Lights have been strung up all over Tokyo, the shrill J-pop version of Christmas classics like “Jingle Bells” are blaring, and every corner store and café has their “Christmas Specials” – it must be holiday season.
Put down your bucket of KFC, skip the usual dragging-your-feet-around-Midtown, and check out these festivities that will keep you warm at the end of this cold, cold year.
For families with kids: several of these events below are, in fact, family-friendly, but we would also like to recommend that the major hotels around Tokyo (including the Hyatt and Westin), BelleSalle, Midtown, several shopping malls (like Sunshine City), and local zoos will be having kid-focused parties and “Santa Greeting” events throughout the month. Check your local interests for information, or keep an eye out!
Black Tie Christmas Party
The elegant Spanish restaurant Ogasawara Hakushaku Tei in Shinjuku is reviving a holiday tradition of hosting black tie soirees. The Michelin star residence-style restaurant will have an open buffet of “colorful” dishes and an array of wines to sip throughout the night, all covered by the entry fee.
Live jazz music will be ongoing throughout the duration of the evening; casino tables will be set up for a few games if you fancy joining, or just observing. The residence itself is a stunning setting – built in 1927 for Count Nagayoshi Ogasawara, and is especially renowned for its courtyard and garden, which are illuminated for the occasion.
When: December 23
How much: Men ¥18,000 / Women ¥16,000
More info: http://www.ogasawaratei.com/en/
Tokyo Christmas Market 2016
One of our favorite Christmas-themed events to look forward to all year continues to deliver time and time again. Hibiya Park is home to another edition of the annual “Tokyo Christmas Market,” reviving the tradition of transforming into a German-esque market and town. You will find rows of little German “huts” serving warm drinks, hot food, and selling home and handmade goods, like ornaments and stocking stuffers. Workshops for making candles and other seasonal gifts and household items are available sporadically throughout the day – great for kids, too!
Go after sunset! Not only will the piping hot treats keep you warm as the temperatures plummet, but you’ll have the pleasure of seeing the park adorned in tens of thousands of lights, and the 14-meter “Christmas Pyramid” lit up in the center, near the fountain. It was shipped directly to Tokyo from Dresden, so you know that it is legit.
When: December 16-25; 11:00-22:00 Daily
How much: Free
More info: https://tokyochristmas.net/ (Japanese only)
AFCEA Tokyo Holiday Party
The New Sanno Hotel in Minami-Azabu will be the go-to for many this holiday season. The AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association) of Tokyo is planning an evening chock full of all of that holiday goodness: a buffet dinner, gift swap, raffles, Santa for the kids, and “tons more.”
Your whole family is invited to take part in the festivities! Dress up in your holiday best and have a blast with other families living abroad, or bring your friends along with you for some great food and entertainment throughout the night. We’re pretty sure the kids will be going right to sleep after this event wraps up.
NOTE: It is imperative that guests bring a government-issued form of ID with them, be it their military ID, passport, or alien registration card.
When: December 17, 18:00-22:00
How much: Free-¥4,000
World Christmas Festival 2016
Our event lists wouldn’t be complete without one at Yoyogi Park. BMI Music’s 3rd annual “World Christmas Festival” will be alongside the center path of the park the runs from Harajuku to Shibuya (look for the fountains!). With the regular crowds of booths selling goods and seasonal treats, entertainers, and pop-ups of international sponsors, this is a great one to bring the kids out to.
Information is sparse at the moment, but we haven’t ever been to an event at Yoyogi Park that we haven’t enjoyed. And who knows, you may catch Santa wandering through the trees, if weather permits…
When: December 24-25, 10:00-19:00
How much: Free
More info: http://www.bmi-music.com/assets/122425.pdf
Tokyo Gaijins’ Christmas Sport Special
This one is for those who do not want to be relegated to the indoors this holiday season! Hit the streets and slopes this Christmas in back-to-back weekend events catered to the adventurous souls residing in Tokyo.
The first event allows up to only 13 guests, so you will have to jump on a reservation quickly! Zoom down the roads of Tokyo on a go-kart, after slipping on a red Santa suit – or reindeer costume, naturally. The speakers will be cranked loud, sharing the joy of Christmas, the ear-splitting way. Who knew your new best friend may be sporting antlers and going by the name of “Blitzen”?
Their second event invites 50 snowboarding, skiing, and onsen fans to the slopes of Nozawa Mountain for a three-day “sleepover” in cabins (yes, there IS a private onsen). There will be Santa and reindeer suits at this one too for those who plan on whizzing down the hill. Beginners, don’t worry! There are free lessons provided throughout the stay, so you can get professional training; soon enough, you too will be soaring through the trees, “ho, ho, ho”-ing along with the others.
When: December 17; 23-25 Respectively
How much: Varies
More info: http://tokyogaijins.com/upcoming.php
Shiseido’s Salon de Café
Go ahead, take a seat, and pick out the most decadent item on the menu – we can keep a secret. Treat yourself, and someone special (’tis the season, after all), to one of Shiseido Salon de Cafe’s to-die-for delicate desserts or (we, say, “and!”), seasonal drinks. You are in good hands at this Ginza café, which has been around since 1872, and was one of the first places to offer soda fountain options to Japanese customers.
Earlier, we published a piece outlining an array of holiday options guests can dine on, and we implore you to check it out – nay, we dare you to read it and tell us you aren’t famished afterwards. There are plenty of fruit pieces that top the desserts, so that technically counts as healthy, right?
When: Month of December
How much: Varies
Tokyo American Club Family Fun Events
Although we wish we could list all of the events Tokyo American Club is putting up this month, we will highlight a few and leave it up to you to decide which is most important for you and your family. (Personally, the “gingerbread cookie decorating” class on the 10th has our eyeballs popping out.)
On top of TAC’s regular steak and seasonal buffet nights (including their “grand buffet” on Christmas Eve), for the holidays, there will also be a special evening dedicated to bowling for people of all ages, with big prizes to win as you play on. Special time allotments for those with toddlers will be reserved on the 23rd, with an inclusive feel for young ones.
And on the 25th itself, the family can wake up and trot on over to TAC for a Christmas “Jolly Pool Party”! A little unexpected, thematic-wise, but heartily welcomed amidst this cold winter weather. Enjoy a belly-filling Christmas dinner later on in the evening once everyone is tuckered out from the holiday splashing.
When: December 23-25
How much: Varies
Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market
Don’t worry Yokohama, we didn’t forget about you! Yokohama’s famed Red Brick Warehouse, along the waterfront of the “southern half of Tokyo,” is lighting up again like it does every year, bringing European themes and charm to the city. With plenty to do inside and outside, visitors will be delighted by the transformation and all of the goodies they will find – and yes, the ice rink is back!
Authentic toys, sculptures, desserts, and drinks are being imported from around Europe, mostly Germany, for expats and Japanese alike to get a little taste of the other side of the world. Live performances and a few classes on woodwork will be taking place inside the buildings, while and the regular cafes and restaurants will have ongoing specials. Bring something to protect your ears and hands – the bay brings in the chills once night falls.
When: November 28 -December 24; 11:00-22:00 Daily
How much: Free
More info: http://www.yokohama-akarenga.jp/
ELAN International Christmas Sweets
Having hosted a whopping 90 language exchange parties, ELAN knows what they’re doing. Just a few minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station, you can take off your gloves and warm up with an all-you-can-eat-and-drink event with dozens of other international citizens. Anyone feeling homesick will be delighted at the smorgasbord of international dishes and snacks available.
They are promising to go “all-out” on this event, as it will be their last one for 2016. ELAN encourages you to bring your friends, or to not be shy when mingling and making new friends this evening. You will have to make your way to the basement-level in the Hotel Green Plaza Shinjuku for the rewards of the evening.
When: December 23, 18:00-22:00
How much: ¥1,999
More info: http://elanparty.wixsite.com/elanparty
Nicholas House Restaurant
Speaking of sweets: the Harajuku patisserie is closing out the year with a nauseating amount of Christmas treats. Sharing the good name of St. Nick himself, we are wondering if there was an obligation to fill in those famed black boots…
Earlier this month, we wrote up a piece covering all of what they are serving up this season in all of its creamy, gory detail, so click ahead to find out more about how to keep your belly satisfied. You will find us in the back of the restaurant, menus open, still deliberating on which delectable to gobble up.
When: Month of December (11:00-20:00 weekdays / 10:00-20:00 weekends)
How much: Varies
Red Christmas Party III
Not your Mom and Dad’s black tie holiday party! For the third year in a row, Bonjour Tokyo is putting together an English-Japanese-French gathering for the holidays; all that they implore you to do is to dress according to the name: in red! Make your way to Tokyo Salon for this holiday extravaganza, where belly dance shows, DJs, open dance floors, contests, a magic show, seasonal cocktails, and more await everyone.
The Omotesando party space fills up quickly, although they insist you won’t need a reservation. Celebrate Christmas a week early, and check in your winter coat when you walk in through the door.
When: December 17, 19:30-23:00
How much: ¥1,000
Christmas Pub Crawl
There’s always one event out there to satisfy the youthful, and strong of liver. Hosted by one of Tokyo’s top pub-crawling forums, the aptly named “Tokyo Pub Crawl Group,” this event encourages all to pull either “festive wear” or an “ugly sweater” over their heads and stomp around Roppongi with other alcohol enthusiasts on a romp through the city.
There will be costume contests throughout the evening as they skip around to about 4 bars, depending on how long members survive. Check their website for full dress code guidelines, and for a lengthy post lamenting the joys of Mariah Carey of Starbucks red cups.
When: December 24
How much: Men: ¥2,500 / Women ¥1,700
More info: http://www.tokyopubcrawl.com/events.html
Where to Buy a Decadent Cake for Christmas
Sticking to spending the holidays strictly at your own abode? We have you covered. Impress your friends and family with the ultimate Christmas-y dessert they will ever lay their eyes on, or tuck yourself into bed with a movie and an extra large fork: you’re going to need it.
Check the link below for a full encyclopedia of all of the delicious cakes, pies, and chocolate-y desserts you can lay claim to this season; no matter where you are in Tokyo, we promise there is a place close enough to you to not make any excuses this year! Gym approximation to your place, though, we can’t help you out with. That is an issue for 2017.
How much: Varies
Shangri-La Ballroom: New Year’s Eve Masquerade Gala Dinner & Countdown Party
Can’t wait until you can toss the calendar and move on to 2017? Here is a sneak peek at one special event to look forward to close out the year with. The Shangri-La Hotel in Tokyo is offering a 5-course meal from 8 pm, and will have an open dance floor and surrounding events carrying on until “late.” Enjoy the free-flowing wine to help you forget about the turmoils of 2016, and don a mask on the dance floor throughout the night.
You will want to check out their mouth-watering menu and photos from previous years; maybe we can just skip Christmas this year and fast-forward to their countdown party?
When: December 31, 20:00-onward
How much: ¥50,000