Summertime in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park means food, drinks, dancing, music, art, and plenty of fun from every corner of the Earth. Nearly every weekend throughout the summer season features a different international festival that is a big celebration of cuisine and culture. Vendors selling food and drinks straight from that country line the event space, as do sellers of that country's clothing, jewelry, musical instruments, crafts, and artwork.
The large event stage is usually booked from morning to night for the full weekend with wonderful performances of dance, music, traditional costumes, theatrical performances, acrobats, and who knows what else might show up. Some festivals cap with a performance by a major music star from their home country. The festival organizers take great pride in representing their home countries, so everything tends to be extremely authentic. Best of all, they're free!
Here is a rundown on the highlights of the festival circuit:
The Major Events
Plan to spend all day at Yoyogi for these festivals. The food and entertainment is endless, but so are the lines of people at the food and beer stands. The crowds are out, and everyone's looking for a party. These events can be the highlight of your summer.
- "One Love" Jamaica Festival: This annual favorite packs in the tye-dyed crowds with its jerk chicken, non-stop reggae performances, and aisles of Rastafarian-style clothing.
- Brazil Festival: If you're not wearing yellow, you'll stick out. Do the samba, watch capoeira performances, and eat more churrasco than you'll want to admit later.
- Thai Festival: The endless food choices could keep you busy for weeks, but the Thai Festival goes above and beyond to give you the full Thai cultural experience. Bring your camera, for sure.
- Namaste India Festival: Many of the excellent music and dancing performances are nods to India's vast and varied history. The food gives you a taste of the depths of Indian cuisine, beyond the standard handful of curry choices you find at most restaurants in Tokyo.
While not quite as over-the-top as the above festivals, these are large, lavish events with plenty to see, do, eat, and drink.
- Cinco de Mayo Festival: Grab your sombrero and head to this popular new-comer on the Yoyogi circuit for a great collection of Mexican food, beer, and of course tequila. Lots of smaller Latin American countries make token appearances as well.
- Vietnam Festival: The pho is a given, but every festival-goer ends the night by looking up the cost of flights to Hanoi. Great display of Vietnamese art, photography, culture, and travel info.
- Japan-Indonesia Friendship Festival: Indonesian pride comes bursting out in loud and wonderful ways. The music and dancers alone are enough to make this a must-see event.
Not to be outdone by the exotic flair of overseas destinations, a pair of Japanese festivals bookend the summer festivities with Okinawa usually being one of the first, and Hokkaido being one of the last festivals of the season.
- Okinawa Festival: The unique history and culture of Okinawa is brought to the forefront, along with plenty of beer, noodles, and taco-rice.
- Hokkaido Festival: The northern-most prefecture represents its famous culinary treats such as seafood, ramen, and dairy-based products.
Rounding out the summer
There are plenty of minor festivals held throughout the summer season as well, and while they may not be big enough for an all-day extravaganza, they are certainly great places to grab a drink and some food, and to enjoy some international flavor. These smaller festivals are sometimes one-off events (as opposed to annual institutions), and often change from year-to-year, so be sure to check out Yoyogi Park's website for this year's schedule.
Recent years have seen entertaining events such as the: