Usually, the New Year holiday season in Japan is a time to spend with family and many people go back to their hometowns, while others stay indoors for television-watching marathons. Therefore, with the exception of some shopping areas, Tokyo is relatively quiet compared with the usual hustle and bustle. If you’re staying in the capital and are looking for something to do, there are plenty of vibrant events taking place at the beginning of the year.
The following events and activities are being held in the Tokyo area.
From Jan. 1, Roppongi Hills will welcome visitors with big bargains, as well as some exciting events and food to cheer people into the New Year.
Restaurants in the complex will open from 11 a.m. to allow people a chance to reinvigorate themselves after hard bargain hunting. From Jan. 1 to 4, some restaurants will offer special items in the hope of bringing people good fortunes in the coming year. Popular hamburger restaurant AS Classics Diner will offer a burger resembling “kagami mochi” (mirror mochi rice cake), a traditionally decorated rice cake for ¥1,404. Eggcellent, a restaurant popular for its breakfast items, including eggs Benedict, will prepare a 15-layer stack of pancakes colored in the celebratory hues of red and white for the first 15 customers each day. Other, newly opened restaurants, including Brazilian churrasco restaurant Barbacoa, are also good options for a rest.
On the first day of 2015, the Hills Arena event space will resound with an upbeat atmosphere. A popular rhythmic Japanese drum performance by percussion group Dondoko will be held and traditional Japanese “shishi-mai” lion dances will be held from 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Additonally, from 1 p.m., the first 200 visitors to the event space will be treated to a cup of sake. On Jan. 2 and 3, free workshops, including ones making New Year’s decorations and doing calligraphy, will be held from 11 a.m.
The venue’s iconic 400-meter-long Keyakizaka Galaxy illumination will continue to shine bright through Feb. 16 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Please note that from Jan. 5 to April 24, the facility’s museums and observatory areas will be closed for renovations.
Tokyo Midtown’s New Year will start with a sake treat at Sake Shop Fukumitsuya from 10:45 a.m. to noon on Jan. 2. Visitors can have a drink of sake and the first 800 people will have it served in an original “masu” square wooden cup.
As in past years, attractions such as shishi-mai lion dances and live classical music performances will be held in the Galleria.
This year, a special rack will be set up on the first floor of the Galleria through Jan. 12. People can write their New Year resolutions or wishes on a colorful ribbon and tie it to the rack. After Jan. 12, the rack will be dedicated to a nearby shrine.
If weather permits, there will be Japanese traditional events in this quiet oasis in the midst of the vast Tokyo metropolis.
On Jan. 2 and 3, there will be New Year’s events at one of the biggest traditional parks, Hama-Rikyu Gardens, which was used for falconry during the Tokugawa Shogunate. From 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Japanese falconry demonstrations will be conducted in the inner moat area. In the morning, people can enjoy watching falcons dive from the Denstu Headquarters Building near the park. The demonstrations will last about an hour, so those interested should dress warmly.
In the open square, people can enjoy traditional Japanese New Year’s games, such as “hanetsuki,” a badminton-like game, and spinning tops until 3:30 p.m. Park staff will be on hand to explain how to play the games.
At the park’s cafes, Nakanojima-no-ochaya and Matsu-no-ochaya, Japanese green tea will be offered for ¥510 (from ¥720 with snacks) at Nakanojima-no-ochaya, and for 820 at Matsu-no-ochaya, including snacks and a tour of the tea house. For this occasion, Matsu-no-ochaya will open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and tea will be served to 15 people every 30 minutes.
On the very first day of the New Year, the Yomiuri Land amusement park in Kawasaki will be open from 10 a.m.
Through some New Year’s celebratory events, the theme park is set to welcome people to 2015 with a fun and exciting start to the year.
There is a pleasant surprise for some lucky people right at the front gate. From Jan. 1 to 4, people who were born under the same Chinese zodiac sign as 2015 will be admitted to the park for free. The zodiac animal for 2015 is sheep and anyone born in previous years of the sheep (2003, 1991, 1979 and so on at 12-year intervals) can show their identification at the entrance for free admission.
From 1 p.m. on Jan. 1, a free “mochitsuki” (rice cake pounding) event will be held with the park’s mascot, Land Dog, and the first 300 people can join. After pounding the rice, the fresh rice cakes can be tasted.
On Jan. 2 and 3, at 10 a.m., noon and 2:30 p.m., sheep will be brought to the park’s grassy square and people can pet, feed and take pictures with sheep.
Roppongi Hills is connected to Roppongi Station (Hibiya and Oedo lines). For more information, visit www.roppongihills.com
Tokyo Midtown can be accessed directly from Exit 8 of Roppongi Station. For more information, visit www.tokyo-midtown.com.
Hama-Rikyu Gardens is 7 minutes from Shiodome Station (Oedo and Yurikamome lines) or 12 minutes from Shimbashi Station (various lines). For more information, visit teien.tokyo-park.or.jp.
Yomiuri Land is a 10-minute bus ride from Yomiuri-Land-mae Station on the Odakyu Line, or 10 minutes by cable car from Keio-yomiuri-land Station on the Keio Line. For more information, visit www.yomiuriland.com.