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. 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.
Irises at Horokiri Shobukoen Garden © Zengame
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.
15 March - 30 June 2019
Event: Sense of Humor
Location: 21_21 Design Sight
Time: 10:00am - 7:00pm
Admission: JPY1100 (Concessions available)
Cross-cultural communication can be tricky, but one of the fastest ways to break down barriers is through humor. Whether it’s slapstick, dark, playful, or just plain weird, humor is fundamental to communicating, and fuels creativity and wonder, too. In this exhibition curated by art director Katsumi Asaba, you’ll find a collection of documents and objects that have inspired and amused him in equal measure. Equally idiosyncratic works by other creators feature too. Don’t expect a barrage of dad jokes, but a number of the exhibits are sure to put a smile on your face.
9 April - 16 June 2019
Event: Moomin Exhibition: the Art and the Story
Location: Mori Arts Centre Gallery, (Roppongi)
Time: 10:00am - 8:00pm (Last entry 7:30pm)
Admission: JPY1800 (Concessions available)
Hear ye, Moomin fans! If the new Moomin Park in Saitama prefecture wasn’t enough, the Mori Arts Centre Gallery is holding a jumbo Moomin-themed exhibition. Explore the entire history of this iconic Finnish character through more than 500 pieces of Moomin artworks, borrowed from the world’s sole Moomin Museum and creator Tove Jansson’s personal collection. If you reserve your tickets in advance, you’ll even get a small, exclusive bonus gift.
Detail from Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze © Andrew Moore
23 April - 10 July 2019
Event: Gustav Klimt: Vienna - Japan 1900
Location: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Time: 9:30am - 5:30pm (until 8:00pm on Fridays). Closed every 1st and 3rd Mon (Tues if Mon is a holiday)
Admission: JPY1400 (Concessions available)
‘The Kiss’ (1907) may be one of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s most famous works, but it’s just scratching the surface of his life’s work. His Art Nouveau sensibilities and distinctively decorative compositions were deeply influential for Viennese artists, and even today continue to inform and inspire contemporary artists. With over 25 Klimt paintings, supplemented by a number of Japanese artworks reminiscent of Klimt’s style, this exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum gives us a very decent overview of Klimt’s oeuvre a hundred years after his death. While it’s not the most comprehensive Klimt exhibition they could have put together, it’s still a must-see if you’re a fan of his work.
26 April - 8 July 2019
Located in Shibuya, the D47 Museum’s mission is to showcase commercial, industrial and product design and crafts from all 47 prefectures – a great counterpoint to Tokyo-centric narratives at many museums. This time, their exhibition is all about fermentation.
Fermentation is at the heart of Japanese cuisine. It’s indispensable to quintessentially Japanese condiments and foods like sake, miso, soy sauce, and natto. However, delve deeper into regional cuisines and you’ll find a wealth of fermented foods you never knew existed; some are barely known outside their prefectures! Curated by fermentation experts – who knew that could be a job in itself? – you’ll learn about funky foods in Japan, and you can taste them along with sake at the adjacent restaurant. You can even take some fermented foods home if you’re so inclined.
27 May – 16 June 2019
Event: Katsushika Iris Festival
Location: Horikiri Shobukoen Garden
Time: 8:00am - 6:00pm (between festival dates)
Website: city.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.
A selection of beers at Yebisu Garden Place © Kanegan
1 - 2 June 2019
Event: Great Japan Beer Festival Tokyo 2019
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.
2 June 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. If it rains, expect it not to run.
At Hanazono Shrine. © Photogra Fer
2 June 2019
Event: Museum of Modern Art – Free Admission Day
Location: National Museum of Modern Art
Time: 10:00am – 5:00pm
If you enjoy a place like MoMA, you’ll love the National Museum of Modern Art (MOMAT). Their permanent collection primarily showcases Japanese art from the early 20th century all the way up to contemporary times – great if you ever wanted to learn more about artistic developments outside the West at that time. The Pacific War paintings are particularly worth spending some time with.
What’s even better is that the MOMAT is free to enter on the first Sunday of every month. It’s likely to be a little busy, but it’s worth braving the crowds for free entry to a museum like this.
7 - 17 June 2019
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.
8 - 9 June 2019
Event: Torigoe Matsuri
Location: Torigoe Shrine
Time: 6:30am – 9:00pm
Website: City.Taito.lg.jp (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 © Ozma
8 - 16 June 2019
Event: Bunkyo Ajisai Festival
Location: Hakusan Shrine
Time: All day
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.
15 - 16 June 2019
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!
16 June 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 30 June.
An assortment of superheroes at the Tokyo Toy Show © temaki
21 - 23 June 2019
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.
22 - 23 June 2019
If you ever needed an excuse to get your salsa on, this is it. Put on your best dancing shoes and head over to Yoyogi Park for an entire weekend of sexy shimmying to sultry Latin tunes. Intersperse all that dancing with food from all the Latin American stalls – think tacos, mojitos, tequila shots, and more. You’ll be too busy having fun to feel self-conscious about your moves. If nothing else, go for a fantastically festive atmosphere that’ll leave you buzzing with pure joy!
A purification water trough at Meiji Jingu Shrine © Wenjie, Zhang | A Certain Slant of Light
30 June 2019
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, 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.
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 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. Check my guides to arriving at Narita Airport and at Haneda Airport.
- If you're visiting more than one city, you might save money with a Japan Rail Pass – see if it's worth it for you
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world