9 - 10 June 2018
Event: Torigoe Matsuri
Location: Torigoe Shrine
Time: 6:30am – 9:00pm
Website: City.Taito (Japanese)
The Torigoe Matsuri is a major festival in Tokyo by virtue of having the heaviest, largest omikoshi (portable shrine), weighing a jaw-dropping 4 tons. Unsurprisingly, people flock to the parade by the score just to see the huge, intricately decorated omikoshi - and the hundreds of worshippers carrying it. It’s a riotous all-day celebration, and if you can stomach the throngs of revelers, it’s a great parade to go watch.
Hydrangeas in bloom © birds_and_landscapes
9 - 17 June 2018
Event: Bunkyo Ajisai Festival
Location: Hakusan Shrine
Tsuyu, or the rainy season, might spell doom and gloom for some - but this is when the hydrangea flowers (known as ajisai in Japanese) bloom pink, blue, and purple. Hydrangea festivals take place all over Tokyo throughout June, but the Bunkyo Ajisai Festival is one of the most famous, with an impressive 3,000-plus hydrangea plants stretching from Hakusan Shrine all the way to Hakusan Park. Keep an eye out for hydrangeas everywhere else, too. You’re likely to spot them in gardens, parks, shrines, and temples everywhere.
22 - 24 June 2018
Event: Heiwajima Antique Fair
Location: Heiwajima Ryutsu Center Building
Time: 10:00am - 5:00pm (until 4:00pm on the last day)
This is, apparently, one of the largest and oldest antique fairs in Japan. It also attracts several hundred antiques dealers from all over the nation, so this bazaar is really less about sifting through the junk for deals, and more about quality antique pieces. Serious shoppers and lovers of all things old should go. You’re likely to score the best deals on the final day of this three-day event.
The Heiwajima Antique Fair is held 5 times a year in March, May, June, September, and December. In the event you miss this month’s fair, you can plan ahead for another one in the coming months.
28 June - 17 September 2018
Event: The Worlds of Chaumet: the Art of Jewellery since 1780
Location: Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo
Time: 10:00am - 6:00pm
Admission: ¥1700 (concession rates available)
Website: Mimt.jp (Japanese)
Chaumet is an oft-whispered name in more moneyed circles. Established in 1780, The House of Chaumet is one of the major high-end jewelers in Paris, famous for patronage in the last few centuries by figures such as Napoleon I and Joséphine. Diamond tiaras, necklaces, all manner of expensive tchotchkes - 300 of their wonderfully refined pieces come to the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum for a few months. An exhibition for the magpies among us.
A purification water trough at Meiji Jingu Shrine © z_wenjie
30 June 2018
Much like spring-cleaning, humans also need to regularly clear out the cobwebs in our personal closets. One of the forms this takes in Japan is the Oharae, or the Great Purification Ceremony, an ancient ritual conducted twice annually at Shinto shrines across the nation. It takes place on 30 June (known as Nagoshi no Oharae, for the summer), and again on 31 December (when it’s known as Toshikoshi no harae, to herald the coming new year). It’s free and open to all at Meiji Jingu Shrine. Priests recite the prayers of purification, and cleanse you of your sins with a wand and pieces of white paper. If you’re feeling a little sinful, or reeling from the aftereffects of Mercury retrograde, or just want to rid yourself of some bad juju, it wouldn’t hurt to take a gander at this.
14 April - 8 July 2018
Event: Masterpieces of French Landscape Paintings from The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
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: ¥1400 (Concession rates available)
Closed: Mondays (except 30 April)
Website: Pushkin2018.jp (Japanese)
Moscow’s Pushkin Museum has a fantastic collection of French paintings, including major names such as Cezanne, Gauguin, Rosseau, and Renoir. But there’s no need to travel all the way to Russia: this spring, visitors to Japan can enjoy a sampling of its collection at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Transport yourself to France and take a whirlwind tour of the 17th to 20th centuries through its landscape paintings. Monet-lovers will not want to miss this.
The ceiling of a Japanese teahouse © irisphotos
25 April - 17 September 2018
Event: Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation
Location: Mori Art Museum, Roppongi
Time: 10:00am - 10:00pm (Last Admission 9:30pm); 10:00am - 5:00pm (Last Admission: 4:30pm) on Tuesdays
Admission: ¥1800 (concession prices available)
If there has ever been a definitive exhibition on Japanese architecture, this is probably it. The Mori Art Museum’s exhibition plumbs the depths of Japanese history and takes us through the lineage of architecture throughout the ages. Few stones are left unturned as thematic questions are raised and explored - the evolution of wooden architecture, the interaction between Western and Japanese architectural styles, coexisting with nature, and the effects of modernism, to name a few. An important and illuminating exhibition for both the enthusiast and casual observer alike.
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
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings on Skyscanner
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Find out why it's essential you have travel insurance for Tokyo