December in Tokyo


December is here and it’s almost Christmas in Tokyo. But what to do?

Some people immediately snap into Christmas mode as soon as November 1st hits and all the major coffee chains change their regular cups to festive red ones we can drink from while listening to endless seasonal jingles, says Vivian Morelli.

Whether you’re one of those or more of a ‘Bah! Humbug!’ type, you’ll want to enjoy the festive season by partaking in all kinds of daily events to keep your schedule fun-filled. But you need ideas…

So here is your very own ‘Advent Calendar’ of events in Tokyo in December.

1st – Artelligent – Kick off December in style with a nighttime stroll around Roppongi Hills, and soak up the wintery magic with three kinds of illuminations. Warm up with some mulled wine at the German market, and get ready for the holiday season!

2nd – Tokyu Hands – Deck the halls with all the Christmas decorations you can dream of. Japan may not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense, but they sure can make it look real, whether you want a Christmas tree, fairy lights, artificial snow or a deer costume.

3rd – Edo Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum – Catch a glimpse of old Tokyo in this outdoor museum by slipping in and out of houses of different historical eras. Make it festive by visiting at night, when the tea lights give a soft, warm glow to the whole area.

4th – If you want to pick up a themed snowflake jumper or a fun, special-edition present, stop by the pop-up Kenzo box shop on Omotesando. A selection of T-shirts and other collaboration accessories are available for your fashion-loving friends.

5th – Minami Azabu Market – For stylish and unique gift ideas, or perhaps a little something for yourself, browse through the works of up-and-coming artisans. With a wine selection for adults and story time for the toddlers, there is something for everyone.

6th – Stay in shape during the most indulgent season of the year by jogging a few kilometers around the Imperial Palace before work: it’s only 5 km, which is the ideal length for a quick and efficient workout. Dress warm, hydrate, bring your music player and admire the early winter landscape while clearing and your mind and pumping your heart.

7th – Ginza Art Festa– Major art galleries around swanky Ginza will hold their Xmas Art Festa. Scour through art exhibitions in the gallery tour and attend some workshops and conferences. Whether or not you purchase anything, it’s a great way to spend an artsy afternoon.

8th – As cliched as it sounds, why not write some holiday cards to loved ones in the comfort of a warm cafe? JP Post says that for a nengajo (New Year’s card) to arrive you have to send it before Christmas Day, but we’d guess you need a head start for Christmas cards, especially if they are going abroad.

9th – It’s Sunday. Take a break. Courtesy of a domestic goddess in the making, a simple (and delicious) recipe for hot chocolate: try a tablespoon a cocoa powder in a cup of hot milk, add a pinch of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and top with a dollop of whipped cream if you feel naughty.

Christmas feast
Looking forward to a traditional feast on the big day? Think again. (Ari Helminen)

10th – Tokyo’s best known robot is illuminated and shining in Odaiba. Cross the Rainbow bridge to see Gundam in seasonal light-up mode, and don’t leave the area without checking out its giant Christmas tree. The best part of going to Odaiba is probably riding the Yurikamome line to catch the view.

11th – If you haven’t already, stock up on HeatTech wear from Uniqlo. From underwear to shirts and leg wear, the Japanese mega brand has you covered for the whole winter. If you don’t have any HeatTech yet, it will change your life and make those bone-chilling Tokyo winters more bearable.

12th –  Try your hand at making your own holiday treats from scratch by attending a baking class, a leisurely learning experience to share. Daikanyama’s sweet shop Matsunosuke offers a baking class for traditional sweets, and you can take the finish product home – though you’ll probably finish it before Christmas…

13th –  As if you won’t indulge on enough sweets for the weeks to come, the Chocolate Exhibition is in town, so head over to the National Museum of Nature and Science to learn all about the history of chocolate, and perhaps even sample on some cocoa bites.

14th – Head over to Roppongi Hills to sip on some whisky at the Whisky Hills event: explore different types of whisky, sample some food and whisky combinations and, most importantly, keep toasty and warm on a cold winter night.

15th –  Atsuhiko Misawa “Animals” exhibit – If it’s too cold for the zoo, you can still see animals in the comfort of a museum by attending this exhibit. Sculptor Atsuhiko Misawa is known for the wooden life-sized sculptures of animals, which are lively and humorous, and in various mediums: assemblage style, clay works and drawings.

16th – Finnish Himmeli – Learn how to make the traditional Finnish Christmas ornament, which usually has eight faces and is made of straws. Head over to the Suntory Museum to view the Glass Design from Finland-The Land of Forests and Lakes and take part in the workshop.

Romantic chandeliers
Chandeliers are romantic, apparently… (Photo: Mr Hayata)

17th – More illuminations and lights, at Yebisu Garden Place. Steps away from Ebisu station, the plaza irradiates with its mammoth Baccarat chandelier, which is the largest in the world. Tacky or not, it’s quite striking, and the surrounding lit up trees give the whole area a magical, fairyland-like feel.

18th –  Perhaps one of the busiest times of the year at the resort, but the best place to be if you want to be transported in a fantasy land at Tokyo Disney Land. For the kids and big kids, the usual characters will be decked out in Christmas jumpers (we hope), and you can pose with them for photo keepsakes.

19th –  Spend a lazy afternoon or late night thumbing through books at the Daikanyama T-Site book store. With a huge selection of thick and glossy art books and unlimited supply of java, this may help you feel happy if Christmas doesn’t… either that or think about the always great presents thy make.

20th – Stop by delicious French chocolaterie La Maison du Chocolat to sip on creamy, rich hot cocoa and sample some of the best truffles to be found in Japan. Pick up a box of their gorgeous assortment of Christmas edition chocolates, with limited-edition flavours such as champagne, gingerbread, and walnut honey.

21st – Melt off the end-of-year stress by spending a few hours at an onsen, without having to escape the city. Scrub, wash and soak the troubles away. (Read about Tokyo’s best Onsen.)

22nd – Spend a family day or ‘friend date’ in true winter fashion by ice skating around the ice rink at Tokyo Midtown. Whether you’re a novice or expert, lace up your skates (or don’t they come with clips these days?), and have a blast spinning on the ice and trying not to fall down.

23rd – If you’ve seen enough illuminations to hold you over until next Christmas, take a break and listen to some music by attending a mini performance of antique music boxes at Tokyo Midtown. The aged boxes gives their music a gentle and soothing quality, and make a nice change from the jingles blasting in all the nearby shops.

Christmas Eve – (Your boss knows it’s a national holiday, right?) Ditch the greasy KFC fare, sugary Christmas cakes and date-night crowds, and stay at home in your pajamas, watching a Christmas movie marathon. My picks: Home Alone, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Die Hard.

It’s Christmas Day! – Tokyo Tower gets all glammed up for Christmas, featuring a glitzy light show for this special day with 120,000 lights (surprisingly using 19% less energy than last year, so more eco-friendly). Catch the extravaganza anytime between 16:00 and 22:00, and celebrate Christmas Day with Tokyo’s most gorgeous landmark (sorry, Sky Tree….)

Text by Vivian Morelli

(Oh and beware – it all packs up on the 25th ready for new year, so get festive while you can!)

(Main image Aube insanité)



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