With its charming Sensoji Temple and the enormous red paper lanterns at its entrance, Asakusa is one of the not-to-miss spots in Tokyo. It is an area of Tokyo where you can witness a traditional Japanese atmosphere and is also where many important and popular festivals are held. If you’re traveling in Tokyo during one of these days, be sure not to miss the occasion to attend these Asakusa events and enjoy the magical vibes of Asakusa!
Setsubun – beginning of February (2020, February 3rd )
During Setsubun, people throw beans against “oni”, the devil spirits of winter, to welcome springtime. This celebration coincides with the ancient lunar calendar New Year’s Day. Several temples around Tokyo celebrate setsubun and allow visitors to throw beans but at Sensoji, you can also witness a special dance that honors the Seven Lucky Gods; the pilgrimage can be done in Asakusa as well!
Ichiyo Sakura Matsuri – 2nd Saturday of April
The Yoshiwara district in the Northern area of Sensoji is known as the pleasure quarter since the Edo period. During this festival, you can see the Oiran (courtesan) dance and walk in incredibly high traditional shoes and get a taste of ancient Edo atmosphere. It is also a very local event that includes a flea market organized by elementary school children, so it is a great way to chat with locals.
Yabusame – mid April
Yabusame is a traditional Japanese kind of martial art that involves horseback archery. The purpose of this martial arts was to train samurai in preparation for warfare, however, it has always had close connections to Japan’s Shinto religion. Attending a yabusame event is an experience that will bring you closer to meeting a real life samurai!
Nakizumo Crying Baby Festival – end of April
In Asakusa, you can attend one of the must unconventional events of Tokyo: a crying babe competition! Japanese people believe that having a strong cry means the baby is strong and healthy; that’s why families from everywhere bring their babies to compete in this weird “battle”, during which Sumo wrestlers hold the babies and attempt to make them cry. Sometimes infants fall asleep or do not cry at all, so sumo wrestlers have to wear scary masks to make them cry!! The winner? The first or the loudest crying baby!
Sanja Matsuri – 3rd weekend of May
This is one of the most famous Matsuri of Tokyo that’s held for three days during the third weekend in May. The festival celebrates the two fishermen and the landlord who founded Sensoji and on the Sunday, people from different districts of Asakusa compete to be the ones to carry those three super-heavy mikoshi (portable shrines). The other days include some processions in the streets where you can see geishas, Airon Dance and people dressed in Edo period traditional clothes. On Saturday, more than 100 mikoshi from the area are carried around the streets. Sanja Matsuri is also famous because many members of Yakuza proudly show off their tattoos while carrying their mikoshi.
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri – beginning of July (2019, July 4th-8th)
At the beginning of July, around Kappabashi Street (a famous place known for kitchenware), the colorful decorations of Tanabata along with striped flags hanging off bamboo sticks fill the streets. Tanabata is a star-related festival that originated from China and according to some legend, it is the only day when stars Vega and Altair can meet and celebrate their love. Other than typical lanterns and ball-shaped colorful decorations, you can spot Sky Tree in the background; it’s a beautiful contrast that perfectly represents Japan.
Sumida River Fireworks – last Saturday of July (2019, July 27th)
Fireworks festival are one of the most popular summer events in Tokyo. In Asakusa, you can go to one of the biggest and most famous fireworks festival of Japan. Set along the Sumida River, the show continues for around 90 minutes. If you want to be sure to find a place to sit to admire the fireworks, it is recommended to go there early in the afternoon!
Tori no Ichi – november
This festival is held on designated rooster (tori) days of the lunar calendar to wish good luck and prosperity in business for the upcoming new year. The Torii no Ichi festival held at Ootori Shrine in Asakusa is one of the bigger and more famous ones of Tokyo and this tradition has been held here since the Edo Period. You can buy a small kumade, a decorated bamboo, and also participate during the celebration by singing for good luck when a company buys a bigger one!
Of course, Asakusa has a lot to offer even when no special events are held. Get lost in its atmosphere before enjoying a traditional Edo night cruise on the Sumida River on a Yakatabune.