Music Festivals + Art Exhibitions
① Music Festivals - Listen to Tunes & Lounge in the Mild Weather
- During the first weekend of September, from August 31st to September 1st, there are not one, not two, but three different music festivals going on in and around Tokyo! Perfect for music lovers in the big city, they're each a bit different.
Slow LIVE '19 is a unique festival taking place at Tokyo's Ikegami Honmonji Temple, which is not so surprising considering its zen attitude. Unlike other music festivals, this one is all about taking it easy, which is why it's "slow"! Musicians of all kinds, both major artists and local indie performers, come to the festival to play low-key, often acoustic, arrangements of their biggest hits.
Tokyo Jazz Festival is Japan's biggest jazz festival, so if you get a ticket for the main event inside NHK hall, you can expect to see headliners like Chick Corea, Charles Lloyd, and Kamasi Washington. (If you're interested in both jazz and j-pop, you'll love seeing MISIA perform a set alongside Takuya Kuroda!) For more casual fans, there'll be an outdoor stage nearby, where you can hear some great jazz for free all weekend.
Sweet Love Shower is a little out of the city, taking place right in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, but it's a great chance to see some of the biggest names in Japanese music these days. Let the breeze coming off Lake Yamanakako cool you down as big names like Perfume, Asian Kung-fu Generation and Sekai no Owari heat things up.
② Art Exhibitions - Unique Glimpses of Japanese Culture
- September is still a pretty hot month in Japan, and the humidity never really dies down, so it's a nice time to check out Japan's artistic side. Spend a little time cooling off indoors, and see some of the coolest art in Tokyo.
See the Painting the Colors of Our Films Exhibition at the Mitaka Ghibli Museum before it ends this fall! The Ghibli Museum has a couple of permanent exhibits, but half of the second floor is always devoted to an exhibition that changes yearly. This September you'll be able to see a fascinating explanation of how colors are chosen, added, shifted, and otherwise used to create the studio's beautiful films. See dozens of original animation cels from many of your Ghibli favorites.
Take a look at Shiota Chiharu's Exhibition "The Soul Trembles" in Roppongi Hills. You'll get to see art that, as the exhibition puts it, "express[es] the intangible: memories, anxiety, dreams, silence and more." The artist's largest-ever solo exhibition, there will be famous pieces from throughout her 25 years of work in the art world. Don't miss the striking webs of string stretched across rooms.
MOT Satellite 2019 "Wandering, Mapping" is partially outside, but that factor is an intrinsic part of the event. Satellite is the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo's neighborhood project, first held in 2018 when the museum was under renovations. Pushing the boundaries, of the physical museum and the contemporary art sphere, this year's theme is maps. Works of art will be displayed and enacted all over the nearby area, bringing the art out into the world (and onto maps)!
Goldfish + Themed Events
③ Goldfish - A Japanese Summer Tradition!
- Goldfish are a symbol of the summer in Japan, and you'll often see them swimming around summer festivals and passing by in traditional gardens. With the summer months coming to an end, September is your last chance to take part in Tokyo's celebrations of the little fish.
Tokyo Goldfish Wonderland 2019 is what the Sumida Aquarium is naming their retro summer goldfish display, a multimedia aquarium experience. Spring 2019 brought a new era to Japan (literally, it's called Reiwa), but this event is celebrating the Showa period in Japan's history, 1926 to 1989. Experience interactive light shows, original aromas, carefully chosen music, and of course lots of lovely fish.
Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium is a hugely popular summer event in Tokyo, and this is the last year it's happening in the big city! The event is held in a large hall, with more than 10,000 goldfish swimming around fantastical tanks of all shapes and sizes, lit by colorful glowing lights. From giant fishbowls to bathtubs, and even fish swimming in the walls and ceiling, it gets pretty crazy. The beautiful displays are always crowded with visitors admiring all the many varieties of goldfish, but from next year the event is moving far south to Kumamoto, so it's your last chance to see it in the big city! Check out our article about visiting the Art Aquarium this year to see what it's like.
④ Themed Events - Whatever Your Interest, Enjoy It in Tokyo!
- Tokyo is host to tons of special topical events year-round, celebrating all of the smaller things in life, that we hold so dear. Whatever it is that you're interested in, there's probably a relevant event, so here are a few fun events happening this September!
The Gekikara (Super-Spicy) Gourmet Festival is being held over the course of more than a month, with a series of six separate rounds, where you can try all sorts of different spicy foods. Restaurants from all over Tokyo are coming to the event to offer a wide variety of cuisines, with extremely spicy versions of both beloved standards (curry, Korean noodles, chicken wings) and slightly more surprising dishes (sushi, takoyaki, hot dogs).
The Tokyo Game Show is a huge convention, the world's largest gaming convention, with 2,000 booths from 668 different game-related companies and organizations, originating from 41 different countries (as of last year). You can be one of 250,000 attendees, browsing the many different exhibition areas, from smartphone games to e-sports, family games to romance simulators, and from a "new stars area" to a business solution area. This year's theme is "One World, Infinite Joy", which sounds pretty good to us.
The Mikkeller Beer Celebration Tokyo is all about, you guessed it, beer! Over the weekend 40 breweries from all over the world will bring their best brews to Shibuya, offering 320 unique varieties. Unless you splurge on a gold ticket (which gives you access to every tasting over the two days), standard entry will get you a 3 1/2 hour tasting of 80 different beers!
Getting Out of the City + A Bonus Tokyo Event
⑤ Get Out of the City - Escape the Hustle and Bustle
Of course the Tokyo area encompasses a huge portion of Japan, and Tokyoites often hop on a train out of the metropolis to spend a little time relaxing outside of the downtown neighborhoods. Join the locals for a slightly different Tokyo experience.
The Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine Wind Chime Festival
is a summer celebration that stretches into early September, off in Saitama Prefecture. The shrine itself is a popular spot for couples, since it's supposed to bring luck to relationships, but in recent years visitors have started going just for the windchimes. Rows and rows of windchimes ring out in the breeze and make up a pretty photogenic background, perfect for an evening stroll. See more pictures of the shrine in our article on the place.
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship
takes place in Chiba Prefecture, Japan's birthplace of civil aviation. It's a fantastic chance to spend the day outside, as you watch high-speed, specially built racing airplanes whizz through a low-altitude aerial course, going at speeds up to 370 km/h (230 mph) while carefully navigating around inflatable pylons floating on Makuhari Bay.
Take a Tokyo Bay Summer Night Cruise
in a yukata, for a refreshing evening adventure. Enjoy your time on the water, as the cool nighttime breeze rushes by. Rent a yukata before you go for a discount on tickets and an especially fun Japanese night, and then enjoy the drinks and snacks on board.
Bonus Event! - Tokyo Edo Week
- If all you want is to revel in Tokyo culture, then you should spend an afternoon at Tokyo Edo Week in Ueno Park. Taking its name from the capital city's current and former names, you'll be able to dig into all kinds of Tokyo culture at the festival's booths and events. Enjoy the chance to watch performances, participate in workshops, and chow down on some tasty Tokyo treats!
Found something good to do during your time in Tokyo this September? There's always something new to do in this huge city. For more fun ideas, be sure to check out our event calendar, which we update with new things to do on the regular!
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