After stocking up on water bottles, sunscreen and cool towels, hit the streets of Tokyo for a devastatingly fun lineup of events that are sure to knock you over. Besides keeping tabs on the Olympics, we’re talking about futuristic expos, hauntingly spectacular butoh performances and banging outdoor food market. Check out these things to do in Tokyo in the most happening neighborhoods to keep the good times rolling.
Note: Event details are subject to change. Check any event websites before heading out and keep respecting the measures against Covid-19 in Tokyo whenever possible.
Live Nation Japan is proud to announce that it’s bringing “Hiki Fes 2021” to the worldwide audience through a special live stream via Veeps. Produced by Japanese utaite singer and songwriter Mafumafu, Hiki Fes was first held at Saitama Super Arena in 2017 and has only grown since then. The online festival will bring more fan-favorite uitaite vocalists (vocal cover singers) to the global spotlight this year, packing the stage with performances from popular anime and game songs.
World-famous butoh dancer Nirohito Ishii explores the concept of life, death and the passage of time in his collaborative spatial installation-cum-performance The Garden of Garando. A transgressive performance art, butoh means “the dance of utter darkness” and involves the following: bare stage, shaven-headed dancers and raw, obscure choreographies. Ishii’s butoh style, however, skews from the original. 300 blood-red roses suspend from the ceiling to mirror the ephemeral nature of living things. Petals pool on the stage as the masked cast convulses and collapses on top — a blatant visual of decay. Every night, different musicians and dancers give their interpretations of the brutal and borderline unsettling sensibilities of the butoh. In addition to an art exhibition, artist and drag queen Vivienne Sato will hold a workshop on headdresses.
When: Until Aug 1
Where: Gallery Shell102, 2-29-10 Kichijoji Minamicho, Musashino-shi
Internationally-acclaimed wadaiko drum group DRUM TAO is back with another exhilarating show for the summer. The theme this season is to energize Japan and the world through maximal taiko-powered entertainment, just in time for the Olympics set to kick off at the end of July. Attending a DRUM TAO show is an experience hard to put into words, but no matter how you feel about traditional Japanese instruments or arts, you will walk out of a DRUM TAO show with a new love for drums.
When: Until Aug 9
Where: Lumine 0, 5-24-55 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo-based graphic artist and art director Kousuke Shimizu, who has designed for such brands as Beams and Comme des Garçons, is having his first solo exhibition in three years at Beams Shinjuku’s B-gallery. Random Craze brings together illustrations and “anti-” three-dimensional works inspired by dated pop-culture relics, from Disney animations to DC superheroes and even Licca-chan dolls. The latter works include lamps and sofas made with original fabrics; and uncanny, disassembled dolls and stuffed animals. You will also be able to peruse Chaotic Discord 2, Shimizu’s 100-page illustration book.
When: Until Aug 2
Where: B-Gallery, 3-32-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Kazumi Nakamura’s oeuvre morphs into eclectic bodies of work throughout his life, yet his practice maintains a critical commitment to emotional abstraction. For his third solo exhibition at Blum & Poe Tokyo, Nakamura strays away from his preference for canvasses and relies on paper to procure paintings of consistent compositional structure. With thick paint and ragged, expressive brushstrokes, Nakamura’s pieces oscillate between three and two dimensionalities. On display, too, are exclusive early examples of his Y-shape — referring to the symbolism of his earlier work — and the Diagonal Grid series made in the 1980s. The artist once described these alluring collections as “social semantics.”
When: Until Aug 7
Where: Blum & Poe, 1-14-34 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Artist and designer Haroshi recycles skateboard decks and transforms them into sculptures that span from pop installations, Japanese toys and classic graphics. It’s a completely self-taught carving and shaping technique he’s perfected since 2003. His collaborations with street brands and BATB trophies set him on par with other groundbreaking artists in modern culture. His iconic method, however, is heavily inspired by 12th-century Buddhist sculptor Unkei, who would place a crystal ball inside his Buddha statues. Likewise, Hamoshi considers putting the broken scrap wood into the core of the piece as giving them a “soul”. I versus I exhibition will follow his past successful exhibition tours in and outside Japan.
When: Until Aug 8
Where: Nanzuka Underground, 3-30-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Okeei was founded by Edo-period yui-oke craftsman Shinemon Kawamata in 1887 at Fukugawa, a port town that once thrived from lumber distribution. Now the only yui-oke workshop in Tokyo, Okeei is helmed by Eifu Kawamata, whose painstaking craftsmanship is reminiscent of Shinemon’s legacy. As a fourth-generation yui-oke master, Eifu challenges the hundred-year-old method; he proposes the use of tensile nickel silver as hoops instead of bamboo or copper to sturdily hold the wood in place, allowing the final result to boast a beautiful gloss. “I hope to create a beauty born from simplicity,” the artist remarks. In this upcoming exhibition, Eifu’s newer creations, including wooden containers and tea utensils made with 300-year-old Sawara cypress, will also be available for sale.
When: Jul 27–Aug 11
Where: Huls Gallery Tokyo, 6-4-10 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Mishiho Fukuhama takes quotidian objects and scales them down — almost like a playful gimmick suggestive of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” At the first stage of production, Fukuhama assembles palm-sized miniatures set against a white cloth. The architectural model allows the oil painter to envision a landscape of something so mundane yet unearthly. Naho Wakabayashi dwells in the same manipulation of reality, too — a “displacement of space,” in which strange beauty is portrayed through disregarded objects. Correspond to their “emotions and spirits,” Fukuhama and Wakabayashi do not dwell in pedantries. Instead, they let the texture and “pureness” of the oil paints create ethereally provocative imagery. Thus, a sense of déjà vu emerges from these uncanny, dreamlike creations in this two-person exhibition.
When: Until Aug 22
Where: Katsuya Susuki Gallery, 1-31-17 Kakinokizaka, Meguro-ku
Naked Uranai reinterprets the fortune-telling and cosmic worldview by integrating art, technology and AI into the ancient practice. Wander through the constellation chamber, where your horoscope alignment projects across the room, or immerse yourself in the mysterious world of tarot through the three-card oracle experience that tells your past, present and future. Ryotaro Muramatsu’s Lucy opens a glimpse of your psychology and inner turmoil through dream diagnosis. A final ode to spiritual healing, the numerology therapy calculates your birthdate and assigns you a flower essence based on your personal number. Supervised by popular fortune teller Akari Maki, the exhibition is a gateway to tap into your spiritual side. Results will be displayed on your smartphone for a unique visual experience.
When: Until Aug 27
Where: Shibuya Hikarie, 2-21-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Young painter Naoya Inose’s solo exhibition at THE CLUB is meant to relieve some of our summer vacation longings from a pre-pandemic era. Most of the works have a body of water in them – to Inose, “[t]he indispensable element for us living creatures” and “the beginning of everything.” His new series, Pocket Vacation, shows various natural pools set against a hypnotizing gradient of blue. Indeed, his paintings do have a barren and quiet quality that suggests they are either primeval or post-apocalyptic.
When: Until Aug 27
Where: The Club, 6-10-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku
The formula for a perfect summer brunch is pretty straightforward but hard to find. You need some food, a breezy outdoor space and that ‘it’ factor. Tokyo Midtown brings you all these three in their new art-slash-food lounge. It’s one of the solid things to do in Tokyo for anyone looking to escape the hustle of the city and unwind. There, the menu is craftily prepared and just as Instagram-worthy, refreshingly inspired by Japanese summer scenes. From fresh seasonal fruit spring rolls served on a paint palette, festival-inspired colorful mocktails, to shaved ice with edible bowls, word is that it’s already setting the bar high in the brunch business. As you sit on the fluffy bush-like couch and get your daily dose of community gossip from your girl (or guy) friends, the colorful graphic lanterns make the entire experience even more surreal.
When: Until Sep 5
Where: Midtown Garden Tokyo, 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Proposed by the Japanese government, Society 5.0 in a groundbreaking vision — the “next phase in history” that merges cyberspace with physical space. The expo will showcase the human-centered concept by presenting the latest national achievements, including scientific breakthroughs, strategic programs and sophisticated technologies. 50 leading Japanese companies, universities and organizations will exhibition around 200 products and achievements that cover a variety of fields such as healthcare, agriculture and manufacturing. From flying cars to wearable cyborgs, the event is epected to be Japan’s first Society 5.0 expo, the exhibits will be grouped based on five themes. The organizers have also made the event available online with multilingual explanations so international viewers can learn more about this progressive concept.
When: Until Sep 5
Where: Tokyo Skytree Town, 1-1 Oshiage, Sumida-ku
In Nihonbashi, zero point of old Edo, a recent addition to the summer event calendar will take to the streets again in late July. Eco Edo is an open-air event with many takeout stalls selling foodstuffs in the likeness of one of Japan’s classic summer animals: the goldfish. There will also be a “Yukata de Nihonbashi Sampo Mapu”, which will guide yukata-clad amblers around the “cool” sites of Nihonbashi — plus, selected shops around the neighborhood will offer discounts to guests dressed in traditional Japanese garb.
When: Until Sep 12
Where: Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall, 2-2-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painted somewhere between the Arcadian tastes of Neo-Classical painting; and the sensual effects and Plein-air principle of Impressionism. To many, he was the progenitor of the latter movement. This exhibition traces the trajectory of 19th-century French landscape painting, from Corot to its peak during Impressionism. From a selection of masterpieces from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Reims, we can see the growth of landscape from an inferior lower-class genre to an artistic and societal cornerstone. In addition to the SOMPO’s impressive permanent collection – which includes Gauguin and even van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” – you will view some 50 oil paintings and 20 woodblock prints from the realist Barbizon school and such luminaries as Michallon, Courbet, Pissarro and Monet. Advanced reservation is recommended. For safety purposes, museum visits are divided into four sessions.
Where: Sompo Museum of Art, 1-26-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Katsushika Hokusai, the Edo-period painter of that iconic maritime view of Mount Fuji, constantly challenged himself throughout his 70-year career as an ukiyo-e artist, to form one of the most remarkable and textured oeuvres in the world. A special exhibition at Tokyo Midtown Hall in Roppongi brings together almost every single picture and page of his masterpieces: Hokusai Manga (a collection of sketches that range from landscapes to cats and supernatural creatures), Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji (the famous woodblock print series) and One Hundred Views of Mt Fuji (a series of illustrated books furthering his spiritual exploration of the mountain). This ambitious project allows us to see the development of his visual tools. We will also see rare prints like the first copy of “Ushibori, Hitachi Province,” a small cargo boat in the riverside district Itako.
When: Until Sep 17
Where: Tokyo Midtown, 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku
The curation design of Walls & Bridges, upcoming at Ueno’s Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, is itself unique. The exhibition brings together five artists of various backgrounds, who worked in several media from film and photo to sculpture to painting. Indeed, biographically, these artists have little in common – ranging from a watercolorist and former lumberjack from Oita, to a Czech sculptor who once was imprisoned in a concentration camp – but they all are said to transform their personal barriers, or “walls,” into opportunities for expression, of course “bridges,” that sustain their particular creative vision.
When: Until Oct 9
Where: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Uenokoen 8-36, Taito-ku
Like Kusama, Kaws has a certain lore surrounding his work. You might have spotted his cast of characters on a Uniqlo tee, modeled off of pop-cultural idols. Usually, we see his characters in states of distress, consoling each other. From graphic paintings to colossal environmental installations — such as a 28-meter floating figure on Hong Kong Harbor – Kaws is ever ambitious. This is his first large-scale exhibition in Japan, and will trace his creative development across the ages, featuring pieces from his own private collection. The exhibition will even feature AR (Augmented Reality) works and interactive installations. The exhibition aims to emphasize Kaws’ continuing cultural force.
Where: Mori Arts Center Gallery Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku