Looking for something to do this month? Here is a list of festivals and other events happening in and around Tokyo during the month of December. Most of the information came from the JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization) website. Their list covers all of Japan; this list has been fine-tuned and only includes nearby events that I believe any non-Japanese can access and enjoy. They are listed in chronological order.
12/1-25 Yokohama Yamate Western Style Houses – Christmas Around the World, Yamate area of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. Eight Western-style buildings on the Yamate Bluff introduce Christmas in eight different countries. Experience Christmas around the world through decorations, concerts, workshops, and more. There will also be lighting which illuminates each building from sunset (until December 31) and a Candle Garden event, held during just one night in the Yamate Italian Garden. The interiors of the buildings are open to visitors during the daytime only. 9:30am-5:00pm. Access: First home on route is 10-15 minutes from Motomachi Chukagai Station or Ishikawacho Station.
12/2-3 Chichibu Yo Matsuri at Chichibu Shrine, Hitsujiyama Park, & Yao Department Store in Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture. A night festival that is considered as one of the three grandest float festivals in Japan, and is designated an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The highlight of this festival is a parade of six huge, lavishly adorned and lantern-lit floats. 12/2: 11:00-16:30 Parade of 6 floats / 18:00-20:00 Parade of 6 floats / 19:00-20:00 Fireworks at park. 12/3: 9:00-midnight Parade of 6 floats in the city / 15:00-16:00 Parade of local Kabuki actors / 19:30-22:00 Fireworks at park. Access: JR Takasaki Line to Kumagaya Station. Then take Chichibu Tetsudo Line to Chichibu Station. Or, Seibu Chichibu Line to Seibu-Chichibu Station.
12/10 & 17 Atami Kaijo Hanabi Taikai (Fireworks Display) over Atami Bay, Atami, Shizuoka Pref., from 8:20 pm to 8:45 pm (about 3,000 fireworks) on each day. Access The JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line or the JR Tokaido Honsen Line to Atami Sta., and then walk 15min.
12/9-10 Seki-no Boro Ichi (Rag Fair) at Honryuji Temple and neighboring areas, Nerima Ward, Tokyo. It originated as an agricultural fair, but now the stalls sell clothes, food, toys and plants from 10am to 10:30pm on the 9th, 10am to 9:30pm on the 10th. The highlight of this fair is Manto Gyoretsu (a procession of people, some holding lanterns and others sounding bells and drums) from around 7:30pm (to 10pm) on the 9th. Access The Seibu Shinjuku Line to Musashi-seki Sta. (North Exit), and then walk 3 min.
12/8-10 Heiwajima Antique Fair at Heiwajima Tokyo Ryutsu Center, Ota-ku, from 10 am to 5 pm (to 4 pm on the 10th) daily during the period. (Please enter one hour before closing time.) More than 300 dealers participate in this fair. Admission is free. Access: Tokyo Monorail Line to Ryutsu Center Sta.
12/09-10 Zen-Nippon Karate-do Senshu-ken Taikai or All-Japan Karate Championship, Tokyo Budokan Hall, Adachi-ku, team competition from 10 am to 4:30 pm on the 9th, and at Nippon Budokan Hall, Chiyoda-ku, individual competition from 9 am to 6 pm on the 10th. Free admission on 12/9. 2000 yen on 12/10. Access (1) Tokyo Budokan: The Chiyoda Subway Line to Ayase Sta. (C 19) East Exit, and then walk 5 min. (2) Nippon Budokan: The Tozai, Hanzomon or Toei Shinjuku Subway Line to Kudanshita Sta. (T 07, Z 06, S 05), and then walk 5 min.
12/14 Gishi-gai, Sengakuji Temple, Zojoji Temple, and near the Chuo City Office, Minato Ward and Chuo Ward, Tokyo. Memorial event for the ‘Vendetta of the 47 ronin’ which took place in 1702, to commemorate their loyalty to their master. This festival features a gishi-gyoretsu (a procession of 47 people dressed as ronin). 12:00-13:35. Gishi-gyoretsu from Chuo City Office to Zojoji Temple. 14:15-15:30. Gishi-gyoretsu from Zojoji Temple to Sengakuji Temple.
12/15-16 Setagaya Boro Ichi, Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. Flea market/fair with many open-air stalls selling foods, clothing, potted plants, antiques, etc. 9:00-20:00 on both days. Access: From Shibuya Station, Tokyu Setagaya Line to Setagaya Station or Kamimachi Station and then walk 3 minutes.
12/16 Nincho-no-mai & Miyabito-no-mai (Ancient Court Dances), Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. A Shinto priest clad in a white robe and four Shrine maidens in Juni- hitoe (12-layer ceremonial garments of court ladies) perform Nincho-no-mai dance & Miyabito-no-mai dance starting from 5 pm. Access JR Yokosuka Line to Kamakura Sta., then walk 10 min.
12/17-19 Hagoita Ichi (Shuttlecock & Battledore Fair) in the compound of Senso-ji Temple, Taito-ku, from 9am to around 9pm during the period. Hagoita are wooden paddles (originally used in Hanetsuki, a traditional badminton-like game) decorated with the figures of popular Kabuki actors, etc. and made of elaborate silk collages. Access The Ginza or Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Asakusa Sta. (G 19, A 18), then walk 5 min.
12/21 Osame-no Daishi, Year-end Fair at Nishiarai Daishi Temple, Adachi-ku, Tokyo, from 9:00-16:00. Open-air stalls selling Kumade (ornamental bamboo rakes adorned with symbols of good luck for the New Year) are set up within the grounds. Access: Tobu Isezaki Line to Nishiarai Sta., and there change for the Tobu Daishi Line to Daishi-mae Sta., and then walk 5 min.
12/21 Osame-no Daishi, Year-end Fair at Kawasaki Daishi Temple, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, from around 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. This fair is one of the biggest of its kind in Tokyo and its vicinity. Access: Keihin Kyuko Line to Keikyu-Kawasaki Sta. From there, take the Keihin Kyuko Daishi Line to Kawasaki Daishi Sta., then walk 8 min.
12/23 Tenno Tanjo-bi, Emperor’s Birthday (national holiday). The public is permitted to enter the Imperial Palace grounds which are usually closed, via Nijubashi Bridge, to offer their congratulations to the Emperor and His Family annually. The Imperial Family will appear on the balcony to acknowledge the crowd. Hours vary slightly from year to year. Access: The Chiyoda Subway Line to Nijubashi-mae Sta. (C 10), and then walk 3 min.
12/24 Osame-no Jizo, Year-end Fair at Togenuki Jizo Temple (or Koganji Temple), Toshima-ku, is held from 9:00-17:00 Access The JR Yamanote Line or the Toei Mita Subway Line to Sugamo Sta. (I 15), and then walk 5 min.
12/26-28 Toshi-no Ichi or O-Deko Ichi, Year-end Fair around Yagenbori Fudoson Temple, Chuo-ku, features many open-air stalls selling New Year’s decorations, clothes, shoes, bags, etc. from 11 am to 7 pm every day during the fair period. Access: Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Higashi-Nihonbashi Station (exit B3), then walk 3 minutes.
12/28 Osame-no Fudo (Year-end Fair) held at thse Fudoson Temples:
1. Fukagawa Fudoson Temple, Koto-ku, from 10:45 am to evening. Access: Tozai or Toei Oedo Subway Line to Monzen-Nakacho Sta. (T 12, E 15), and then walk 2 min.
2. Meguro Fudoson Temple, Meguro-ku, from around 10 am to 8 pm. Access: (1) JR Yamanote Line to Gotanda Sta. (West Exit). From there, take Tokyu Bus bound for Shibuya to Meguro Fudoson Bus Stop. (2) JR Yamanote Line to Meguro Sta., and then walk 20 min.
3. Takahata Fudoson Temple, Hino City, Tokyo, from 9 am to around 5 pm. Access: Keio Line from Shinjuku to Takahata-Fudo Sta., and then walk 5 min.
4. Narita-san Shinshoji Temple, Narita, Chiba Prefecture. 7:00 – 16:00. From 10:20 a fire ceremony will be held in the compound of the temple. Access: 10 minute walk from Narita Station.
12/31 Yokohama Chukagai “Count Down”, Within temples of Chinatown, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. Shishimai (Lion Dance) is performed on the grounds of Chuka Gakuin School from around midnight on Dec. 31st. Access (1) The Minatomirai Line to Motomachi-Chukagai Sta., and then walk 5 min. (2) The JR Negishi Line (or the JR Keihin Tohoku Line from Tokyo) to Ishikawacho Sta., and then walk 10 min.
12/31 Omisoka – New Year’s Eve. Many people stay at home and sit up until midnight to listen to Joya-no-Kane , or 108 rings of the temple bell, which ring out the old year and ring in the coming year. Joya-no-Kane are sounded at most temples. The followings are well-known temples in Tokyo:
1. Zojoji Temple, Minato-ku. Access: (1) Toei Mita Subway Line to Onarimon Sta. (I 06), and then walk 3 min. (2) Toei Asakusa or Oedo Subway Line to Daimon Sta. (A 09, E 20), and then walk 5 min.
2. Gokokuji Temple, Bunkyo-ku. Access: Yurakucho Subway Line to Gokokuji Sta. (Y 11)
3. Kan’eiji Temple, Taito-ku. Access: JR Yamanote Line to Uguisudani Sta., and then walk 5 min.
4. Shibamata Taishakuten Temple, Katsushika-ku. Access: Keisei Kanamachi Line to Shibamata Sta., and then walk 3 min.
5. Ikegami Honmonji Temple, Ota-ku. Access: (1) Tokyu Ikegami Line to Ikegami Sta., and then walk 10 min. (2) Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Nishi-Magome Sta. (A 01), and then walk 12 min.
6. Sensoji Temple, Taito-ku. Access: Ginza or Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Asakusa Sta. (G 19, A 18), and then walk 5 min.
7. Shojuin Temple, Shinjuku-ku. Access: Marunouchi Subway Line to Shinjuku-Gyoenmae Sta. (M 10), and then walk 5 min.
8. Tenryuji Temple, Shinjuku-ku. Access: Shin-Fukutoshin, Marunouchi or Toei Shinjuku Subway Line to Shinjuku-Sanchome Sta. (F 13, M 09, S 02) Exit, E5, and then walk 1 min.
*NOTE: Before attending any of these events, I recommend that you double-check the information/times/access from an official source.
12/24 & 25 “CHRISTMAS SERVICES”
*Please contact each church for details.
1. St. Ignatius Church Tel. (03)3263-4584 Access The JR Chuo Line, the Marunouchi or Namboku Subway Line to Yotsuya Sta. (M 12, N 08), and then walk 3 minutes.
2. Franciscan Chapel Center Tel. (03)3401-2141 Access The Hibiya or Toei Oedo Subway Line to Roppongi Sta. (H 04, E 23), and then walk 5 min.
3. St. Alban’s Church (Anglican-Episcopal) Tel. (03)3431-8534 Access The Hibiya Subway Line to Kamiyacho Sta. (H 05), and then walk 10 min.
4. Tokyo Union Church Tel. (03)3400-0047 Access The Ginza, Chiyoda or Hanzomon Subway Line to Omotesando Sta. (G 02, C 04, Z 02), and then walk 5 min.
5. Tokyo Baptist Church Tel. (03)3461-8425 Access The Tokyu Toyoko Line to Daikanyama Sta., and then walk 7 min.