Culture Day is held every year on November 3 to promote culture, the arts and academic endeavour. For most, it merely means a day off, but some special events are happening around Tokyo.
What exactly is Culture Day? I asked a handful of Japanese friends, but none of them really knew exactly. Turns out Culture Day was first held in 1948 to commemorate the announcement of the post-war Japanese constitution on November 3, 1946. Ever since, that very day holds festivities such as parades, festivals, exhibitions, and award ceremonies for artists and scholars.
Tokyo Jidai Matsuri
History buffs, this one’s for you. Jidai Matsuri literally means “Festival of Ages”, and its traditionally held in Kyoto every October 22. However, Tokyo has its own version, and it will be held on Culture Day.
In this parade, participants dress in accurate costumes for nearly every period in Japanese history, as well as famous historical figures. Typically the procession is divided into historical eras (from the 7th century up until present day), and then further separated into themes. If you’re knowledgeable about Japanese history you’ll be able to appreciate all the attention paid to details, and if you can’t quite get the history of Japan straight, perhaps it’s a chance to learn a bit more in a non-textbook way!
The parade will start and finish at the gorgeous Sensoji temple in Asakusa, making a loop through the Kaminarimon gate. The festival usually gathers many attendees, so get there early as it might be even more crowded this year as it falls on a Saturday.
Also, interesting trivia: did you know that Culture Day is statistically one of the clearest days of the year? Between 1965 and 1996, there have only been three rained out years in Tokyo on Culture Day. Let’s hope the trend continues this year.
When: Saturday Nov. 3, 13:00-16:30
Where: Sensoji Temple, Asakusa (see map)
Kanda Used Book Festival
If you want to honour Culture Day with a bit of literature, head to Jimbocho for its annual book fair to pick up some good reads. If you’re new to Tokyo, you may be interested to find out that the Jimbocho area is renowned for its abundance of bookstores: if you enjoy a good page turner, this is the place to go.
There is a great English and other foreign language selection, with both used and brand new books on sale. The used book fair boasts an outdoor market, thousands of titles to browse through and even a charity auction and lectures. If you want to steer clear of the matsuri crowds on Saturday, stock up on books then head home or to a cafe to spend a peaceful Saturday.
When: Until Saturday Nov. 3
Where: Kanda Jimbocho shopping arcade (Jimbocho station)
Main Image: malfet_ on flickr
Text by Vivian Morelli