Tokyo in August may feel like stepping into a steamy onsen, but as the heat begins to simmer down each evening, Tokyoites step out to explore the city’s various summer festivals. From traditional Buddhist rituals to samba carnivals and homegrown musical spectacles, here are the top events to check out this month.
Obon (Festival of Souls)
Much like traditional ghost festivals celebrated across Asia on the 15th night of the seventh month, this Buddhist tradition commemorates family ancestors, whose spirits return to earth each year to visit their relatives. It may sound rather eery, but this festive occasion is anything but, with Tokyoites taking to the streets with decorative lanterns, food and drink offerings at temples, and jovial obon dancing late into the night. Catch the jivefest as well as traditional drum performances at Hibiya Park between 6-9pm.
25-26 Aug, 2017.
Asakusa Samba Carnival
Considering Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside Japan, it’s no wonder Tokyo-ites are head over tootsies for samba. The Asakusa carnival has been celebrating Brazilian culture and its samba dance tradition since 1981, with more than 20 teams of sequin-spangled dancers and musicians (led by the Queen of the Drums) taking to the streets as part of a vibrant procession. Join over half a million residents flocking in to watch these saucepots shake their tail feathers to bangin’ beats, past the Kaminarimon and on towards Tawaramachi.
26 Aug, 2017.
Asakusa Toro Nagashi
For something a little more tranquil, Asakusa also hosts an evening of paper lantern-floating along the Sumida-gawa River. The festival originally debuted at the 1946 'Festival of Recovery' after World War II, but the peaceful practice now takes place every year at Sumida Park Shinsui Terrace, where locals make a wish and release their candlelit lanterns from the Azuma-bashi Bridge. Light your own for ¥1,500, or simply stroll the banks of the river to take in the glittering sights free of charge.
12 Aug, 2017.
Shibuya Summer Festival
Got your little squealers in tow? Treat them to a day out at this lively music fest in verdant Yoyogi Park, with gigs headlined by local talents including pop band Pizzicato Five’s vocalist Takao Tajima, rap trio Scha Dara Parr's Shinco, quirksome sister duo Charan-Po-Rantan’s vocalist Momo and more. To keep you bopping into the night, you’ll also find plenty of food stalls offering both Japanese and international bites, or have your hotel pack you a hamper. Arrive after 4pm.
11-12 Aug, 2017.