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7 Things To Look Forward To In Japan in 2021

This year already looks promising

By Lucy Dayman

Let’s be thankful that 2020 is behind us — that’s probably all we need to say about that year now. But with the arrival of 2021 comes new hope, and of course, new events and excitement. Although Covid-19 is still very present, according to officials, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will still be going ahead this summer — though we can’t really be sure until it actually happens.

Meanwhile though, keeping a rather domestic focus, Tokyo and nearby areas will be playing host to an exciting array of other new openings and events. Here’s just a handful of the many things to look forward to this year.

Photo: ©Kengo Kuma & Associates

1. Haruki Murakami Library opens

Haruki Murakami, the man behind iconic books like Norwegian Wood, 1Q84, and Kafka on the Shore, will this year have a library in his name, located on the grounds of Waseda University, the university of which Murakami is an alumnus. Designed by fellow living Japanese cultural icon, Kengo Kuma, the library won’t be an entirely new building, but rather a renovated extension of the university’s Building No 4, which is the most serendipitous of locations considering it’s home to the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, where Murakami frequented as a Waseda drama student. Also known as “The Waseda International House of Literature,” the library will feature the writer’s personal archive, which he has donated to the university, and a collection of his works translated into several languages. 

When: Spring 2021
Where: Building No 4, Waseda University, 
1-6 Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. Map
For more information, see here.

2. Fuji-Q Highland launches rollercoaster observatory

Sure, Osaka’s Universal Studios might be capturing the headlines thanks to the opening of the new Nintendo World, but when it comes to adrenaline-inducing rollercoasters and hair raising rides, the classic Fuji-Q Highland is still the best. One of the theme park’s most infamous rides, the Fujiyama roller coaster will soon be opening its inbuilt 55m-tall observation deck, so guests can admire the incredible views of neighboring Mt. Fuji without having to hurdle through the air at 130 kilometers per hour.

If you can’t get enough death-defying experiences, the rollercoaster will also be Fujiyama Walk, a guard-less walking course where just a simple harness will prevent guests from falling. 

When: Summer 2021
Where: 
Fuji-Q Highland, 5-6-1 Shinnishihara, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture. Map
For more information, see here.

3. Comiket is back after a year off

Otakus rejoice, your annual gathering of the geeks is back in 2021, after a year of being virtual, thanks to the virus we need not name. Typically held twice a year since its debut in 1975, 2020 was the first time the event was canceled in Comiket’s history. Prior to 2020, the event welcomed a staggering 200,000 and 300,000 people daily, who flocked to Tokyo Big Site to meet their favorite manga creators, cosplayers, and various pop subculture icons. This year, however, organizers estimate to welcome numbers in the ten-thousands in order to stay within the boundaries of the social-distancing protocol.     

When: May 2-4, 2021
Where: Tokyo Big Sight, 3-11-1 Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo. Map
For more information, see here. (Japanese only)

 

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4. Mia Mia Cafe Launches Gallery & Event Space ‘I Am Tokyo’

In the unassuming residential neighborhood of Higashi-Nagasaki, just a few minutes from Ikebukuro, a cozy coffee revolution took place last year with the opening of Mia Mia (pronounced Maya Maya), a cafe, bar, and unofficial community space founded and run by husband-wife duo Rie and Vaughan Allison. The cafe combined Rie’s knowledge and skills as an architect and Vaughan’s infectious energy and intimate knowledge of Japan’s coffee and music scene while also combining the cultures of Japan and Australia (Vaughan’s home country). 

The cafe has injected new life into the neighborhood, attracting trendy young Tokyoites and giving locals a place to hang out and have a chat. With almost a year of experience under their belts, the pair has announced the opening of I Am Tokyo, a gallery and event space located just a short walk from Mia Mia.

“It’s a gallery which will exhibit artists quarterly — mainly Australian artists,” explains Rie. “We want to focus not only on the work of the artist but tell the story of the artist too. The space will also double as a local event space — as well as my architecture firm’s office. Together with our coffee shop Mia Mia and the beautiful surrounding establishments, we hope this will create a new flow in the Higashi Nagasaki area.” Keep an eye on Mia Mia’s Instagram page for more information. 

When: In 2021
Where: Close to Mia Mia, 4-10-1 Nagasaki, Toshima-ku, Tokyo. Map
For more information, see here

Photo: ©Kengo Kuma & Associates

5. The Tokyo EDITION Comes to Ginza

After setting a pretty successful precedent (all things considered) with the opening of The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon in late 2020, luxury hotel collaborative partners Marriott International and Ian Schrager have come together again. This time they’ve created “The Tokyo EDITION Ginza,” a luxury hotel and lifestyle outpost that they hope will position the brand as one of the most exciting lifestyle pioneers in Asia. Located on the prime real estate that is Chuo Street, the complex will feature 78 guestrooms and suites, three restuarnt/s bars, including a rooftop bar, as well as a meeting studio and a state-of-the-art fitness center. It’s set to open in fall, so move fast for the chance to nab a room. 

When: Fall 2021
Where: Ginza 2-chome, Tokyo. Map
For more information, see here.

6. TeamLab decorates Kairakuen Garden

Located about two hours from central Tokyo, Ibaraki’s Kairakuen Garden is a very worth day-trip contender. A stunning Japanese style landscape garden, Kairakuen Garden is beautiful throughout the seasons (especially in spring thanks to the 3,000 plum trees that populated the park). But it got just a little more exciting with the announcement that TeamLab will be setting up shop between February 13 to March 21, transforming the park into a light-based (so as not to hurt the flora) interactive art space. The takeover will coincide with the area’s annual Mito Plum Blossom Festival, the biggest celebration of its kind in Japan, leaving practically no excuse not to go. 

When: February 13 to March 21, 2021
Where: Kairakuen Garden, 1 Chome Tokiwacho, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture. Map
For more information, see here

7. Henri Matisse takes over The National Arts Centre Tokyo

Between mid-September to mid-December, the National Arts Centre Tokyo will play host to one of the greatest masters of the 20th century, French-born icon Henri Matisse (1869-1954), one of the key figures behind the bold, eye-catching Fauvism movement. Titled “Forms in Freedom,” the exhibition will feature paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, textiles, and unique objects from the Matisse Museum in Nice, France. Running for a short period only, it’s possibly the only chance to witness such a collection of Matisse’s works in Tokyo.   

When: September 15-December 13, 2021
Where: The National Arts Centre Tokyo, 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Map
For more information, see here