Greater Tokyo bustles with annual events from Sumo wrestling tournaments and baseball to intriguing fairs and festivals.
The list below presents an overview of the major events in the Tokyo area.
On Ganjitsu, or New Year’s Day, one of Japan’s most important holidays, it’s customary to visit Buddhist and Shinto shrines to pray for good luck.
Ippan Sanga, on Jan. 2, is one of only two days when Imperial Palace grounds are open to the public. The Emperor waves to well wishers from behind bulletproof glass. Entrance to the gardens is by Niju-bashi Bridge.
New Year's decorations of pine and straw are taken to the Torigoe Shrine for a bonfire. Pounded rice cakes, cooked in the embers, are consumed in hopes of bringing good health.
Firemen dressed in Edo-period costumes go on parade, later performing acrobatic stunts on top of bamboo ladders at Harumi Pier - Chuo dori.
Sumo Tournaments, called Hon-basho, draw crowds during 15-day stretches from the second to fourth Sundays in January, May and September at Kokugikan.
Seijin-no-hi, known as Adult’s Day, honors those reaching the age of 20 with a traditional display of archery at Meiji-jingu.
This unusual Japanese festival focuses on needles and pins broken in the previous year, laid to rest by being buried in tofu and radishes.
Set to the lunar calendar, Setsubun marks advent of spring. Festivities at temples and shrines include the scattering of dried beans to banish evil spirits. At Senso-ji Temple, a classical dance of the seven gods of fortune is performed.
Golden Dragon Dance
Celebrating discovery of the golden image of Kannon, now resting there, dances are performed throughout the day at the Senso-ji Temple.
The Doll Festival, known as Hini Matsuri, honors girls to wish them future happiness.
From April through October, the Tokyo Dome hosts two professional teams, the Yomiuri Giants and the Nippon Ham Fighters. The Yakult Swallows play at Jingu Stadium.
Rice Harvesting Festival
Hailing a bounty of rice supplied by the gods, men are compelled to consume quantities of rice while priests perform sacred dances to accompany the ceremonial “pig-out” at Rinno-ji Temple.
For Buddha’s birthday, known as Hana Matsuri, celebrations are held at Senso-ji Temple and Zojo-ji Temple as well as various other Temples throughout Tokyo.
When cherry blossoms bloom, Ueno Park and other blossom-blessed locations come alive with singing, dancing and general good cheer.
Celebration honoring heroes of the past takes place in Kamakura on the second and third Sundays. Horseback archery, a parade of portable shrines and sacred dances unfold at the Hachiman-gu Shrine.
The Emperor's Birthday, April 29, is one only two days when the public is allowed on Imperial Palace grounds. Entrance to the gardens is by Niju-bashi Bridge.
Kodomo-no-hi is a national holiday for children, especially boys, where streamers are flown from poles throughout Japan to symbolize strength and perseverance.
Black Ship Festival
The Black Ship Festival celebrates the first landing of American Commodore Perry with parades and fireworks on the Izu-hanto Peninsula.
In the middle of May and over the last week in October, the largest semi-annual oriental art event in Asia fills the Tokyo Big Sight, at 3-21-1 Ariake, Koto-ku, on Odaiba, with thousands of artists, booths and visitors, featuring indoor and outdoor live entertainment, film screenings and lots of food booths. Call (81) 3-3479-1433 for more information.
Festivities at the Tosho-gu Shrine include horseback archery and a costumed re-enactment of the delivery of Tokugawa Leyasu's remains to Nikko.
On the third weekend in May, up to 100 mikoshi (portable shrines) are carried by participants in traditional attire.
Held only on odd numbered years, Kanda Matsuri celebrates a Tokugawa battle victory.
In mid June, this Edo festival is held near the Akaska-mitsuke subway station featuring music, dancing and portable shrines known as mikoshi.
Refugee Film Festival
Towards the end of June, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sponsors a film festival in celebration of World Refugee Day with screenings of provocative international films in a number of Tokyo venues. Call (090) 9809-6785 for more information.
Ashino-ko Kasui Matsuri
The Ashino-ko Kasui Matsuri festival, held in Moto-Hakone, features a fireworks display over Ashino-ko Lake at the Hakone-jinja Shrine.
During O-bon, Buddhists believe the dead revisit the earth. Dances are held and lanterns are lit at various sites throughout Tokyo in memory of ancestors.
Tarai-nori Kyoso is quite the silly race held in Ito on Izu-hanto, involving paddling down the Matsukawa River in washtubs using only rice scoops as oars.
Triton Summer Festival
Extending into August, Harumi Triton Square becomes the venue for sports-inspired films presented on the giant Triton Terrace Screen, part of the Triton Summer Festival.
Sumida-gawa Hanabi Taikai
One of Japan’s biggest displays of fireworks takes place on the last Saturday of July in Asakusa along the Sumida-gawa River.
Tokyo Summer Festival
One of Japan's major music celebrations that runs into August, Tokyo Summer Festival attracts artists worldwide for classical, contemporary and traditional musical performances staged throughout the city. For details, call (+81) 03-5465-0755.
Japan-Bangladesh Friendship Festival
The finest in Bangladeshi culture will be spotlighted to promote friendship between Bangladesh and Japan, at Yoyogi Park Events Square, on Japan-Bangladesh Friendship Day early in August. Call (88) 3627-8886 for more information.
Asakusa Samba Carnival
The Asakusa Samba Carnival draws a huge crowd and features a parade down Kaminarimon-dori by scantily attired dancers.
Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri
A three-day festival where mikoshi bearers run through frenzied crowds dousing them with water is held near the Monzennakacho subway station.
Hakone Daimonji-yaki Festival
The lighting of torches, taking on the form of the Chinese character for “large” or “great,” marks this festival held in Hakone.
Amusement Machine Show
A showcase of more than 2,000 arcade games not yet in circulation are the highlight of this show going strong for more than 40 years at the Tokyo Big Site East Halls.
Hon-Basho Sumo Tournaments
Sumo tournaments take place from the second to the fourth Sundays in September for a stretch of 15 days.
Tokyo Gay and Lesbian Pride
September brings a month-long festival of music and the arts culminating in an annual parade attracting thousands celebrating gay and lesbian pride.
Hachimangu Matsuri festivities include a parade of mikoshi and a display of horseback archery.
Furusato Tokyo Matsuri
Metropolitan Citizen's Day celebrations take place throughout Tokyo on the first weekend in October.
Dolls are offered to Kannon by childless couples hoping for offspring. Priests conduct a ceremonial burning of dolls offered the previous year in Ueno-koen Park.
Oeshiki commemorates Nichiren, founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. On this night, people bring lanterns and paper flower arrangements to the Hommon-ji Temple.
The autumn festival known as Tosho-gu features an equestrian archery performance similar to Nikko's Grand Festival staged in May.
Through early November, Meiji Reidaisai commemorates the Meiji emperor’s birthday. Festivities include horseback archery, music and dance.
Over the last week in October and in the middle of May , the largest semi-annual oriental art event in Asia fills the Tokyo Big Sight, at 3-21-1 Ariake, Koto-ku, on Odaiba, with thousands of artists, booths and visitors, featuring indoor and outdoor live entertainment, film screenings and lots of food booths. Call (81) 3-3479-1433 for more information.
Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu
Hakone re-enacts a feudal lord's procession with hundreds of participants dressed in costume.
Seven - Five - Three Festival
For Shichi-go-san, parents dress children ages 7, 5 and 3 in traditional attire to give thanks for their safety at several shrines, notably at Meiji-jingu, Sanno Hie-jinja and Yasukuni-jinja.
Arion Afternoon Concert
Launched in 1985 and staged in conjunction with the Tokyo Summer Festival, the Arion Afternoon Concert series of weekday performances is specifically tailored for music lovers finding it inconvenient to be out at night or who are arriving to enjoy from far away. For details, call 03-5465-0755
Gishi-sai marks the 47 ronin (masterless samurai) committing ritual suicide after avenging the death of their master, and features a parade of warriors to Sengaku-ji and a memorial service.
Joya no Kane and Ganjitsu
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are times to visit temples and shrines to pray for health, happiness and prosperity. At midnight, Buddhist temple bells ring to clear away evil human passions.