Autumn is in full swing, and so is the fall foliage! Head out to one of Tokyo’s many temples and shrines to enjoy the changing colours, but don’t forget to check out all the fabulous markets and exhibitions happening all month. Whether you’re into flowers, antiques, or art, there’s something for every visitor this November.
Slurp some noodles at the Tokyo Ramen Show 2019. © kawaiikiri
Tokyo Fall Foliage
Besides the specific fall foliage events listed below (Rikugien Autumn Leaves Light-up and the Ginko Festival), there are numerous other places to view Tokyo's autumn colors. See our Two-Day Tokyo Fall Foliage Itinerary for our pick of the best spots, planned out to help you maximise your time.
19 July – 4 November 2019
Most people aren’t fond of insects, but this exhibition in Roppongi’s excellent design museum might just change your mind. As the name suggests, this exhibition showcases all kinds of created works inspired by insects and everything about them. You’ll see how a study of insectoid skeletal systems inspired the creation of various artificial objects, while their wing structure influenced the movement of certain designed robots. What’s overlooked by most of us, too, is how beautiful insects can be; that’s exactly what this exhibition shows us.
If you can get past all the instinctive and visceral fear, you might just come away from the exhibition with a renewed appreciation for all the creepy-crawlies inhabiting the natural world around us.
May the force be with you… at this exhibition. © Tristan in Ottawa
8 August 2019 – 13 January 2020
Event: Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition
Location: Warehouse Terrada, Higashi-Shinagawa
Time: 10:00am–7:00pm (Last entry 6:30pm; Closed 21 October, 18 November, and 1–3 January 2020)
Admission: ¥3500 (Concessions available)
Rejoice, Star Wars fans! This X3 Productions and Lucasfilms collaboration exhibition is finally in Tokyo after making the rounds in Canada, Europe, the UK, and Australia. Not only do you get to see over 200 original props, costumes and artworks up close, all of this in service to constructing your own ‘Star Wars’ identity. An interactive exhibition in the best way possible for fans of the franchise – you’ll walk away from this having become a part of the Star Wars Universe.
7 September – 4 November 2019
Event: Beautiful Lives: Birds and Flowers in Japanese and East Asian Art
Location: Nezu Museum, Aoyama
Time: 10:00am – 5:00pm (Last entry: 4:30pm; closed Mondays, except 14 October and 4 November; closed 15 October)
Admission: ¥1300 (Concessions available)
Everyone loves birds and flowers, but bird-and-flower paintings as a genre in their own right originated in China and spread to the rest of East Asia over the last few millennia. In this exhibition at the Nezu Museum, they trace the history and stylistic evolution of this genre through pieces from their extensive collection. It’s a must-see for fans of East Asian painting, but also makes a fantastic introduction for anyone unfamiliar with it.
Don’t forget to take some time exploring the garden after looking at all the exhibition pieces – the Nezu Museum garden one of the lushest Japanese-style ones in central Tokyo.
The Great Wave off Kanagawa, one of Hokusai’s most iconic works. © Ashley Van Haeften
10 September – 4 November 2019
Event: Commemorating the 170th Anniversary of Hokusai’s Death: Hokusai Masterpieces from the Mogi-Honke Museum of Art
Location: Sumida Hokusai Museum
Time: 9:30am – 5:30pm (L.A. 5:00pm; closed Mondays and 15 October)
Admission: ¥1200 (Concessions available)
One of Japan’s most famous and most beloved artworks must surely be Hokusai’s The Great Wave. So the Sumida Hokusai Museum, dedicated to his oeuvre, is a godsend for fans of his art. Held in collaboration with the Mogi-Honke Museum of Art in Chiba prefecture, this exhibition will showcase about a hundred works related to the man himself. This is a great opportunity to see works from various series up close, including pieces from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, and Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces. Best paired with a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT), also nearby.
21 September – 17 November 2019
Event: Jean-Michel Basquiat: Made in Japan
Location: Mori Arts Center Gallery
Time: 10:00am–10:00pm (L.A. 9:30pm), 10:00am–5:00pm (25 and 26 September, 21 October)
Admission: ¥2100 (Concessions available)
Though he died all too early aged 27, Basquiat’s huge body of vibrant, energetic artwork continues to influence artists today. What’s perhaps less widely known about this 20th century great is how Japan influenced his work. This 2-month exhibition at the Mori Arts Center Gallery brings together 80 Basquiat paintings, objects, and drawings exploring the impact of Japanese history and culture on his art. Unmissable, especially if you’re a Basquiat fan.
Slurp some noodles at the Tokyo Ramen Show 2019. © kawaiikiri
24 October - 4 November 2019
Event: Tokyo Ramen Show 2019
Location: Komazawa Olympic Park General Sports Ground
Time: 10:00am - 9:00pm
Admission: Free (not including ramen)
Sure, you can eat ramen any time you want - but at the annual Tokyo Ramen Show, you can slurp up the best of the best in Japan. The nation’s finest ramen makers gather in Komazawa Olympic Park to show off their noodly goods. Every conceivable style you can think of is represented, along with limited edition event-only specials you won’t find at their shops. Ramen aficionados are serious about their bowls, so be prepared for crowds. And if you need even more ramen, be sure to check our rundown of the best ramen in Tokyo.
28 October - 5 November 2019
Event: 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival
Location: Roppongi Hills & others
Time: Various (See official website)
Tokyo's most prestigious film festival is back! The 32nd edition will see another fabulous lineup of special events and screenings. Watch sports films and documentaries at an outdoor screening at the foot of Tokyo Tower; or veg out at the outdoor theatre at Tokyo Midtown Hibiya. Of course, the first day will see celebrities and filmmakers from all over the world walking the red carpet in Roppongi. Check the website for full details on the festivities.
A lively night at Hanazono Shrine Tori no Ichi. © shuets udono
8 November 2019
Stemming from a tradition dating back to the Edo period, this is a famous festival at Hanazono-jinja Shrine in Shinjuku. Tori no Ichi, the first, starts with a warm-up festival at night (7 November), followed by a full event on the following day. The second festival this year is on 20 November. There’ll be stalls selling foods, festival paraphernalia, and kumade rakes that bring good fortune for your businesses. Come hungry and make merry the whole night through.
at the Hanazono Shrine festival. © shuets udono
1 November - 31 December 2019
Event: Smart Illumination Yokohama 2019
Location: Zou-no-Hana Terrace, Yokohama
Time: 5:30pm - 9:30pm
Taking place every autumn since 2011, the Smart Illumination show in Yokohama makes the city’s waterfront areas all shiny and colorful with energy-efficient lighting technology. It’s quite a spectacle and fantastic if you like bright lights - while it bills itself as a combination of art and technology, think of it as a follow-up to the summer fireworks. While the main festival takes place from 1 to 4 November, you can go any time to see the illuminations until the end of the year. Perfect for romantic strolls.
1 - 23 November 2019
Chrysanthemum lovers, rejoice! Autumn is here and so are your favorite velvet-petalled pom-pom-esque pastel-colored flowers. The annual Tokyo Metropolitan Tourism Chrysanthemum Exhibition (a mouthful, we know) has been going strong for over 100 years. Unsurprisingly, it’s the foremost exhibition for these flowers in terms of quality and quantity. You’ll see all varieties and styles of chrysanthemums, from rare ones to edible ones. If you can bring them home, there are even seedlings for you to pick up. Or you could just enjoy the blooms.
2 – 3 November 2019
Akihabara is pretty much a must-visit at all times, but why not time your visit to coincide with their weekly flea market? Every weekend, the space under the railway tracks near the Electric Town exit for Akihabara Station fills up with around 40 booths. As you’d expect of the area, it’s all perfectly tailored to the otaku crowd. Think manga and anime merchandise of all stripes, from figurines to cosplay accessories, and a whole host of other delightfully strange and specific items. You’ll never have to worry about this parade being rained on, too: the flea market booths are located under the railway tracks.
This month, it’s also being held on 9 and 10, 16 and 17, 23 and 24 November, and 30 November and 1 December. If you miss the first weekend, there’s the rest of the month to check it out.
Karigari curry at the Kanda Curry Grand Prix. © nakashi
2 – 3 November 2019
Event: Kanda Curry Grand Prix 2019
Location: Ogawa Square, Ochanomizu
Time: 11:00am - 7:00pm
Who doesn’t love a good bowl of curry? Get thee to Kanda this November for the Kanda Curry Grand Prix, where 20 restaurants compete against each other to earn the honor of best curry in the area. Considering that there are over 400 curry restaurants in Kanda, this is no bite-sized prize - it’s the real deal. But regardless of whoever wins, know that you’ll be getting some seriously tasty gravies around this side of town.
3 November 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 17 November.
Fairytale lighting at the Marunouchi Illuminations. © othree
3 November 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 November 2019 - 16 February 2020
Event: Marunouchi Illumination
Location: Marunouchi Illumination
Time: 5:30pm - 11:00pm
Clocking in at 18 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.
Live painting at Design Festa. © Lonnie
16 – 17 November 2019
Event: Design Festa vol. 48
Location: Tokyo Big Sight, Ariake
Time: 11:00am - 7:00pm
Admission: ¥1000 (One-day pass)
It’s that time of the year again - your favorite art and design jamboree is back! A whopping 15,000 artists from within Japan and without are descending on Tokyo Big Sight to bring you the 49th Design Festa, which has been running biannually in spring and autumn since 1994. You’ll experience the full gamut of artistic expression here across all mediums: crafts, paintings, cuisine, performances, music, dance - if you can imagine it, you’ll find it here. Two day tickets are necessary if you want to be able to see and experience everything here. Have some extra cash handy, too - you’re sure to walk away with unique handmade gifts and souvenirs for loved ones here.
17 November - 9 December 2019
Event: Rikugien Autumn Leaves Light-up
Location: Rikugien, Komagome
Time: 9:00am - 9:00pm (last park entry 8.30pm)
Rikugien’s annual light-up returns! This traditional Japanese landscape garden has some gorgeous fall foliage as beautiful in the day as it is at night. In autumn, they extend opening hours to 9pm, with last entry at 8.30pm, to coincide with the evening illuminations. Be aware that you might have to contend with the post-work crowds here. But it is also one of the few places in Tokyo to see the autumn colours at night, so it’s worth a visit. Snuggle up to a special someone at the cozy teahouses in the garden and enjoy the lights.
Gingko trees along Icho Namiki-dori Avenue. © nakashi
15 November - 1 December 2019
Any 'festival' is really just an excuse to eat and drink under some pretty leaves. As the tall gingko trees along this avenue turn golden yellow, so too do the 40-odd food and drink stalls begin popping up around the nearby softball stadium. Make sure you check out all the regional food they’re selling, too. Even if you’re not hungry, the view of the trees is a feast for the eyes.
22 – 24 November 2019
Event: Tokyo Comic Con 2019
Location: Makuhari Messe
Admission: ¥3200 (Concessions available)
Comic Con is a big event, and it just gets more and more massive every year. As usual, there are cosplayers, celebrity meet-and-greets (a separate and hefty price tag), a cosplay contest, stage events, exhibits, thousands of booths hawking merchandise of all sorts, and a food court. There’ll also be thousands of event-goers, so steel yourself for the crowds before diving in. On the bright side, children of elementary school age or younger get to attend for free.
24 November 2019
This small-scale, local, and charming antique market takes place along the shrine’s main approach every 4th Sunday. Visit to chat and haggle with sellers over items of all kinds: from secondhand clothing to kokeshi dolls to wooden furniture to stamps from several decades ago, you might find anything and everything here. If it rains, though, consider the event cancelled.
28 November 2019
Event: Doburoku Matsuri
Location: Koami Shrine, Nihonbashi
Time: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Website: koamijinja.or.jp (Japanese)
A Shinto shrine festival is usually an excuse to indulge in the good stuff, so what better time to have a few sips of sake than at a matsuri? This November, head over to Koami Shrine in Nihonbashi for the annual Doburoku Matsuri. ‘Doburoku’ is crude home-brewed sake – think of it as Japanese moonshine – and while it’s not the most common form of sake around, it is delicious.
Koami Shrine hosts one of the two major doburoku festivals in the Kanto area. It’s a perfect time to sip some doburoku – it’ll warm you right up while you watch the mysterious Sato-kagura Shinto dance performance at midday in the shrine.
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