TOPTokyo LifeGuides & Insights17 Things To Do in Tokyo This Weekend: September 17–20

17 Things To Do in Tokyo This Weekend: September 17–20

Tokyo Weekender's guide to the best events, activities and things to do in the city

By Weekender Editor

With the extension of Tokyo’s state of emergency, many events are postponed indefinitely or are happening online; others go as planned but with much stricter measures. This weekend, attend the Shinsaibashi Koichi Festival from home or check out Sanrio’s latest exhibition at Tokyo City View.

Note: While more Tokyoites are getting vaccinated every day, now more than ever, be sure to stay updated with the latest information about Covid-19 measures, regulations and more. 

Skip ahead:

1. Tokyo Big Band Live at Akasaka B Flat

TOKYO BIG BAND, which was founded by pianist Jonathan Katz and, living up to its name, is now composed of 19 members, is not simply a jazz band. Reflecting Katz’s own diverse CV – he has worked with jazz greats like Ray Brown as well as enka legend Hiroshi Itsuki and bossa nova star Lisa Ono – the band performs a number of jazz and pop standards alongside originals and fresh renditions of traditional Japanese songs. Come to Akasaka B Flat to experience these songs anew.

Make a reservation (in English) by sending your full name, party size and phone number to [email protected]

When: Sept 17

bon odori

2. Shinbashi Koichi Festival 2021

It’s a festival that is notorious for its two-day spree of dancing, drumming eating and drinking. Set up around the Shinbashi SL Square, one of the main attractions is the Yukata Beauty Contest. Participants are ranked based on their yukata design and interview answers, and winners receive a cash prize of ¥100,000 and a four-night trip to Hawaii. Further in the venue, a stage stands erect for the Bon Odori, which is a type of traditional dancing that honors ancestral spirits. Yagura, a wooden stage set for musicians and singers, allows visitors to dance in a clockwise direction around the stage. With an army of kids, taiko drummers, traditional dancers and local bands rallying together, the Shinbashi Koichi Festival is certainly a great way to spend a cool summer night. This year’s festival will be held online.

When: Sept 17

Katsuya Terada Monster Head Girl HIdari Zingaro

©️Katsuya Terada

3. Katsuya Terada: MONSTER HEAD GIRL

So much of the thought and aesthetic of Takashi Murakami’s Hidari Zingaro and Kaikai Kiki Gallery revolves around manga. And most Japanese manga, says Katsuya Terada, is character driven. Such is true for Terada’s work. His eponymous doll-like “monster head girls” are instantly recognizable and so consistent and spirited that we assume they occupy the same universe.

The narrative flow of the manga, Terada continues, is created by its crucial borders. He wishes to capture these characteristics of a propelling story in a single picture. But this solo exhibition will focus less heavily on two-dimensional works than his previous ones, featuring new bronze sculptures of his characters – 3D articulations of his line drawing.

When: Until Sept 17


4. Special Exhibition: The Complete Hokusai

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 most 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 Sept 17

Global Goals Jam

5. Global Goals Jam designathon

FabCafe hosts Global Goals Jam (GGJ) Tokyo for the fifth year running. During this annual two-day event teams work together on local challenges related to the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the UN. Teams will design local solutions to global issues relating to the theme, “The Regenerative City, Tokyo.” This year the event will be entirely online.

GGJ is a design thinking workshop that engages makers, designers and citizens of diverse backgrounds and skillsets to get together to design services, products and ideas that contribute to the achievement of the UN’s SDGs. The designathon will be held in English.

When: Sept 18 & 19

6. Kalinlaw: Made in Paradise

Kalinlaw is a British and Japanese artist based in Tokyo. She graduated with a fine arts major from Tyler School of Art, and ever since has been experimenting with different mediums to find her style – only to return back to the root of classic art; paint on canvas. This solo art exhibition will be held at Space Banksia in Harajuku.

When: Until Sept 23

7. Sanrio Exhibition-The Beginning of Kawaii

Since its birth, Sanrio has produced countless characters and products that have come to represent Japan’s kawaii culture today. This exhibition looks back at the last 60 years of Sanrio’s history and how kawaii culture has flourished, allowing us to see things from the company’s perspective. Over 80 items such as products, documents and original sketches as well as over 400 characters can be seen on the 52nd floor of Mori Tower.

When: From Sept 17

Ending Soon

Phyllida Barlow, untitled: canvasracks; 2018-2019, Concrete, cotton-duck canvas, hardboard, paint, plastic, plywood, steel, tape, timber, Dimensions variable. Courtesy: Hauser & Wirth, Installation view: cul-de-sac, Royal Academy of Arts,London, 2019. Photo: Damian Griffiths

8. Another Energy: Power to Continue Challenging – 16 Women Artists from around the World

This exhibition focuses on 16 female artists in their 70s or older, from across the globe, who continue to embark on new challenges. Ranging in ages 71-105 with their careers spanning over 50 years, these artists are originally from 14 different countries, and equally diverse in their current locations. Showcasing their wide array of powerful works from paintings, video, sculptures, to large-scale installations and performances, it contemplates the nature of the special strength, “Another Energy” of these women who have all continued challenging throughout their long-standing careers.

When: Until Sept 26

d46 rental store
Xylophone Chair, Tomoyasu Seisakusho Co., Ltd. Osaka © d47 Museum

9. 47 Rental Store Special Exhibition

Since opening in 2012, d47 Museum has been — and will always be — about giving spotlight to 47 Japanese prefectures through showcasing the region’s unique product designs and craftsmanship. Each event concentrates on a particular theme or category. However, there’s a common thread that ties everything on display: products and services must utilize local technologies, address climate issues and hold value to the local areas. For this upcoming exhibition, the museum/gallery joins hands with creative company Loftwork to set in motion 47 Rental Store. The special collaboration pushes the concept of “communication born from rental.” Here, visitors can rent the products and services during the exhibition period. Upon returning, creators and borrowers can engage in a creative dialogue and forge a new relationship that nurtures growth. The exhibition will also display prototypes and unsold products that are not yet on the market. 

When: Until Sept 27

Seasonal Events

10. “Pink & Shadow” Halloween Sweets Buffet at Conrad Tokyo

This year’s theme for the Conrad Tokyo Halloween sweets buffet is “Pink & Shadow.” The 13 different sweets include a rich pumpkin Mont Blanc, batty purple sweet potato pudding, refreshing jellies with enticing flavors such as grapes and pink grapefruit, and flamingos perched upon raspberry and chocolate cream choux pastries, plus waguri (Japanese chestnut) Mont Blanc tart served at a Live Station.

When: From Sept 11

11. Alice in Wonderland Sweets Buffet at Intercontinental Tokyo Bay

Intercontinental Tokyo Bay is hosting a sweets buffet inspired by “Alice in Wonderland,” featuring a variety of sweets reminiscent of the characters in the story. Enjoy chocolate cake in the shape of a caterpillar, a purple sweet potato Mont Blanc inspired by the Cheshire Cat, white rabbit cupcakes, and bright red cake inspired by the Queen of Hearts.

Other eerie details make this one of the eeriest afternoon teas this season, with a mysterious white rabbit welcoming you at the entrance and a photo booth featuring a big teacup.

When: From Sept 11

12. “Flavor of Japan” Halloween Afternoon Tea at Conrad Tokyo

The finest Japanese ingredients were chosen for the luxurious snacks in this Halloween-themed event. Enjoy Mont Blanc made with chestnuts from Ehime Prefecture simmered in syrup, a chocolate tart and apple mousse with Kougyoku (Jonathan) apples from Aomori Prefecture and a chocolate spider web and blackberry on top. If you’re hoping for something more savory, opt for the leek and potato mousse with grilled sea urchin and a hint of wasabi. Don’t be scared, because every mouthful will make you tremble with delight!

When: Until Oct 31

13. Kanazawa Omotenashi | Afternoon Tea at Palace Hotel Tokyo

The Palace Hotel Tokyo is hosting a “Kanazawa Omotenashi” themed afternoon tea in collaboration with wagashi (Japanese confectionary) Kanazawa store Yoshihashi, served exclusively in the lobby lounge. Yoshihashi was established in 1947 and is a renowned shop trusted by tea masters in Ishikawa Prefecture and sells only made-to-order sweets. This afternoon tea experience will be the first of its kind in Japan, designed to provide a unique experience for those who cannot travel to Ishikawa. Perfect for those yearning to have a bite of Kanazawa staples without leaving their home city of Tokyo.

When: Until Nov 30

Things to Do at Home

14. Cook one of the many other Japanese dishes you can make at home

With so much extra time at home, the weekends are the perfect time to work on your cooking skills and add a recipe or two to your family cookbook. We have tons of articles on our site about cooking with specific Japanese ingredients. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started:

15. Play your way through Japan

Some very good video games were released in the last few years that offer great escapism. If traveling is what you’re missing, try playing Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, which can teach you the ins and outs of growing rice, or Ghosts of Tsushima if you’ve always wanted to be a samurai (not the Tom Cruise kind). Pokémon also recently released Pokémon Unite, a free multiplayer online game for those aiming to be the very best trainer out there.

16. Learn some lesser-known facts about Japan

Fun fact: We love fun facts at TW. If you find yourself a bit bored this weekend and want to have something interesting to tell your friends during your next Zoom gathering, below are some fact-filled articles about a remote Okinawa island, Mount Fuji and trains in Japan:

17. Join the TW Book Club

Come join us as we dive into (mostly) contemporary books either written by Japanese authors, set in Japan or have some sort of connection with the country. We read a new book every month! Previous reads include Sweet Bean PasteMs Ice Sandwich and The Travelling Cat Chronicles. We’re announcing our September read at the end of this week. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates.

Feature image by Anna Petek