From traditional matsuri to food, flowers, music and fireworks, here’s our pick of some of the most interesting festivals happening in (and just beyond) the city this summer season. (For even more things to do, head to our events calendar.)
It’s not only one of the Three Great Festivals of Edo (along with Kanda and Fukugawa festivals), it is also considered one of the three largest festivals in Japan. This historical event goes on for 11 days, featuring different events and performances each day. Apart from the typical mikoshi (portable shrine) procession through the streets, this action-packed matsuri also has traditional Kagura Hayashi dance performances, children’s parades, Sanno-taiko drum acts, and more.
June 7-17 at Hie Shrine. More details here.
Yatsui Ichiro is both a comedian and a respected DJ who holds his own festival each year presenting an eclectic mix of bands, idols and stand up. Calling upon his many friends and connections in both the entertainment and music industry and taking place over 12 different venues in Shibuya, this year’s event is more ambitious than ever before. If you’ve never heard or Yatsui, or you don’t really “get” Japanese comedy, that’s not too important as the line up features some of the hottest underground and original performers in Japan, from indie rock to idol hiphop and everything in between.
June 17-18 at Club Asia and other venues. More details here.
27th Shimokitazawa Music Festival
A music festival that takes over hipster-friendly Shimokitazawa annually with live shows on outdoor stages, inside live houses and on the streets! Both local and international bands will strut their stuff and there will be performances by local awaodori dance groups, musical parades, and more.
July 5-9 around Shimokitazawa Station. More details here.
Shitamachi Tanabata Festival
Also known as the Star Festival, this traditional event is a celebration of the legend that tells of two stars, Vega and Altair, who were separated lovers only allowed to meet once a year in the Milky Way. It’s one for the romantics, for sure, but it also impresses with unbelievably big and colorful decorations that take over the streets. Although you can find the bamboo wish trees at most local shrines and temples, the best way to soak in the festival vibes is to head out to Asakusa’s Kappabashi, where countless vendors and stalls are awaiting you with trinkets and fried foods.
July 6-10 along Kappabashi Street in Asakusa. More details here.
Iriya Asagao Festival
The largest market devoted to morning glories, this fair has over 120 producers selling their wares at 100 stalls lining the area of Iriya Kishimojin (also known as Shingen-ji Temple). It’s a lively event that brings about 400,000 visitors each year and offers a true traditional-style summer market atmosphere.
July 6-8 at Iriya Kishimonjin. More details here.
Ocean Peoples 2017
If you can’t get to the beach, Ocean Peoples will bring the beach to you! This two-day event features dance performances, live music and an atmosphere that’ll make you want to take off your shoes and dip them in the sand.
July 8-9 at Yoyogi Park Event Space. More details here.
This annual market is devoted to the flowering plant hozuki (also known as ground cherry pods), but visitors can also find traditional wind chimes and other summer specialties among the 100-plus stalls dotted around the Sensoji temple grounds and its environs. Stroll around the market to soak up the shitamachi atmosphere, and maybe stop by the temple itself on July 10 to offer a prayer, as it’s said one prayer made on this day is equivalent to praying for 46,000 days — that’s a whole lifetime’s worth!
July 9-10 at Sensoji Temple. More details here.
Kagurazaka is widely known as being an old geisha town, and its annual matsuri is a blend of Japanese Buddhist culture and modern surroundings that allows participants to enjoy mouthwatering gourmet food together with traditional events. Expect a relaxed summer evening with traditional dancing and plenty of market stalls.
July 26-29 around Bishamonten Zenkoku-ji Temple. More details here.
Fuji Rock Festival
This year’s lineup is shaping up nicely – we’re looking forward to Gorillaz, Bjork, LCD Soundsystem, Aphex Twin, The XX, and Queens of the Stone Age, just for starters. There’s plenty more where that came from…
July 28-30 at Naeba Ski Resort. More details here.
Shinjuku Eisa Festival
This Okinawan summer festival takes place in the streets and on various stages near Shinjuku station, in the heart of Tokyo. Originally part of a ritual performed at the end of the old Bon season, dancers and drummers fill the streets with music and cheer as they honor the spirits of their ancestors and wish for good fortune. Though this event originates in rural Okinawa, it has become a city summer staple in the capital.
July 29 around Shinjuku Station. More details here.
Sumida River Fireworks
The history of launching fireworks at Sumida River can be traced back to the 1700s, but it’s only in modern times that the event has changed from being a way to show respect to the gods to being more of a form of summer evening entertainment. Welcoming its 40th anniversary this year, the Sumida River Fireworks festival – which is the largest of its kind in Tokyo – is set to display 22,000 fireworks with different styles and surprises.
July 29 at Sumida riverside. More details here.
Edogawa Fireworks Festival 2017
This year’s Edogawa festival features 14,000-plus fireworks with an opening highlight of 1,000 fireworks being set off within five seconds. You may choose to enjoy the show on the riverbanks or take in a more exciting view from the cruise ships on the river. Crowds are expected, so get that yukata all tied up and arrive early for the best spot!
August 5 at Edogawa riverside. More details here.
Asakusa Toro Nagashi
One of Japan’s summer symbols is the soothing beauty of softly glowing paper lanterns floating along the Sumida river at dusk. Participants decorate their lanterns, then send them off as they make a wish. Lanterns are available to buy at the venue on the day, but expect long lines. For those who would like to purchase their own lantern in advance, please contact the Asakusa Tourist Federation.
August 12 at Sumida Park. More details here.
Summer Sonic 2017
One of summer’s biggest music festivals is back this year with some killer headliners: Foo Fighters, Calvin Harris, Charli XCX, 5 Seconds of Summer, and more!
August 19-20 at Makuhari Messe. More details here.
Koenji Awaodori 2017
Koenji Awaodori is one of Tokyo’s major summer festivals, with over 10,000 Awa dancers — from 188 groups, known as ren — and just over a million visitors in the area to watch them parade down the streets. This year’s theme is “Spreading Smiles”, in the hope that the dancers’ smiles will spread to their audience.
August 26-27 around Koenji Station. More details here.