For many city dwellers, the beginning of the year is a time to rest the body and the soul — be it at home or at an onsen (hot spring) resort — but for others, it’s a perfect time to go out and enjoy themselves on the town.
Here are some events being held in the Tokyo area where people can ring in the New Year with joy and feel refreshed.
Roppongi Hills offers the best of the New Year’s holidays with many free events, seasonal restaurant menus and sales going on mainly from Jan. 1 to 3.
On New Year’s Day from noon to 3 p.m. at the Roppongi Hills Arena, there will be wadaiko, Japanese drumming, shishimai, lion dance, and furumaizake, a unique New Year’s sake, served to the first 200 visitors. In addition to wadaiko and shishimai performances, on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., people can enjoy koto performances and workshops, as well as play traditional Japanese games such as kendama (a Japanese ball-and-cup toy) and otedama beanbags.
Between New Year’s Day and Jan. 14, a winter sale with discounts up to 70 percent will be offered at about 70 shops in the Roppongi Hills complex.
Additionally, about 60 shops will offer fukubukuro, or lucky bags, each packed with stylish clothes, miscellaneous goods and food from Jan. 1 to 3. For those buying a lucky bag of more than ¥30,000 (tax included), free home delivery will be offered.
On Jan. 2 and 3, guests can experience rare falconry demonstrations, Japanese traditional game playing and a serving of matcha under the theme “spending a gorgeous New Year’s holiday” at Hamarikyu Gardens.
Japanese falconry will be held at the inner moat square from 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with sessions at 11 a.m. featuring performances of falcons diving from a nearby building. The park was an official ground for falconry during the Tokugawa shogunate.
At the open square, people can experience traditional Japanese New Year’s games such as hanetsuki (a game similar to badminton but played with wooden paddles) and the park’s staff will be there to explain how to play.
Shogun’s zoni (miso soup with rice cakes and vegetables), a recipe dating to the Tokugawa shogunate, as well as warm food and drinks, will be served at the inner moat. All the above activities will be canceled in case of rain.
Additionally, matcha will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a steamed sweet for ¥510, or ¥720 with a high-quality fresh Japanese confection at the park’s cafe Nakanojima-no-ochaya.
Ueno Zoological Gardens
Just in time to see the female giant panda cub Xiang Xiang that went on public display in December, the Ueno zoo will feature events to welcome guests on Jan. 2 and 3.
Staff in animal costumes will welcome visitors at the entrance from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and rice crackers with giant panda illustrations will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, from 9:30 a.m. at the same entrance. Additionally, visitors can see the shishimai lion dance throughout the zoo from 11 a.m. to noon. The events will be canceled in case of rain.
Guests can also make original ema (traditional Shinto plaques) with stamps of the zoo, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., at children’s zoo STEP that reopened in July.
Roppongi Hills is connected to Roppongi Station (Hibiya and Oedo lines). For more information, visit www.roppongihills.com.
Hamarikyu Gardens is 7 minutes from Shiodome Station (Oedo and Yurikamome lines) or 10 minutes from Shinbashi Station (various lines). For more information, visit teien.tokyo-park.or.jp.
Ueno Zoological Gardens, or Ueno Zoo, is 5 minutes from JR Ueno Station Koen Exit, 10 minutes from Keisei Ueno Station, 12 minutes from Ueno Station on 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.