2019 sped by at an alarming rate and now we have entered the next decade! Although the weather in Tokyo in January can be cold, dreary and depressing, especially after the New Year’s celebration come down, there are plenty of things to occupy your time with in and around Tokyo. Many of the illuminations are still up and lasting until February, brightening up those long, dark winter nights and making them a bit more bearable. Lewis Capaldi is in town on his world tour, and you can rely on the countless antique and flea markets cropping up at the weekends, serving you some of the finest antique items they have to offer. As well as all this, there are plenty of art exhibitions on show, with the National Museum of Modern Art and National Museum of Western Art even offering the occasional free admission days which are perfect if you’re a culture vulture on a budget.
A typical Japanese New Year event is hatsumode. Hatsumode is the first Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple visit of the Japanese New Year. Many visit during the first few days of the new year, with most visiting at midnight on January 1st. You can expect this at pretty much every shrine and temple throughout the city, but at the most popular site, Meiji Jingu, expect to line up for more than an hour to pray at the main hall. Also, expect queues to purchase a new lucky charm for a fortunate new year, and to dispose of your old one. It’s a big event and you can expect massive crowds of people. It’s quite a festive atmosphere and there are plenty of street food stalls to feed the masses. They’ll be serving the typical festival foods such as yakisoba, and holiday drinks such as amazake (a sweet beverage that’s made from fermented rice, similar to sake).
For a guided tour that features special holiday dishes (and includes hatsumode), join the Japanese New Year Food Tour in Shibuya! Or, just outside of Tokyo, experience an Osechi Ryori Cooking Class in Ninomiya and learn how to cook the symbolic Japanese New Year foods.
As you know, here at byFood, we’re obsessed with all things food in Tokyo. So, here are our picks for the best foodie events in Tokyo this January.
Here are some unmissable January events in Tokyo!
This festival takes you all across Japan without you even having to leave Tokyo! The Furusato Matsuri Tokyo promises to entertain and feed you with the best regional food and beverages the country has to offer, from Wakkanai to Okinawa. Eat everything from fatty tuna to ramen to scallops and steamed buns. There’s no shortage of drink available either, with over 100 varieties of beverages on offer, including local craft beers and sake, it’s sure to satisfy any palate.
Tickets vary in price depending on if they’re booked in advance and weekday or weekend. Evening tickets are also available for those attending after 4pm, and if you want to attend multiple days, there is also a multiple-day ticket available. International visitors can get a discount by booking online on the official website. For the foodies that want to attend the National Donburi Championship that will take place during the event, there is a donburi ticket available to purchase which allows entry plus tickets for the competition.
Dates: January 10 – 19, 2020
Time: 10am – 9pm (Note on the last day it closes at 6pm)
Weekday advance ¥1,200
Weekday at the door ¥1,400
Weekend advance ¥1,600
Weekend on the door ¥1,800
Evening tickets (after 4pm) ¥1,300
Multiple days ticket ¥4,500
Location: Tokyo Dome, Korakuen
The new year brings with it the start of the strawberry season and you will begin to notice strawberry flavored everything as Japan is obsessed with their seasonal flavors. This January, many hotels across Tokyo including the Grand Hyatt, Hilton, and Intercontinental take advantage of this time and host strawberry dessert buffets. They each have their own original themes inspired by carnivals and empresses, it’s sure to satisfy your strawberry craving.
Dates: Throughout January
Price: Contact hotel for details, usually ¥4,000 upwards for adults
Location: Various locations across Tokyo
This tournament is held every January and is the first of Japan’s six annual Sumo Tournaments that are known as honbasho. Sumo is a Japanese-style of wrestling and Japan’s national sport. It originated as a performance to entertain Shinto deities with many of the rituals still followed today. You can watch the matches on TV, granted, but nothing beats the unique infectious atmosphere of watching it ringside. There are different grades of seating, with area seats starting from ¥3,800 and box seating, which seats four people, starting at around ¥38,000.
It’s best to book tickets in advance with some being released on the day, but you have to get there early. The matches take place at different times throughout the day and you can leave to get food and come back whenever. Weekends and towards the finals are when it gets the busiest. Tickets with an English-speaking guide are available, and why not go all out and opt for a traditional chanko-nabe dinner which is known as Sumo Stew that’s a hot pot filled with all kinds of vegetables and chicken and dashi broth which is traditionally eaten by sumo wrestlers!
Dates: January 12 – 16, 2020
Time: Varied, check the website for details
Price: ¥3,800 - ¥38,000
Location: Ryogoku Kokugikan, Ryogoku
This flea market may have an interesting name, and your guess is as good as mine, but I’m sure you can expect the usual flea market atmosphere, just with more loved-up couples wandering around. The market is hosted on every second Sunday of each month. There will be over 100 shops offering everything from antiques to fine art and handicrafts from all across Japan as well as from China, Europe and America. There will also be organic foods and plants on sale to buy, for those who want to be greener. Please note that the event will be canceled if it rains.
Dates: January 12, 2020
Time: 10am – 4pm
Location: Bellesalle Shibuya Garden, Shibuya
Daikoku is the god of fortune and is visited in the new year to offer you some good luck. The event is split into two days, with the first, Saturday, having a purification ceremony that will be performed where the coming of age participants will douse themselves in ice water. On Sunday, at noon a tradition in Japanese cuisine, specifically an imperial knife ceremony that comes from the Heian Period, known as hocho-shiki, will take place. This is a ceremonial slicing of a big carp by masters in the art, with many training for many years to perfect their skill. Their skill truly is a wonder to behold and worth going for that alone as the master carves the fish using a special kitchen knife and chopsticks without once touching the fish with his hands.
Dates: January 18 – 19, 2020
Location: Kanda Myojin Shrine, Kanda
6. Earth Garden Winter Festival
This festival has a focus on promoting an ecological lifestyle, something that can be rather hard to find here in Japan, and their theme this year is “Free Your Organic.” There will be market stalls selling earth-friendly, fair trade, and organic goods and produce. You can get involved in various workshops and there will be live music and other entertainment on the stage throughout the day to keep you entertained. You can also feast on feel-good organic and natural meals in the food area, and there will also be beer available.
Dates: January 18 – 19, 2020
Time: 10am – 4pm
Location: Yoyogi Park, Yoyogi
This Japan brewers cup competition is help at the end of the Osanbashi pier in Yokohama and is a highlight on the craft beer calendar. The event is a beer competition judged by professionals in the industry, as well as a general festival for the public and the competition is to be held in the morning. There will be 32 Japanese beer brewers, one Taiwan brewery, one Czech brewery and 6 craft beer importers with other 300 different beers on tap. Beers are on sale and vary in cost between ¥300 – ¥500. As well as drink, there will be five food vendors giving you the opportunity to soak up the alcohol, as well as an array of regular entertainment on stage.
Dates: January 24 – 26, 2020
Friday 4pm – 10pm
Saturday 11am – 9pm
Sunday 11am – 7pm
Price: Advance ticket ¥500
Location: Osanbashi Pier (Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal), Yokohama