You know it’s officially summer when Yoyogi Park gets overtaken by swarms of people, queuing at countless food stalls exuding delicious, spicy aromas – for every single weekend until the leaves turn red. Festivals in Yoyogi Park turn the event area international every summer, with a string of events promoting different cultures.
As much as it can be fun to just turn up and see what is going on, here are some dates for the diary! (Have fun predicting which will have the longest food lines…)
May 25-26: Okinawa Festival (click for official site)
Although Okinawa is in Japan, the culture is so different that it definitely deserves its own Yoyogi Park festival. To the sounds of sanshin, you can feast on the local specialties: taco rice, goya (bitter melon), umi budo (the ‘grapes’ of the sea), but also check out traditional Okinawan art, and drink as much Orion and Awamori as you wish.
June 1-2: Eco Life Fair
Apparently ‘Eco Idols’ will provide entertainment to the family oriented crowd, while government sponsored stalls and NPOs teach of eco-initiatives that will be more than at home in Yoyogi over the weekend.
July 13-14: Japan/Indonesia Friendship Festival
Celebrating over 50 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Indonesia, this year the annual event has been moved from Tokyo Midtown to the event space in Yoyogi Park. Sample authentic Indonesian foods (come here if you’re a fan of coconut milk, peanut sauce and aromatic spices), buy miscellaneous local goods from artisans, and watch the usual stage performances.
July 20-21: Brazil Festival
Dubbed as the most ‘intoxicating’ event of the summer at Yoyogi for the copious amount of South American booze swilled, we don’t have any doubts about its reputation… After all, Japan has one of the largest Brazilian populations outside the homeland, and samba parades are not uncommon in the summer months. This event is all about the on-stage musical action (singers Preta Gil and Pagode do Ramos this year), Capoeira demonstrations, and obviously, some great food and drink to wash it all down.
July 27-28: Thai Festival (a second, smaller fest after the main event in May)
In case you missed the first Thai Festival – after all, it comes quite early and is usually the one that kickstarts the season, and for over ten years a favourite for members of any community in Tokyo, foreign or local. Thai food, Thai crafts, Thai music and more Thai food is always a welcome addition to the festival space, so grab a drink and soak it all up.
Aug 3-4: Ocean Peoples
Ostensibly a festival all about saving the sea and its beaches – which are indeed fairly far from Yoyogi – if last year is anything to go by this event actually encompasses some pretty decent live music (2013 acts TBA but the organisers are also behind the Greenroom fest in Yokohama so expect similar vibes) and a beer garden to boot.
Aug. 10-11: Caribbean/Latin American Street Festival
Infectious Caribbean beats will provide the soundtrack for this extravaganza which covers a huge area; expect a mishmash of food, drinks, dance and song performances, and even elaborate costumes if you stick around the main stage.
Sept. 14-15: Vietnam Festival
Food aficionados, this one’s for you: numerous food booths serving all the staples, such as pho (a noodle soup – but we’re sure you knew that…), fried spring rolls, banh mi (baguette sandwiches) and banh xeo (savory pancakes), as well as an assortment of lesser-known delicacies usually not available in Japan. The festival also presents other aspects of the culture, such as traditional garments and many other fun and interesting trinkets.
Sept. 21-22: Sri Lanka Festival
Ceylon tea, herbal products, coconut oil, handmade wooden toys, ceramics, jewelry, cosmetics, cloth dye, you name it. The Sri Lanka Festival will also have a dance corner with traditional troupes dressed in gorgeous, colourful costumes, and you can even get a fortune telling reading while waiting for your curry.
Sept. 28-29: Namaste India Festival
The Namaste Festival brings the perfect closure to the summer events of Yoyogi. The seminars part of this exchange event are one of the most interesting parts, to get an introduction to the different cultures within India. You can even participate in a yoga workshop or learn how to draw with henna, and, of course, don’t leave without sampling some of the dishes and stocking up on spices.
Image: Neil Duckett/Flickr