For most urbanites, the New Year’s holidays is a time to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, go back to their hometowns, go skiing or loosen up their bodies and minds at an onsen hot spring, but there are also many interesting and unmissable events going on in and around the Tokyo metropolitan.
Here are some attractive places mainly in Tokyo, where one can visit and freshen up to ring in the new year.
One can enjoy a whole day at Roppongi Hills, with many events, seasonal restaurant menus and sales going on during the New Year’s holidays.
On New Year’s Day from noon to 3 p.m., there will be wadaiko Japanese drumming and a shishimai lion dance at the Roppongi Hills Arena. From 1 p.m. furumaizake, a special New Year’s sake will be given to the first 200 visitors. On Jan. 2 and Jan.3, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in addition to wadaiko and shishimai performances, people can enjoy playing traditional Japanese games for free, such as kendama (a Japanese ball-and-cup toy), and otedama beanbags. Workshops where guests can make a New Year’s flower ornament or yuzen-dyed (dyeing using stencils) tote bag are offered for ¥500.
Between New Year’s Day and Jan. 11, many shops in the Roppongi Hills complex will offer a winter sale of up to 70 percent off, and about 60 shops will offer fukubukuro, or lucky bags, each packed with stylish clothes and miscellaneous goods. Most of the bags will be on sale from Jan. 1 to 3.
Why not enjoy shopping before admiring the gorgeous illuminated trees lining Keyakizaka Street after 5 p.m.?
Tokyo Skytree Town
Various events will be held at Tokyo Skytree Town through Jan. 15 to celebrate the fresh start of 2016, including a shodo (Japanese calligraphy) performance and a kakizome (first calligraphy of the year) workshop, both to be held on Jan. 2 and 3. These free events will be held on the fourth floor of the East Yard at Tokyo Solamachi, the shopping mall at the base of the tower.
A sale with discounts up to 70 percent, a shishimai lion dance to pray for health and safety throughout the year, and daidogei street performances will also be held from New Year’s Day until Jan. 3.
On sale at the official Skytree shop are limited editions of Edo kiriko glasses, a Japanese style of cut and faceted glass said to date from 1834, priced at ¥6,172, Nadaman’s monaka wafers at ¥1,250 and the Skytree character Solakara kimono doll at ¥2,016.
Ueno Zoological Gardens
On Jan. 2 and 3, the zoo director will welcome visitors at the entrance with animals such as an owl and an alpaca from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. At the same time, biscuits with a monkey — the Chinese zodiac animal for 2016 — motif will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, from 9:30 a.m.
There are other events throughout the day, including a chance to take a picture with the zoo director and staff in a monkey costume from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Visitors can also see the shishimai lion dance throughout the zoo from 11 a.m. to noon, and shishimai dancing on stage from noon to 12:30 p.m.; and make original ema (traditional Shinto plaques) at a workshop from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Each day, the workshop is limited to 200 guests. All the events will be canceled in case of rain.
A unique exhibition titled “Watching the Japanese macaques” that focuses on the charm of the monkey will be held until Jan. 17.
Japanese macaques, or so-called snow monkeys, are becoming popular not only among Japanese but non-Japanese, too. However, there is much that is still unknown about them. With the aim of having the people get to know more about them, the zoo did a questionnaire to 120 Japanese of all ages and 120 non-Japanese people from different countries, and the questionnaire results are being exhibited. The results show what people hold as an image of Japanese macaques and what people like about the monkey.
Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center
Free sake — the resinous taruzake, sake poured straight from the wooden cask — will be offered to guests on Jan. 5, at noon and at 5 p.m, at the entrance of the Japan sake and Shochu Information Center in Shimbashi.
The first 200 guests will receive a masu, a small wooden box that sake is served in, with a monkey carved into. Some people are said to collect the masu every year as lucky charms and have masu collections of all 12 zodiacs. Kagami-biraki, a sake barrel opening ceremony, will be performed on the day for visitors to celebrate the New Year together. Free admission for those 20 years old and over.
Roppongi Hills is connected to Roppongi Station (Hibiya and Oedo lines). For more information, visit www.roppongihills.com.
Tokyo Skytree Town is connected to Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Skytree Line) or Oshiage Station (Tobu Skytree, Keisei Oshiage, Hanzomon and Asakusa lines), or approx. a 15-minute walk from Asakusa station (Asakusa, Ginza and Skytree lines). For more information, visit www.tokyo-skytreetown.jp/english/.
Ueno Zoological Gardens, or Ueno Zoo, is five minutes from JR Ueno Station Koen Exit, 10 minutes from Keisei Ueno Station, 12 minutes from Ueno Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza and Hibiya lines, or 15 minutes from Ueno Okachimachi Station on the Toei Oedo Line. For more information, visit www.tokyo-zoo.net/zoo/ueno.
The Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center is five minutes from Toranomon Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, or from Kasumigaseki Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, or from Uchisaiwaicho Station on the Toei Mita Line. For more information, call 03-3501-0108 (Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, PR Department), or visit www.japansake.or.jp/sake.