One of the most important holidays in Japan, Obon starts on August 13 and ends on the 15th this year, although the dates may vary depending on the region. Events in Tokyo begin in the weeks before and after those dates. Many are coming back after an extended hiatus due to Covid-19, so it’s a chance to continue cherished summer traditions. Here’s our list of the top Obon events in the Japanese capital this summer.

Shinjuku Eisa Festival

Editorial credit: Kento35 / (from 2016)

1. Shinjuku Eisa Festival

Starting from 1pm on July 30, the Okinawan Bon Odori graces the streets of Shinjuku, around the east and west exits of the main station, for one day only. The event features performances by many Eisa (Okinawan folk dance) groups based in Tokyo. Eisa usually features a circular dance accompanied by drumming and the playing of sanshin, an Okinawan musical instrument like the shamisen. For those unable to watch Eisa in Okinawa, they can enjoy a taste of Okinawan Obon festivities in the heart of Tokyo.

When: July 30 | More Info

Tsukiji Honganji Bon Odori TournamentThis photo is from 2018.

2. Tsukiji Hongwanji Bon Odori Festival

The 75th annual Tsukiji Hongwanji Bon Odori Festival is set to be held for the first time in three years, but on a much smaller scale than previous years. The popular dance competition is only allowing 2,700 visitors to enter each day. Participants are also restricted to those living in Tsukiji and near the venue. In previous years, visitors could enjoy food stalls run by local restaurants serving Tsukiji seafood while watching the celebrations.

When: Aug 3-6 | More info

3. Sunshine City Bon Odori Festival

Sunshine City’s 43rd Bon Odori festival features a six-meter tall yagura, or wooden scaffold at the center of the festivities. Visitors can enjoy colorful decorations and lanterns while following along with the moves of popular dances such as Tokyo Ondo, Otsuka Monogatari Ondo and more. On the first day a student band from a local primary school will also perform.

When: Aug 6-7 | More info

This video is from 2019. 

4. Nakameguro Summer Festival

With a history that dates back more than 50 years, the Nakameguro Summer Festival is due to return this year with two performances: Awa Odori on day one and Yosakoi on day two. Awa Odori is one of the most well-known dances during Obon season and originates from Tokushima. It features groups of choreographed dancers and musicians who play the shamisen, taiko drums and the shinobue flute. Yosakoi is a dynamic and energetic style of group dance that features colorful costumes and musicians as well. The festival also features food stalls and Bon Odori, a traditional Obon dance.

When: Aug 6-7 | More Info

Nakano Bon Odori5. Nakano Bon Odori

The 10th annual Nakano Bon Odori festival takes place right outside Nakano Station. It aims to attract around 3,000 yukata-clad participants to perform Tokyo Ondo and set a new Guinness World Record for the most Bon Odori dancers performing at the same time on August 6 from 4pm to 7pm. They’ll have workshops at Nakane Zero on July 9 and 24 at 7:30pm to teach interested participants how to do the dance. They’ll also teach the steps on the day of the event between 12pm and 3pm. In order to participate in the potentially record-setting dance session, visitors need to register in advance. On August 7, from 4pm to 9pm, celebrity guests will play J-pop tunes and teach contemporary Bon Odori choreography.

When: Aug 6-7 | More Info

Photo by d’n’c

6. Koenji Awa Odori Festival

One of the most popular Bon Odori festivals, the Koenji Awa Odori takes place around Koenji station in late August. The festival began in 1957 to revitalize the local shops, but has grown to include over 10,000 dancers and one million spectators. Dancers located in eight different areas will start performing at the same time accompanied by flutes, the shamisen, chimes and taiko drums. They’ll move through town in the shape of the number eight, an auspicious number in Japanese culture.

The festival can get crowded due to its popularity. To watch the same dances from a guaranteed good seat, you can go to Za Koenji Theater and watch a stage Awa Odori performance the same weekend.

When: Aug 27-28 | More Info

This video is from 2019.

7. Chuo-Ku Oedo Bon Odori

The 32nd Chuo-ku Oedo Bon Odori Tournament takes place at Hamacho Park. In addition to watching locals perform, visitors can enjoy food at the Oedo Fair and specialty market corners of the park. As with many Tokyo Obon celebrations, the event is returning for the first time in three years. It’s a well-established local festival that is expected to attract around 40,000 visitors.

When: Aug 26-27 | More Info


Note: This article was written prior to the new wave of Covid-19 cases. Please check each festival in case some are canceled due to the rise in cases.