“Princess Jellyfish” exhibition at Shibuya Parco Museum: Male visitors must “cross-dress” in female clothes

Written by: William on October 27, 2014 at 8:47 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

A new exhibition event in Shibuya will turn all male visitors into crossdressers.

All right, let’s qualify that.

The exhibition, held in December and January at Shibuya Parco Museum, is a promo for the upcoming live-action film adaptation of the manga “Princess Jellyfish”.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

The original, called “Kuragehime” in Japanese, is all about the goings-on at an apartment building populated only by female otaku, such as a girl obsessed with kimono and another with Chinese history. The tenants of the apartment in the threatened “Amamizukan” building are all girls. No boys are allowed, though the main character Tsukimi Kurashita (her mania is for jellyfish, hence the title) eventually allows a cross-dressing politician’s son into her life and of course, we can probably all guess how things turn out between them.

The exhibition will feature props, costumes and more from the world of the film and manga.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

As men are “banned” from the apartment building in the story, likewise the exhibition is ostensibly only open to female visitors. Should men turn up, they will be forced to wear “female items” if they want to enter the exhibition. At the time of writing we aren’t sure exactly what these are, though we doubt a mainstream space like Parco Museum would actually force young guys in Shibuya to wear skirts. If you want to see that kind of thing, head over to Shinjuku or Akihabara for the otoko no ko cross-dressing cosplay subculture trend.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko renna nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

Following an anime series in 2010, the live-action film version of Akiko Higashimura’s comic is set for release on December 27th and stars Rena Nounen (of “Amachan” fame) in the gauche lead role.

“Kuragehime Exhibition”
Parco Museum (Shibuya Parco Part 1, 3F)
December 19th to January 12th
Tickets: ¥500


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Category: CULTURE

Finnair lets Tokyoites be surrounded by virtual aurora experience in Roppongi

Written by: William on October 24, 2014 at 9:00 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Roppongi has its fair share of bright lights and other-worldly experiences, though this is certainly something new.

Finnair is sponsoring a stimulated aurora experience event at Tokyo Midtown on November 7th and November 8th.

Finnair Aurora will showcase various Scandinavian tourist destinations for discerning Roppongi visitors but best of all is the “aurora booth” attraction, which will provide a virtual aurora experience for those who can’t make it to the other side of the planet to see the real thing.

finnair aurora midtown roppongi virtual experience event

There will also be a booth where you can superimpose yourself over the aurora to create a special commemorative image of your “trip”.

For the linguists out there, there will be customized badges which can be printed using a “Finn Generator” that converts your name into Finnish.

And after all that traveling around the Arctic Circle, no doubt you will be parched. Not to worry, aurora-themed drinks and Glühwein will be one hand, as well as other Scandinavian snacks.

Japanese people really love the aurora and sightseeing trips to the various parts of the world where you can see the light spectacle are very popular. Flights depart for Finnish cities offering vistas of the autumn aurora from Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, setting you down in 9.5 hours. (For the unlucky ones without the vacation budget, there are aurora home planetarium devices instead.)

Finnair Aurora is open 13:00-17:00 on November 7th and 11:00-21:00 on November 8th at Tokyo Midtown’s Canopy Square.


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Tokyo Cheapo’s September-October Cheapo Calendar: 5 Autumn Events Not to Miss

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on September 5, 2014 at 8:52 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

Early autumn is a great time to be in Tokyo. Except for the odd typhoon, the weather is just right, and there are heaps of free events to enjoy. Here’s our pick of five particularly awesome ones, bringing you the best of Japanese culture both traditional and contemporary.

1. Nezu Shrine Festival: September 20th-21st

nezu shrine festival tokyo
Nezu Shrine Festival Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

A festival with a long history, held at a Shinto shrine with an even longer one. Nezu Shrine, most famous for its azalea festival in spring, was officially established in 1705, but is said to go back more than 1,900 years. The story goes that it was founded by the legendary priest Yamato Takeru no Mikoto (give him a Google) in Sendagi, and then moved to its current location. The shrine’s Annual Grand Festival was first held somewhere around 1714.

Well-known but not well-publicised, the Grand Festival, or reitaisai, is a chance to see the traditional Shinto dances Urayasu-no-mai and Sanza-no-mai (the latter featuring fearsome masks), as well as taiko drumming and some very old mikoshi (portable shrines) being paraded around. It’s also a good opportunity to try typical Japanese festival food from stalls that will be set up in the shrine precincts. Think takoyaki, yakisoba, squid stuff and various foods on sticks.

The Grand Festival is not to be confused with the newer Shitamachi Matsuri held at the shrine on October 20-21st — also a worthwhile event to check out.

More info here.

2. Tokyo Game Show 2014: September 20th-21st

tokyo game show
Tokyo Game Show photo by LonelyBob

Happening on the same weekend as the Nezu Shrine Festival is one of the world’s biggest gaming shows (don’t worry, you’ll have time to do both). First held in 1996, Tokyo Game Show has grown like crazy, attracting close to 300,000 visitors last year. Some people come on tours to Japan just for this event. There are booths by all the major game companies (except Nintendo… yes, really), with chances to try the latest games. You’ll find everything from romance sims to huge titles, indie stuff, smartphone games and merch.

You can expect cosplay, skimpily clad girls (cough, gender issues in gaming, cough cough), and possibly some important industry announcements. Rumors are afloat that something big will be going down about Final Fantasy XV and maybe PS4 too.

1,000 yen and a couple of hours of queuing (seriously, go early!) outside Makuhari Messe will get you in. More info here.

3. Narita Fireworks Festival: October 11th

narita fireworks festival

Most of Japan’s mega fireworks shows happen in summer, but this is an autumn one — and a fairly big one, too. 10,000 shots will be fired into the sky above Chiba’s Narita City, making for a decent display with a variety of shapes and possibly even a couple of cartoon character designs in the mix. Just 10,000 people are expected to attend, making it a much more chilled event than the unbelievably crowded Edogawa and Sumidagawa Fireworks Festivals held earlier in the year (10,000-12,000 shots go off at those shows too).

The venue, Narita Daikata Newtown Sports Square, is a few kilometers from JR Narita Station. There will be buses running both ways, but if you get stressed, it’s a short 5-10 minute taxi ride (just bear in mind that taxis are not all that cheapo-friendly).

More info here.

4. Oeshiki Festival at Ikegami Honmonji Temple: October 11th-13th

oeshiki festival ikegami honmonji temple
Oeshiki Festival Photo by raccoflickr used under CC

A Buddhist festival commemorating the anniversary of the death of Nichiren, a revered Buddhist teacher who lived during the Kamakura period (700-800 years ago). The event is marked across the country, but this version is the most notable as it was at Ikegami Honmonji Temple that Nichiren passed away. He is also said to have founded the temple in 1282 (it underwent reconstruction over the years, though).

The highlight of the festival and an incredibly beautiful experience is watching 3,000 people carry 10,000 lights along a 2km route through the streets. For this rite, called mando, sacred lanterns are decorated with cherry blossoms and hung on 5m poles. Prayers are chanted to drums and flutes in the background.

This is a popular event, and the road from the station to the temple can get crowded – so get there early to secure a good vantage point. The mando has been held on the 12th in previous years, but it’s a good idea to check the temple website ahead of time to confirm.

More info here.

5. Japan Robot Week 2014: October 15th-17th

japan robot week tokyo

If you’re in Tokyo, you need to go to this event simply for the stories and social cred at cheapo dinner parties later. The expo is all about service bots — showcasing technology that it’s hoped will revolutionise fields like nursing, life support, disaster response, farming and more, and in so doing help Japan’s “aging society” problem.

Look out for “Excretion Support” robots, as well as something termed “Hand” in the Medical Robots category. Is it a bionic hand? A hand-shaped robot? Let us know, if you find out.

If you get bored, you can always check out the vacuum show that will apparently be happening on the premises too. Did someone say Roomba?

More info here.

Bonus event: Ohara Naked Festival

This event sounds a lot more scandalous than it really is. Partly nude men cart a portable shrine down to the sea and dunk it in the water. It’s good clean fun.

For more events, like the Ramen Festival, check out our regularly updated Events pages and sign up for the weekly Cheapo Weekend events wrap.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium: Tokyo’s summer spectacle of goldfish and Edo colors returns

Written by: William on July 17, 2014 at 8:55 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | 2 Comments

After first appearing in 2011 and proving a massive success in both 2012 and in 2013, the spectacular Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 is back. Exploiting Japan’s love of the decorative and the vibrant colors of kingyo goldfish to the max, the Art Aquarium event is popular with couples on dates and families looking for eye candy for the kids.

It opened for the fourth time at the Nihonbashi venue on July 11th. Last year’s edition achieved more than 300,000 visitors and this year the organizers surely hope to match this, pulling out all the stops with 5,000 goldfish and even new aquaria that use mirrors and lens called Paradoxrium and Reflectrium.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Technically speaking, there are two events: Art Aquarium is open from 11:00 to 19:00 while the Night Aquarium is from 19:00 to 23:30. As we said, the two main targets here are surely families and couples, so from 19:00 the lighting and music change, and visitors are allowed to take around drinks with them. There will also be live music from 19:00 on weekends. In other words, expect things to feel more romantic from the evening.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Themed around Edo and the goldfish motifs that populate art from the period, the aquarium is very much steeped in the tones of Japonism. It’s only a small coincidence that the venue is in Nihonbashi, an area that was instrumental in the Meiji and Taisho eras as Tokyo modernized.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

There are many different kinds of aquaria featured in the exhibition, from balls to folding screen shapes, and complete with outlandish names like Elegance Dance, Bonborium, and Byouburium. You can see a slideshow and bilingual descriptions on the Art Aquarium website.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 runs until September 23rd at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall.

[Images source]


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July-August Cheapo Calendar: 5 Summer Events Not to Miss

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on July 1, 2014 at 4:13 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

sumida fireworks display tokyo
Sumida River Fireworks Festival. Pic by Tokyo Times, used under a Creative Commons licence.

If you’re in or near Tokyo this summer, you don’t want to miss these events. The season starts with a bang, as fireworks festivals explode around the city from late-July to the end of August. You’ll find that the Samba Carnival in Asakusa is one of the hottest things in the city (next to the temperatures), closely rivalled by the mega dance event that is Super Yosakoi. Keen on checking out one of the three great Shinto festivals of Tokyo? How about a huge comic event? Scrap your expensive travel plans – Tokyo has all you need for a sizzling summer.

1. Fireworks Festivals: Late July – End of August

tokyo fireworks displays
Pic by Taro Yamamoto, used under a Creative Commons licence.

While summer might not have a distinctive floral marker (except maybe for the sunflower) like other seasons in Japan do, it does have a whole lot of “fire flowers”, a direct translation of the Japanese word for fireworks, hanabi. Some of the bigger fireworks festivals include those in Kamakura and Tamagawa, as well as the Jingugaien Fireworks Festival, which takes place at the Jingu Stadium, and the Edogawa Hanabi Taikai. The two mega events, however, are the Tokyo Bay Fireworks Festival — an 80-minute celebration of 12,000 fireworks, and the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival — an intensely crowded event featuring 90 minutes of blasts and roughly a million people.

Other noteworthy shows include ones in Showa Kinen Park, Hachioji, Itabashi and Katsushika City. Don your summer kimono (yukata), grab some cheap beer and enjoy the shows.

2. Fukagawa Festival: August 13th-17th

fukagawa festival
Pic by Hamachi, used under a Creative Commons licence.

Along with the Kanda Matsuri and Sanno Matsuri, the Fukagawa Festival is one of the three big Shinto festivals of Tokyo. The event is probably most famous for its gigantic water fight-slash-procession, which only happens every third year — the good news is this year is one of those years! The last time that the hon matsuri, or “proper festival” version (with the drenching part) took place was 2012 — originally it was scheduled for 2011, but due to the earthquake, it was postponed. The organisers decided to stick to the original schedule for 2014 though, which means that the next watery affair will only take place in 2017. The idea behind the splashing and spraying is that the water is purifying — but on a practical level, it also cools the participants down.

You can expect a grand parade of 120 portable shrines, or mikoshi, with some huge ones in the mix. There will be taiko drumming, music and more. The festival, believed to have started in 1642, is centered around Tomioka Hachiman Shrine, which was built in 1627.

3. Comiket 2014: August 15th-17th

tokyo comiket comics cosplay
Pic by jeriaska, used under a Creative Commons licence.

Tokyo’s Comiket, or ”Comic Market” is a celebration of all things comic-related, regularly attracting crowds of over 500,000 people. Tens of thousands of manga artists sell their self-published dojinsha (independent) works, with a huge variety of genres and styles on offer. You can pick up some pretty rare stuff, and some people later flog their finds on internet auction sites.

Entrance to Comiket is free, unless you want to dress up — cosplaying will cost you ¥800. You can expect a fair few wacky outfits in addition to incredibly detailed representations of characters from manga and anime.

This is one event where arriving late is better than getting there early — to avoid lengthy queues, those in the know advise arriving around noon. The next Comiket will take place in winter and is a slightly smaller event than the summer version.

4. 33rd Asakusa Samba Carnival: August 23rd

asakusa samba carnival
Pic by Chen Qu, used under a Creative Commons licence.

Gaining immense popularity over the years, the Asakusa Samba Carnival has become one of Tokyo’s major summer festivals. The event sees 18 teams compete for the carnival title, with samba floats, drummers and, of course, lots of dancers with minuscule and or colourful costumes, and enormous feathered head dresses. Prepare to jostle your way through masses of telephoto lenses! The carnival kicks off at 1pm and should be all over by 6pm.

If you’re keen for a taste of what to expect (as well as lots of tasty Brazilian food), check out the Brazilian Day celebrations at Yoyogi Park on July 19-20th.

5. Super Yosakoi 2014: August 23rd-24th

super yosakoi tokyo dance contest
Pic by முதல் அ வரை, used under a Creative Commons licence.

If you’ve ever wanted to see authentic Japanese dance, this is a fantastic event to check out. 6,000 dancers in teams from all over the country compete annually in the Super Yosakoi dance contest, with colourful costumes and impressive moves. The atmosphere in Harajuku and Omotesando is electric, with stage performances as well as mammoth 5-8 hour parades.

The yosakoi dance originated in Kochi Prefecture in 1954 as a modern take on traditional summer dance. One of its defining characteristics is the use of small wooden clappers called naruko, originally used to scare birds away from rice fields. Dancers often use other props too, like drums and banners.

Check out the Cheapo Weekend every Thursday for more budget-friendly events!

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.


May-June Cheapo Calendar: 5 Events Not to Miss

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on May 6, 2014 at 8:55 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

tokyo sanja matsuri festival

Sanja Matsuri pic by andlun1, used under a Creative Commons licence

As Tokyo shifts into early summer and rainy season mode, there’s an explosion of events. The next two months offer a chance to see two famous and historical festivals – so get your camera ready. This is the second instalment in our bi-monthly events wrap, keeping you in the know about what’s on and cheap (or free!) in Tokyo.

1. Sanja Matsuri – May 16-18

tokyo sanja matsuri festival

Pic by Sebastian Ritscher, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

One of Tokyo’s top three festivals, and by far its rowdiest, the Sanja Matsuri has been going strong since the Edo Period (1603 – 1867, for you history-loving cheapos), or possibly much longer. Around two million spectators descend on Asakusa to watch tattooed men clad in simple fundoshi (a kind of loincloth) hoist heavy portable shrines called mikoshi and parade them through the streets. While mikoshi are a common feature of Japanese shrine festivals, what sets the Sanja Matsuri apart is the jousting that goes on between the groups of mikoshi bearers. Think gladiator games, with a religious twist. There is also dancing, drumming and typical festival food.

When: 16-18 May. Where: Asakusa. More details here.

2. Design Festa Vol. 39 – May 17-18

tokyo design festa

Pic by ebtokyo, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Held twice a year, this event is huge – one of the biggest in the Asian art world. With 3,000 booths and 10,000 exhibitors, it’s a must for anyone with even a drop of creativity in their veins. A mix of music (from trip-hop to Celtic folk pop and post-rock), fashion, dance, movies, print and 3D art and design, and much more, it’s a gallery of “any and all artists” that draws pilgrims from out of town. Advance tickets are 800 yen – it’s 200 yen more if you pay at the door.

When: 17-18 May. Where: Tokyo Big Sight, Odaiba. More details here.

3. Sanno Matsuri – June 13

sanno matsuri tokyo

Pic by kalupa, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Another huge event, the Sanno Matsuri (also known as the Tenka Matsuri) is one of the three biggest festivals in the whole of Japan. The highlight of the 11 days of events and celebrations is the procession on the 13th of June, which only actually takes place every other year, alternating with the Kanda Matsuri. A parade of several hundred people in colorful traditional costumes, carrying mikoshi, make their way through the streets of Tokyo, passing by the Imperial Palace and traversing Ginza. It’s a nine-hour mission, with music, drums and possibly even people on horseback. You can also experience tea ceremony at the shrine as part of the festivities.

When: 13 June. Where: Hie Shrine, near Tameike-Sanno Station, Akasaka.

4. Ajisai Festivals – Mid-June to Early July

ajisai matsuri tokyo

Pic by Glen Malley, used under a Creative Commons Licence

While Southern Hemisphere folk might associate hydrangea with Christmas, here these flowers mark the rainy season. You can enjoy them all over the place, but the Bunkyo Ajisai Festival at Hakusan Shrine from the 7th-15th of June is one of the best spots – and it’s totally free. There are 10,000 plants on show. You can also do some awesome ajisai appreciation (gotta love alliteration) at the beautiful Hase Kannon Temple in Kamakura, or your local neighbourhood shrines and temples, too. Rainy season tip: Sip some warm ginger tea to avoid a chill in the soggy weather!

When: Mid-June to early July. Where: Hakusan, Kamakura and more.

5. Fireflies – Late May to Early July

hotaru firefly event tokyo

Pic by Yuya Tamai, used under a Creative Commons Licence

While urbanization has rendered the bright-bummed fireflies less prolific than they were in the past, it’s still possible to catch sight of some hotaru in Tokyo. Symbolic of the end of spring and the start of the rainy season and summer (this country is known for its seasonal markers), fireflies hold a special place in Japanese culture. The Firefly Festival at Hotaru Park in Fussa is a good choice for firefly viewing in the late evenings (around 8pm) of early-mid June (dates will be confirmed closer to the time). The Firefly Nursery in Itabashi is another option, or you could cart yourself off to the classy Chinzansou Hotel (near Edogawabashi Station) for dinner and admire the fireflies in their private garden (note, this is probably not such a cheap option).

When: Late May – Early July (depending on the place). Where: Fussa, Itabashi, Edogawabashi.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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Tokyo Dome City hosts TenQ space museum and planet earth theater this summer

Written by: William on April 17, 2014 at 4:24 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Tokyo Dome City will be converted into a remarkable planetarium event this summer. TenQ is a space museum that opens on July 8th in Tokyo Dome City, complete with a 11-meter “Theater Sora” that gives a view over Planet Earth in 4K.

tokyo dome city tenq

There is also a projection mapping room so you can experience humanity’s ideas about space. Hajimari no Heya might look like a set from the “Cube” sci-fi movies but it promises to educate and entertain visitors with the ideas we have had about the universe from ancient times to the modern age.

tokyo dome city tenq

Admission is ¥1,800 for adults. Pricy but it looks worth it.

tokyo dome city tenq

tokyo dome city tenq

And if you can’t get to Tokyo Dome City this summer for the event, you can always get yourself the next best thing, a Sega Toys Homestar Planetarium, designed by Takayuki Ohira.



Art Fair Tokyo 2014 starts today

Written by: Japan Trends on March 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Japan’s largest art event, Art Fair Tokyo, starts today at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho.

The fair features around 180 galleries and other organizations putting their wares for collectors and the general to inspect and, hopefully, buy!

art fair tokyo 2014

This year, G-Tokyo — previously an alternate art fair — has fused with Art Fair Tokyo to present a separate section within the main fair venue. In the past, the fair has used a separate venue or the upstairs floor to showcase younger contemporary galleries’ work. This year and last see just a single floor of the forum being used which, while spacious enough, does mean there isn’t the sense of demarcation between different kinds of art and art galleries as before.

You will need stamina to make it through all the booths!

Look out for the specially customize “art Mercedes-Benz” in the entrance.

A mini exhibition is also being held within the fair as part of its annual Artistic Practice series, this year highlighting Japanese modern painting from the late nineteenth century onwards.

If painting’s not your thing, how about the latest in animation and video art? The Japan Media Arts Festival is screening some of its 2013 award-winners at a special screen just outside the entrance to the fair.

There is also a “Discover Asia” section as well as cafe with cardboard furniture being painted by Aki Kondo.

mitsutoshi hanaga art fair tokyo 2014

The most exciting-looking part of the fair may also be its most esoteric. Aoyama Meguro gallery has accumulated a fantastic collection of photography by Mitsutoshi Hanaga that showcase the Japanese experimental art and theatre and dance scene from the 1960′s and 1970′s, as well as social movements and student protests from the era.

Whatever your tastes, there’s something for everyone.

Art Fair Tokyo runs from Friday March 7th to Sunday March 9th, 2014. Admission costs ¥2,000.


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Category: CULTURE

Spring Cheapo Calendar: 5 Events Not to Miss

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on March 4, 2014 at 12:04 pm | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

spring japan cherry blossom

Image by dat’, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Make the most of the pleasant weather in Tokyo this March and April with Tokyo Cheapo’s guide to the best festivals and flowers. This is the first installment of a new bi-monthly events wrap where Tokyo Cheapo will be giving you the lowdown on what’s on (and cheap) in the coming months.

1. Hanami: Late March to Early April

For some, it’s the reason they come to Japan — to contemplate the transience of life while gazing at the cherry blossoms coloring the landscape pink. For others, it’s an opportunity to get drunk in a poetic setting. And yet for others, it’s a bit of both. Whatever you’re into, cherry blossom season is traditionally celebrated with chilled picnics under the trees, while the petals fall around you. The parks of Ueno and Sumida are popular spots for these hanami parties, as is the Chiyoda area (around the Imperial Palace) — you can even boat around the moat there. Rikugien, known for its “weeping” cherry trees, is worth a visit too.

When: Late March – Early April. You can check the sakura forecast (in Japanese) here.

hanami sakura cherry blossom

Image by Les Taylor, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

2. Anime Japan 2014 (March 22nd and 23rd)

As the website says, “Here is everything about anime”. A dream come true for any self-respecting otaku, it’s two full days of all things Japanese animation. You’ll have a chance to see the newest anime, as well as enjoy screenings of classic titles. There will also be exhibitions, talks, music, all sorts of other stage events, seminars on the business side of things, and stuff you can buy. And did we mention the cosplay?

When: 22-23 March. Where: Tokyo Big Sight, East Exhibition Hall. Ariake, Koto-ku.

3. Mt Takao Fire-Walking Festival (March 9th)

You know those stories of monks walking barefoot across scorching coals? You can see that first-hand (and maybe try it too) at the Mt Takao Hiwatari Festival. Hotfoot it to Yakuouin Temple on Tokyo’s most popular mountain (less than an hour from Shinjuku) to experience the haunting sounds of conch shells, Buddhist prayers and fire (lots of it). When the flames have subsided, the monks cross the burning embers — said to be part of a path to an ultimately peaceful and enlightened existence.

More details here.

mt takao fire walking festival

Image by Gideon Davidson, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

4. Kamakura Festival (April 13th to 20th)

The city of Kamakura (the one with the giant Buddha statue) in Kanagawa Prefecture was the political centre of Japan in the 12th century, and it’s hailed as the birthplace of samurai culture — giving it instant cool cred. Just an hour away from Tokyo, it’s a great spot to visit — especially during the Kamakura Matsuri (Festival). Held at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, there will be music, dance performances (on the first Sunday of the festival), mikoshi (portable shrines) and — the highlight — horseback archery (on the second Sunday). This style of archery dates back to medieval times and is said to have been used as a brain training technique for the samurai.

More details here.

kamakura festival horse riding archery horseback

Image by gullevek, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

5. Kanamara Penis Festival (April 6th)

What would the fertile season be like without a fertility festival? Except that, contrary to appearances, this festival is not exactly about that. The “Festival of the Steel Phallus” is held at Kanayama Shrine — where prostitutes apparently used to pray for protection from STIs, back in the day. The spot also came to be associated with prayers for prosperity, easy births and happy marriages. The festival is a celebration of all things penile (never thought we’d use that word in an article), with a big pink penis that gets paraded around, penis-shaped snacks and decorations, and even carved veggies. You’ll never look at pumpkin the same way again.

More details here.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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