Your Guide to New Year’s Eve in Tokyo
In Tokyo for New Year's Eve? Celebrate Tokyo-style with our guide to everything going on over the New Year period in the Japanese capital.
New Year in Japan is one of the countries biggest holidays, a time to be with family and take a break from everyday life. But what to do if you’re visiting Japan at this time? That’s where we come in. After briefly running you through some of Japan’s New Year customs and traditions, we’ll introduce to the best things going on in Japan’s capital over the New Year period, and crucially, the best events and happenings on New Year’s Eve.
If you’re here throughout the festive period and want some things to do in Tokyo at Christmas, we’ve got a full guide to Tokyo at Christmas as well.
New Year’s Eve in Japan
Unlike in Europe or America where New Year’s Eve is spent with friends and a drink or two, in Japan, the holiday is much more family orientated (although things may be changing with younger generations) and focused on traditional activities and customs.
Families will generally enjoy a feast of traditional Japanese food and visit their local shrine or temple. The latter activity is known as the hatsumode, or the first visit to the shrine/temple of the year. Visitors, many of whom may not visit at many other points in the year, will pray for a good year to come and soak up the community atmosphere.
Like countries across the world, Japan has a line-up of special New Year television as well. Kouhaka Uta Gassen (year-end song festival) is one of the most popular shows broadcast. Aired annually since 1959, it’s a kind of song contest between two teams of famous Japanese artists culminating with the New Year countdown.
Be aware that tourism is at its peak during the New Year period, with Japanese people and foreigners taking advantage of the break. Many people will also return to their home towns or cities, a combination that inevitably strains public transport, airlines and hotels. To avoid a difficult situation, plan and book your trip early.
Tokyo New Year’s Eve
Inevitably, many events and activities are laid on for the seeing in of the new year. Tokyo is especially well catered for in this regard, with an incredible selection of events and attractions taking place. Whether you want to share the countdown with Mickey Mouse or get a good view of the first sunrise of the year, Tokyo has you covered.
Tokyo Disneyland New Year’s Eve
Attracting children and adults from all around the world, Disneyland has to be one of the most magical places to spend New Year’s Eve. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea both hold events on December 31st, though advanced tickets are needed for both, so don’t delay if the idea appeals.
As 2017 will be the Year of the Rooster, this year’s stars will be Donald and Daisy Duck. The characters will be adorned in special New Year’s outfits and there will be some very special commemorative items available to buy on the night. Five minutes before midnight the skies above the park will erupt with fireworks, somewhat of a rarity in Japan where fireworks are usually saved for the summer festivals. Visitors will also be able to tuck into some traditional Japanese food, exclusively available on New Year’s Eve.
For more information, take a look at the official website (Japanese only).
Sunrise Viewing Spots
To watch the sunrise on the first day of a new year is considered highly auspicious in Japan, a cherished and greatly looked forward to event. Gather with friends, family, or indeed alone, pick a good spot and watch as the Land of the Rising Sun welcomes in the first day of the new year. But where are the best spots in Tokyo?
Mount Takao, for one. Located in western Tokyo, Takao is only a short hop from central Tokyo yet feels a world away. The lush nature, various temples and shrines and the incredible views from the top combine to make it an excellent choice for New Year’s Eve. For a full guide to Mount Takao, check out our article, here.
Tokyo and Yokohama Bay Countdown Cruise
If you fancy taking to the water for New Year’s Eve, try a Tokyo Bay or Yokohama Bay boat cruise. These floating parties are a lot of fun and make for an evening you’ll certainly never forget. Enjoy a meal, drinks, a show and, when the time comes, a spectacular fireworks display. Ranging from 5,000 to 14,000 yen, the prices are not astronomical for such a novel experience and you’ll certainly be bringing in the new year in style.
22.30 – 02.00
¥ 5,000 – 14,000
The Sumida River on the east side of Tokyo has long been at the centre of many of the city’s festivals and celebrations, and New Year is no different. Each year, a countdown event takes place along the river which attracts a large crowd of, largely, couples and families. It is, therefore, more subdued than other spots, but is very pleasant and romantic. After the countdown, an illumination event takes place in Higashi Shirahiga Park based around the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac.
00.00 – 06.00
Kasai Rinkai park Countdown
The countdown event in Kasai Rinkai Park is another excellent New Year’s Eve option. Held around the Ferris wheel, the largest in Japan no less, there is a good deal of entertainment put on for visitors but the main event is, unsurprisingly, the countdown. Five minutes before midnight all the wheel’s lights are shut off before erupting when the time comes. The first 500 people to ride the Ferris wheel after midnight receive a special “lucky” prize bag.
23.30 – 00.30
¥ 700 to ride the Ferris wheel
Hanayashiki Amusement Park Countdown
The Hanayashiki Amusement Park near Asakusa’s Sensoji Shrine also holds a New Year’s Eve event. Opening much later than usual, the park offers a special all-you-can-ride ticket and puts on some great entertainment. Plus, spending New Year at the park puts you right in the heart of Asakusa, Tokyo’s most traditional of neighbourhoods and a great place to be for the festivities.
21.00 – 02.00
Tokyo New Year’s Eve Festivals
Festivals take place throughout the year in Japan, espically so around New Year. Take a look at some of the best below:
Hatsumode festivities are held at practically every shrine and temple in Japan from the first to the third of January. At midnight on December 31st, shrines and temples practice Joya no Kane, when bells are rung 108 times to symbolise the 108 Buddhist sins of humankind and the chasing away of evil spirits for the coming year. Traditional food and drink is usually on offer as well.
In Tokyo, Meiji-Jingu Shrine is the most popular spot for New Year. Last year, a huge three million people visited the shrine between the first and third of January. The crowds are big but it all adds to the warm and well-wishing atmosphere.
If you don’t fancy the crowds, however, check out our guide to Tokyo best temples and shrines for some alternative options.
Oji Kitsune no Gyoretsu Fox Parade
According to Shintoism, foxes are gods. Oji Kitsune no Gyorestu Shrine honours this with an annual New Year’s Eve ‘fox parade’ in which revellers dress up as foxes and parade the streets armed with traditional cochin lanters representing the light of life, hope and happiness. Very kid-focused, one of the aims of the festival is to mix youth-culture with tradition. A great family-friendly event for seeing in the new year.
18.00 – 00.00
Dezome-Shiki New Year’s Fire
Dezome-Shiki, a New Year’s event held by the Tokyo Fire Department is a showcase of firefighting, including impressive displays of firefighting skills, rescue techniques and first aid demonstrations. There are also performances of traditional kiyari songs (traditional work songs) and ladder-top stunts by the Edo Foremanship Preservation Association. The event has long been held to raise awareness of the dangers of fire and to promote disaster prevention.
09.30 – 15.00
Eating, Drinking and Partying on New Year’s Eve
If you don’t fancy one of Tokyo’s many New Year events or festivals, there is always the option of simply enjoying some good food and drink or going out partying at a bar or club.
Tokyo is a paradise for food lovers. Whether you’re after some fine dining at a Michelin Star restaurant or want a more laid-back feast at a traditional izakaya, there’s something for all. Luckily, we’ve got all the information you’re going to need to find the place for you.
Tokyo is also fond of a drink. Consequently, there are innumerable bars and pubs to quench that thirst.
Take a look at our guide to Shibuya’s hippest bars or at the best of the capital’s craft beer joints for some inspiration. If you’d rather stay traditional with some sake, we’ve got a guide for that, too.
With the trains running all night long and everyone out for a good time, New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year in Tokyo. Clubs litter the city, ranging from tiny basement live houses to mega-clubs host to the biggest DJs. Some of the best of the latter include Sound Museum Vision, Ageha, Womb and Glad.
Want more from Tokyo? What to see, what to do, what to eat and all the vital info? Compathy Magazine has everything you need and more: