Yoyogi Park (代々木公園・Yoyogi koen) is 134 hectares (about 331 acres) of lovely green space located in downtown Tokyo. Nestled right beside the popular shopping districts of Harajuku and Omotesando, with Tokyo's two most well known tourist hotspots—Shinjuku and Shibuya—barely a stone's throw away, it's the perfect place to take some time out of your day to relax when exploring Tokyo. Over the years Yoyogi Park has played host to professional sports, seasonal events, music concerts, a bird sanctuary and even an army barracks in the wake of World War II, so it seems appropriate that these days it's used as the location for many diverse cross-cultural festivals in Tokyo.
Although festival season gets off to a slow start—thanks in part, no doubt, to Tokyo's bracingly cold winters—the Oedo Antique Market is held almost monthly, and the Tokunoshima Fair in February celebrates the island culture of both Tokunoshima and Amami-Oshima, two islands north of Okinawa.
However, by the time the spring rolls around and everyone catches cherry blossom fever, Yoyogi Park's festival season really kicks off. Come May the cultural fusion is full-swing, and goes strong for the rest of the year!
Please note that the exact date of some of the events is subject to change. The following is an overview of what is to come in 2019, and the general time of year when each event is expected to take place. Check out the official Yoyogi Park page for any updated information.
I Love Ireland Festival: Yoyogi's I Love Ireland Festival is effectively the Tokyo St. Patrick's Day Parade, celebrated in and around the 17th of March every year. You could be forgiven for mistaking the roads surrounding Yoyogi Park as the streets of central Dublin. In what is claimed to be the largest annual Irish celebration in Asia, thousands head to Yoyogi Park dressed in every shade of green imaginable, where they eat Irish stew, drink Guinness, play some Irish sports (probably not simultaneously) and listen to live performances of traditional Irish music. To top it all off the celebration culminates in a massive parade that marches down Omotesando's main avenue. What's not to love?
The Paella Festival: The Paella Festival is dedicated to the celebration of Spain's esteemed fried rice and seafood dish from which the festival gets its name. Usually it kicks off in late March and runs into early April, and coincides perfectly with the natural wonder that is Japan's cherry blossom season. If you want to watch Japan's finest paella chefs compete in a culinary masterclass while enjoying the cherry blossoms in all their blooming glory, this is the place to do it!
Rainbow Pride: Generally held around Golden Week (sometime in late April through early May), Rainbow Pride is one of the largest events in Yoyogi Park's packed calendar. Tokyo's Rainbow Pride is a week-long celebration of inclusivity, designed to promoting awareness of and equality for the LGBT+ community. As you would expect from the festiva's name, there's no shortage of multi-colored costumes and displays as Yoyogi Park transforms into a week-long visual extravaganza.
The South East Asia Swing
Japan's southeast Asian neighbors take over the event schedule during May, with four individual festivals celebrating Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian culture, respectively. They each include of fusion of culture, arts, crafts, music, cuisine and more! Expect the event area at Yoyogi to be lined with booths and stalls proffering all kinds of goods, souvenirs and tons of food, along with staging areas that host musical performances and variety acts.
The Cambodia Festival: Expect truckloads of traditional Cambodian cuisine and clothing for sale.
The Thai Festival: There'll be more curry and pad thai than you can handle, and of course plenty of Singha beer to wash it down. This is one of the most anticipated festivals of the year!
The Vietnam Festival: This celebration of Vietnamese culture sees delicious banh mi sandwiches (and other regional dishes), traditional conical hats and music take center stage.
The Laos Festival: Although a little lesser known, the Laos Festival is your chance to get hands on with traditional dishes, buy and try your hand at local arts and crafts, enjoy performances of traditional dances and instruments and more!
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Okinawa Festival: The humid heat of Tokyo's summers doesn't put a stop to the festivities at Yoyogi Park. The Okinawa Festival (and later Okinawa Street Music Festival) celebrate the local culture of Okinawa and the rest of the Ryukyu Islands.
World Gourmet and Music Festival - Following on the heels of the Okinawa festival is one of Yoyogi's biggest cultural celebrations, The World Gourmet and Music Festival in mid-June. As one might imagine, this is the nexus were Tokyo's myriad diverse cultures combine, resulting in a weekend of food, music, drinking and dancing from all four corners of the globe.
Variety is the flavor of the month in July as Yoyogi hosts four festivals from three different continents. The following events take place from mid-July onward.
The Brasil Festival: Get ready to boogie as Yoyogi turns into a brightly-colored carnival of Samba dancers and live music!
The Africa Festival: Also known as the Cote D'ivoire-Japan Friendship Day, the Africa Festival is a unique opportunity to get your African culture fix while in Japan. Expect the usual trimmings of booths, stalls, local food and live music.
Oishi Peru: Oishi Peru (literally "Delicious Peru") is a festival that focuses on Peruvian cuisine. Peru is considered an important region of the World for the diversity of its crops, so the dishes are colorful, rich in flavor and use a wide range of natural ingredients. It's great for vegetarians too!
The Taiwan Festival: The last festival at Yoyogi in July switches its attentions to Asia with the annual Taiwan Festa. Reportedly over 100,000 visitors graced the event area at Yoyogi during the inaugural event of 2016, making it one of the most popular events on the Yoyogi Festival calendar. Be sure to check it out this year to see what all the fuss is about!
There's no better way to see out the summer, than with some curry and ice cold beer, which is exactly what August has in store.
The Sri Lanka Festival: First we have the Sri Lankan festival at the beginning of month, where many of the curries on offer pack a real spicy punch. Beyond food, there are plenty of booths highlighting Sri Lankan culture, from craft goods to Ayurvedic services.
The Thai Food Festival: The country so nice they celebrate it twice, if you miss the Thai Festival in spring, there's still ample opportunity to drown yourself delicious Thai food in summer!
September is an unpredictable mix of the heat of the dog days of summer and rainy, windy typhoons. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of interesting events going on!
The China Festival: In early September we have the China Festival, which celebrates the rich historical culture and cuisine of Japan's giant neighbor. With so many Chinese immigrants now living on Japanese soil, this is one of the most popular events of the year.
The Afro American Caribbean Festival: A reggae and food-fueled party, that takes place around the same time as the China Festival, The Afro Caribbean Festival is also a great place to shop for fashion, and enjoy delicious regional coffee.
The Latin Music Festival: This is one for the dancers out there. For a weekend in mid-September, the focus shifts away from food and towards many kinds of music and dance for which Latin America is renowned.
The Namaste India Festival: The Namaste India Festival—typically held at the end of September each year—is said to be the largest event of its kind in the country. It's the perfect place to celebrate the food, crafts and culture of various regions of India.
As the festival season begins to wind down, October and November are a little quieter on the cross-cultural front, but there's still some fun stuff going on.
The Japanese-Indonesian Friendship Festival: This is another super popular festival from one of Japan's closest neighbors. The Indonesian festival in mid-late October celebrates the culture of the nation, but also their long-standing relationship with Japan.
Fiesta de Espana - This is Yoyogi's official Spanish festival, and normally takes place around mid-November. Of course paella comes to the party again, but it's not to be outdone by smorgasbords of tapas, traditional Spanish guitar music and regional Spanish cerveza.
As the year comes to a close, Yoyogi pulls no punches with its final event!
The World Christmas Festival: The World Christmas Festival is typically held on the days leading up to Christmas, so it's a great way to experience some comforts from your home country if you're here over the festive period. There's bright lights, Christmas decorations, cold beer, hot wine, singing, dancing and more! It may not be your classic continental Christmas market, but it's certainly one of Yoyogi's finest annual events.