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 weekend after weekend, until the leaves turn red.
Festivals in Yoyogi Park turn the event area international every summer (and continuing into autumn, luckily), 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…)
July 25–26: Thai Fair (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.
August 1–2: 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. 13–14: 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. 26–27: Namaste India Festival
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.
October 2–4: Hokkaido Festival
If you haven’t visited Hokkaido (or if you have and loved it), now is the chance to get a taste of the northern region’s food, as countless rows of aromatic stalls are awaiting you at the Hokkaido Festival. Crab, scallops, sea urchins, salmon roe, salmon, herring, flounder, cod, squid, octopus, shrimp, abalone, surf clams and kelp all await you, but get ready for the long queues!
October 17–18: 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.