What to Do in Tokyo in the Month of November
As darkness creeps in and the weather gets cooler, many turn inward and choose to stay indoors. But don’t start hibernating quite yet: going out to see the fall colors is one of the best experiences you can have in Japan — and one of the most popular — in part because the weather in November is often perfect for being outdoors. It’s often sunny and cool, but not too cold yet. If you haven’t visited in autumn before, definitely consider it for your next trip.
November 3 — Culture Day / Bunka no Hi
As its name implies, Culture Day is to promote cultural projects including theater, art, and academic pursuits. It used to be a national holiday honoring the Meiji emperor’s birthday, but only emperors that are alive get that privilege. In the last few years there have been more activities dedicated to this day — street art projects, markets, workshops, free entry to museums, and other festivities — but the main events tend to be school festivals held at high schools and universities, where students showcase their pursuits. This involves art exhibitions, stage performances, and much, much, more. These are generally open school events so anyone can go check them out — highly recommended if you’re curious to know what Japanese schools look like on the inside.
November 23 — Labor Thanksgiving Day / Kinrou Kansha no Hi
A modern version of an ancient harvest festival that celebrated the end of the year’s work, this holiday was established after World War II as part of a movement to establish workers’ rights. There aren’t many special events associated with this day, as many labor unions tend to demonstrate on May 1st instead.
Festivals in Tokyo
Most of the autumn festivals are over and the few winter ones that exist haven’t begun. There are a number of events related to the brilliant fall foliage in areas where it’s prominent, but I’ll introduce those in a different post.
Multiple Days in November — Tori-no-ichi Fair
While technically an open-air fair and not a festival, it may as well be. Tori no Ichi is held at a number of temples and shrines across the city, but the biggest and most famous is in Asakusa. It is held on the two (sometimes three) so-called rooster days (hailing from the Chinese calendar) in November each year and is historically the first event connected with the New Year. Stalls at the fair sell elaborate good luck charms in the form of kumade (literally bear paw), which are ornamental rakes that are said to bring good fortune, especially for businesses.
Where: Chokokuji Temple, Asakusa and Hanazono Shrine, Shinjuku
Mid-November to Early Dec —Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Festival
Meiji Jingu Gaien is a huge complex housing a sporting facility, a museum, a park, a driving range, and much much more. For the festival though, the most important area is a 300-meter-long street lined with ginkgo trees — a tunnel of bright yellow-leafed trees standing tall. There are also about 40 food stalls lining the sidewalks to make this event extra special.
Where: Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Avenue, 2 Kasumigaokamachi, Shinjuku
More info: Jingu Gaien Festival Homepage
Sat & Sun Closest to November 15 — Hachioji Gingko Festival / Ichou Festa
This is a gingko tree festival with a twist. It has all the usual festival trimmings: market stalls, food stalls, and other family-friendly events, but all with a flair for nostalgia. If you want a taste of what Showa period Japan was like, this is a must-see. Here you’ll see a classic car parade and can take part in an old-fashioned orienteering event — old-style accessories included.
Where: Across Hachioji City
More info: Ichou Festa Official Site
Tokyo Flowers in November
You would think it would all be about the autumn foliage in November — and believe me, it is — but there are flowers in bloom too. I’ve got you covered with some of the best flowers and fall color spots in the city.
CHRYSANTHEMUM — Kiku
The chrysanthemum is one of the most important symbols of Japan, as it is the crest of the imperial family. While you don’t find these flowers in gardens or planted in parks, there are numerous elaborate exhibitions with stunning displays of complex arrangements to visit. Instead of just one or two best spots, I’m including the biggest three chrysanthemum exhibitions in Tokyo below. Note that the dates vary depending on location.
Best time: Early to mid-November
FALL FOLIAGE — Kouyou
Go to any park in Tokyo and you’ll find a splendid display of amber, vermillion and rusty browns decorating the trees in a last hurrah before winter hits and takes it all away.
Best time: Late October to Late November
This is just a short list of historic festivals and events you’ll find in Tokyo in November — hope you find it useful!