What to Do in Tokyo in the Month of June
Summer is heating up until suddenly it’s not, because rainy season hits hard. June has some amazing events and fantastic flower spreads, but the showers can put a bit of a damper on it all. Although the timing varies from year to year, it tends to hit around the middle to end of the month. Be prepared with an umbrella, waterproof shoes, and if you’re feeling it, a poncho or rain jacket. (Be warned, you may be the only person in Tokyo (save for tourists) wearing rain gear like that — most people stick to weather-worthy shoes and umbrellas.
If you want to know what to do in Tokyo in May, click here.
Guess what? June has NO national holidays. Bummer, right? Not only is the weather depressing and unpredictable, but there’s no chance of getting a day off to sit back and enjoy watching the rain from your window at home, either. Sigh.
Festivals in Tokyo in June
There aren’t any national holidays, but there’s still a lot of partying going on. It isn’t truly summer in Japan until there’s at least one traditional festival a week — guess what? It looks like summer starts in June! As usual, I’m sticking to mostly or only traditional matsuri-type events, as these are the ones that stick around.
Closest Fri-Sun to June 7 — Shinagawa Shrine Spring Festival / Shinagawa Jinja Reitaisai
Also known as Kita no Tennosai, this annual event features a mikoshi (portable shrine) with a red-faced mask on the roof, representing the shrine’s main god. This festival is known for the mikoshi bearers’ chaotic shaking and pushing of the heavy portable shrine in every direction. Pop by on either the Saturday for the main procession around town or on Sunday, when the procession returns the mikoshi back to the shrine — they have to climb a steep staircase to do so, and it’s an impressive sight.
Where: Shinagawa Shrine, Shinagawa
More info: Shinagawa Shrine
June 9-10 — Torikoe Shrine Festival / Torikoe Matsuri
This historic shrine dates back almost 1,360 years and is located in Kuramae, an up-and-coming hipster haven just a short walk from sightseeing center Asakusa. The festival features the heaviest mikoshi (portable shrine) in Tokyo, as well as an appearance by Sarutahiko, a demon-faced deity, Tekomai dancers, and kids donning colorful flags.
Where: Torikoe Shrine, Kuramae
More info: Torikoe Matsuri
Closest Fri-Sun to June 10 — Tsukiji Shishi Grand Festival / Tsukiji Shishi Taisai
Tsukiji had a hard time of it back in the day. Originally part of the ocean, land reclamation began in the Edo period (1603-1868) and the embankments were often washed away and had to be rebuilt constantly. Legend has it that once people started worshipping a certain deity, the flooding ceased and Tsukiji was allowed to turn into the thriving cityscape it is today. According to legend, it was in part thanks to some shishi (a mythological lion of Chinese origin) that the flooding stopped, and the area has celebrated these beasts since then. The grand festival — which goes from Wednesday to Friday — takes place every three years, with smaller versions celebrated annually. The next grand festival is 2018, with the following one in 2021. During the event, merrymakers carry giant shishi heads (one male and one female) instead of typical mikoshi (portable shrines).
Where: Tsukiji Namiyoke Shrine, Tsukiji
More info: Tsukiji Namiyoke Shrine
Mid-June, Even Numbered Years — Sanno Matsuri
Sanno Matsuri, of Sanno Festival, takes place at Akasaka’s Hie Shrine and is one of Tokyo’s Three Grand Festivals, along with Kanda Matsuri and Fukagawa Matsuri. It was famously one of the few festival processions allowed to enter the grounds of Edo Castle during the Edo period. These days it’s a colorful display of mikoshi (portable shrine) bearers and Tengu (long-nosed red-faced demons). Pop by the main shrine and walk through the large straw circle set up there if you’re keen on purifying your sins while you’re there. The next festival will take place in 2018, and the following one in 2020.
Where: Hie Shrine, Akasaka
More info: Sanno Matsuri
Tokyo Flowers in June
Sultry hot summer days and the soggy rainy season bring out the purples, apparently.
Hydrangea — Ajisai
These beautiful pink, purple, and white clusters of color can be found almost everywhere, but one of the best places is along certain rail tracks across the city. One of my favorite lines is the Inokashira Line, which runs between Shibuya and Kichijoji. They really brighten up the journey, especially since it can otherwise be a bit of a gray and dull month because of the weather.
Best Time: Early June to mid-July
Irises — Ayame / Shobu
Tokyo isn't really famous for irises — neighboring prefectures Chiba and Ibaraki boast the most impressive displays in the region. In fact, if you want to catch these blooms in May, head out to Katori City in Chiba or Itako City in Ibaraki for thousands of these beautiful blooms along the riverside. However, if you’re here in June there’s still hope! While you won’t find them in gardens or along the streets like many other popular flowers, there are still some gardens and parks with great displays.
Best Time: Late May to the beginning of June
Which festival would you most like to join?