February can be a tough month. It’s in the middle of winter, and there is still at least a month of cold weather in store! Luckily, quite a few free or inexpensive festivals and exhibitions are coming up in Tokyo. Here are some February events to get you out of the house and lift your spirits!
In Japan, the festival haru matsuri celebrates the arrival of spring, but the day before spring’s arrival is called setsubun. It’s also the time of year when supermarkets and convenience stores sell those small, wooden boxes of beans and cute, paper oni masks! Today, people in Japan traditionally throw beans (mamemaki) to bring good luck and chase away evil spirits.
One of the most popular places to celebrate setsubun is Yakuoin Temple near the summit of Mt. Takao. The temple was built in 744 CE and is known for fire walking and meditating under Biwa Waterfall. But on February 3rd, it is famous for the celebrities gathering to throw beans into the waiting crowd.
The first group of celebrities enter the main hall at 5 am to participate in a traditional goma ceremony. A priest chants and burns wooden sticks in a scary fire while taiko drums play. This removes negative energy from the participants before they throw mamemaki.
It is the custom to shout, “Out with devils! In with fortune!’ (“Ni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”) while throwing the beans. But Japanese Buddhists believe that Mt. Takao is sacred and free of demons, so there are none to drive out. So only “Fortune in!” is said as the beans are tossed. Be careful if you attend, as it can be pretty painful to get hit in the face by mamemaki!
The last of seven bean-throwing sessions ends at about noon. Then, the cultural icons and entertainers gather to pose for official photos in front of the shrine. This is when the courtyard is most packed, as people jostle to take pictures of one of the best amazing February events.
If you can’t visit Mt. Takao, check out the Shimokitazawa Tengu Festival. Tengu are Japanese mythological creatures with red faces and long noses that bring good fortune. (They are also closely associated with Yakuoin Temple).
Festivities begin on February 2nd. Participants wearing tengu masks wander the streets and enter businesses to throw lucky beans (fukumame) and spread good luck. Then, on February 3rd, three-meter-tall floats covered with tengu masks are pulled down the street during the Tengu Parade. February 4th is a day of fun activities. There will be a “Guess-the-Weight Game” and a stamp-collecting scavenger hunt this year.
Tengu merchandise will be on sale everywhere, so why not buy a mask and join in? And remember to eat a long sushi roll for good luck. Be sure to face the lucky direction – it changes every year!
Are you interested in some great snacks while enjoying these February events? Check out TokyoTreat! TokyoTreat delivers limited-edition Japanese snacks right to your door so you can enjoy the latest Japanese desserts in your home!
If you’re a manga fan, the 2024 Tokyo Revengers exhibit “The Final World Line” will take place on November 27th in Roppongi Hills. The venue will be the Sky Gallery observatory deck on the 52nd floor of the Tokyo City View building. Besides the event itself, the location has fantastic views of Tokyo!
Tokyo Revengers is a popular Japanese manga written and illustrated by Ken Wakui. It ran from March 2017 to November 2022 in the weekly magazine, “Shonen”, and sold more than 70 million copies. The story follows Takemichi Hanagaki, who goes back in time twelve years and does everything he can to prevent the death of his ex-girlfriend.
Over 100 original drawings will be displayed, including pieces from a new sequel drawn especially for the exhibition. Some of these will be in the form of giant floor-to-ceiling murals. There will be character props for selfies and Tokyo Revenger goods for sale at the souvenir shop. Also, a special screening of “Liberation of the East”, a sequel to the final battle in the manga. All for a 2000 yen admission price!
This model exhibition will occur at Makuhari Messe in Chiba on February 11th. The event occurs twice a year, with a summer version in July. The Winter Wonder Festival started in 1984 to bring amateur and professional model makers together.
It’s now the world’s largest model festival, with large companies like Kaiyodo also displaying and selling their products. The event is top-rated in the figure-collecting and model-building communities. And for 3000 yen, there is a wide variety of activities to enjoy!
There will be models from newer anime releases like Arknights and classics like Space Battleship Yamato and Ultraman. Also, character sculptures by individual artists. This year also hosts the “Fist of the North Star 40th Anniversary Special Project”, featuring limited-edition figures.
Cosplay is a major part of the event. So fans will show off their costumes and pose for photos in the official photography area. Dressing rooms and lockers are also available if you want to participate as a cosplayer!
This series of fireworks events in Yokohama takes place from summer to winter in different Japanese locations. These displays are only five to 30 minutes long and easily fit into your February events schedule.
There are two remaining fireworks displays this season. The next will take place on February 10th at Osanbashi Pier. The last will be on February 24th, a short distance from Shinko Pier. You can see the display anywhere along the waterfront, but many parks exist.
Good spots for watching the Osanbashi Pier fireworks are Zou-no-hana Park, Akarenga Park, and Yamashita Park. You can head to Rinko Park or Cup Noodles Museum Park for the Shinko Pier event. The fireworks start at 8 pm and are free, of course! Afterward, you can spend the evening enjoying the festive atmosphere or exploring the many shops in the area.
Any of these events is an excellent reason to venture into the cold! Setsubun is a great way to learn about Japanese traditions and directly participate in the festivities. If you visit Yakuoin Temple, it’s only a 20-minute walk to the top of Mt.Takao.
You can enjoy nature and see some famous Japanese personalities in person! Fireworks are always a good idea for an outing that doesn’t require a fixed schedule.
The Winter Wonder Festival and Tokyo Revengers Exhibition are perfect opportunities to experience Japanese pop culture. Or pick up a new hobby! February is shaping up to be a fun month with something for everybody. Do you have any suggestions for February events? Have you visited any of those mentioned? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below!
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