Celebrate fall season with all the fantastic Tokyo outdoor festivals October has to offer - from dancing to ramen-slurping to beer-drinking. If you’d rather be indoors, there’s no shortage of great exhibitions to check out all over Tokyo too.
Design Ah Exhibition: Just Right Sushi by Taku Satoh Design Office © Dick Thomas Johnson
19 July - 18 October 2018
Event: Design Ah! Exhibition
Location: National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation
Time: 10:00am - 5:00pm (L.A. 30 minutes before closing)
Admission: ¥1600 (Concessions available)
Want your kid to be the next design superstar? Take them to the Design Ah! Exhibition, a fun and interactive exhibition aimed at fostering young and creative minds. Based on an NHK TV series of the same name, both program and exhibition take a “look, think and create” approach to solving everyday problems - the kind of skill and mindset that’s only going to become more valuable as time goes on. While geared primarily at children, it’s also fun for adults.
21 July - 8 October 2018
Event: Bento – Design for Eating, Gathering and Communicating
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: ¥800 (concession prices available)
Closed: Every 1st and 3rd Mon (Tues if Mon. is a holiday)
If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the art of bento-making, now’s your chance. The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is hosting an interactive exhibition centering around the quintessential Japanese packed lunch. You’ll see all kinds of bento boxes, learn more about the social contexts in which bento function, and perhaps even learn how to make a beautiful bento lunch in one of the workshops.
The only downside? You’ll probably want to eat a bento lunch straight after the exhibition.
Hello Kitty bento lunch. © buzzymelibee
31 July - 8 October 2018
Event: Foujita: A Retrospective – Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of his Death
Location: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Time: 9.30am-5.30pm (until 8:00pm on Fridays).
Admission: ¥1600 (concession prices available)
Closed: Every 1st and 3rd Mon (Tues if Mon is a holiday)
Many outside of Japan might not have heard of the illustrator Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita - but you’ll wonder why you haven’t after this exhibition. A prominent member of the École de Paris (School of Paris) comprising Paris-based emigré artists in the first part of the 20th century, Foujita spent more than half his life in France. The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum has put together a major retrospective of his artistic career, including works making their first appearances in Japan, loaned from museums around the world. Of course, you’ll see several his signature grand fond blanc or “milky white” nudes, too.
7 August - 8 October 2018
Event: Tokyo: 150 years
Location: 5F Feature Exhibition Room, Edo-Tokyo Museum
Time: 9:30am – 5:30pm; Sat: 9:30am – 7:30pm (L.A. 30 minutes prior to closing)
Admission: ¥600 (Concessions available)
Closed: 25 September
Website: Edo-Tokyo-Museum.or.jp (Japanese)
This year marks 150 years since Tokyo officially shed its old name, Edo, for its current name. How quickly a century and a half goes by! Through a panoply of photographs, videos, and maps, this exhibition at the Edo-Tokyo Museum shows visitors just how this city has changed, fallen, and risen again over the last 150 years. It’s a glimpse into this city’s history as you’ve likely never seen it before.
Cosmos at Showa Kinen Park © ajari
15 September - 28 October 2018
Event: Cosmos Festival 2018
Location: Showa Kinen Park
Time: 9:30am to 5:00pm
Admission: ¥450 (Concessions available)
Flower lovers shouldn’t miss this. It’s not a ‘festival’ in the sense of music, boozing, and dancing; rather, it’s a celebration of these sunny, summery flowers. Wander through 22,800 square meters of fields blanketed in 5.5 million cosmos flowers of various species. Perfect for a romantic date.
19 September - 11 November 2018
Event: Daigoji Temple: A Shingon Esoteric Buddhist Universe in Kyoto
Location: Suntory Museum of Art
Time: 10:00am - 6:00pm (Friday and Saturday 10:00am - 8:00pm)
Admission: ¥1500 (concession prices available)
This exhibition at the Suntory Museum of Art that's themed entirely around Shingon Esoteric Buddhism in Kyoto's Daigoji Temple is, fittingly, quite esoteric. Focusing on Daigoji Temple’s transformation throughout the last millennium from the Heian period to the present day, you’ll see some extraordinary works of art ranging from Buddhist statues to fusuma (screen) paintings.
Beers for Oktoberfest © chrisbenseler
28 September - 8 October 2018
Event: Odaiba Oktoberfest 2018
Location: Odaiba Symbol Promenade Park Yume no Hiroba
Time: 4:00pm - 10:00pm; 11:00am - 10:00pm (Sat, Sun, holidays)
We’re not in Germany but that doesn’t mean we can’t drink beer like them. Now in its 15th year, the Odaiba Oktoberfest features the usual variety of rare beers and barrels of German brews, German bands, and even Dirndl rentals - that’s Bavarian traditional dress to you and me. Don’t forget to try all the sausages - you’ll have the best of the wurst at this festival.
29 September - 9 December 2018
Event: The Magnificent Works of Georges Rouault: Sacred Art and Modernity
Location: Shiodome Museum
Time: 10:00am - 6:00pm
Admission: ¥1000 (Concessions available)
Closed: Wednesdays (Except 21 & 28 November, 5 December)
This special exhibition celebrates the work of Georges Rouault, one of the leading pioneers of 20th century art in France. With a focus on “sacred art” along Christian lines, he sought to convey this “most beautiful form of love” through his images. He worked in a wide variety of media, including oil paintings, watercolors, woodblocks, and sculptures. Many works here make their first appearance in Japan, including paintings like “Autumn in Nazareth” belonging to the Vatican Museum.
6 October 2018 - 1 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.
Performing team at the Yosakoi Festival. © marufish
6 - 7 October 2018
Event: The Tokyo Yosakoi Festival
Location: Ikebukuro West Gate Station Plaza
Time: 11:00am - 9:00pm
Website: Yosakoitokyo.gr.jp (Japanese)
If you make time for just one festival this month, make it the Tokyo Yosakoi Festival. Having been held annually since 1968, it’s a rip-roaring hyper-energetic dance competition bringing over 100 teams from across the nation to show off their yosakoi dance routines. Think bright costumes, chanting, and oodles of folkish charm.
13 October 2018
Event: Tamagawa Fireworks Festival
Location: Futako-Tamagawa Sports Ground
Time: 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Summer’s pretty much over, but you can still catch this fireworks festival - it’s one of the last you’ll see in 2018 around Tokyo. Expect the usual vivid displays synchronized to music.
21 October 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.
25 October - 3 November 2018
Event: 31st Tokyo International Film Festival
Location: Roppongi Hills & others
Time: Various (See official website)
Tokyo's most prestigious film festival is back! The 31st 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.
Tasty ramen to be had at the festival. © takoyaki_king
25 October - 4 November 2018
Event: Tokyo Ramen Show 2018
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.
31 October - 25 November 2018
Stemming from a tradition dating back to the Edo period, this is a famous triple-whammy festival at Hanazono-jinja Shrine in Shinjuku, with 3 markets and festivals over three sets of dates. Tori no Ichi, the first, starts with a warm-up festival at night, followed by a full event on the following day. The second and third festivals are on 13 and 25 November respectively. 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. © udono
31 October 2018 - 31 December 2018
Event: Smart Illumination Yokohama 2018
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 31 October to 4 November, you can go any time to see the illuminations until the end of the year. Perfect for romantic strolls.
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