Category Archives: Tokyo

Attractions in Tokyo that have FREE entry days during Golden Week

On Children’s Day, May 5th, a lot of zoos, parks and museums throughout Japan are free in for children. Apart from that day, there are other days in Golden Week that some places offer free entry for all visitors. Here is a list of some of the places in the Tokyo area, with the free entry dates specified. These are free in for all visitors unless otherwise stated. The links provided are to the English webpages of official sites, with the exception of Yumenoshima park which is in Japanese.
**Copyright ©2016 **

NHK Studio Park  NHKスタジオパーク

Free for the whole of Golden Week, April 29th to May 5th.


Showa Memorial Park  昭和記念公園

Free entry on April 29th, May 5th and May 15th for children under 16.


Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden  新宿御苑

Free entry on April 29th, May 4th and May 5th for children under 16.

Inokashira Park

Free entry for all visitors on May 4th. Free entry for kids on May 5th.

Tama Zoo

Free entry for all visitors on May 4th. Free entry for kids on May 5th.

Ueno Zoo

Free entry for all visitors on May 4th. Free entry for kids on May 5th.

Tokyo Sea Life Park

Free entry for all visitors on May 4th. Free entry for kids on May 5th.

Gardens of the former residence of Iwasaki  旧岩崎邸庭園

Free entry on May 4th.

Gardens of the former residence of Furukawa 旧古河庭園

Free entry on May 4th.

Kiyosumi Gardens  清澄庭園

Free entry on May 4th.

Yumenoshima Park  夢の島熱帯植物館

Free entry on May 4th.
(Japanese only)

The Shiba Detached Palace Garden 旧芝離宮恩賜庭園

Free entry on May 4th.

Jindai Botanical Gardens  神代植物公園

Free entry on May 4th.

Mukojima Hyakka Flower Garden  向島百科園

Free entry May 4th.






The Emperor and his gardens!| Tokyo, Japan

I had the great fortune and pleasure to serendipitously see the Emperor and Empress last week. The chances of that happening are almost as slim as winning the lottery. It was night-time and I was stopped from crossing the road by a policeman. I instinctively knew what great fortune I had been bestowed, as I was just at the top of the avenue of Gingko trees in the Koukyogaien National Garden. (Koukyogaien literally means the outer garden of the Imperial Palace).  Subsequently the lights were fixed to red for all approaches and the entourage approached, black cars barely visible except for their gleam, against the dark of night. Just as the Emperor passed me (and I like to think because I was waving like a loon and visibly overcome by emotion) the light was turned on in the car and there in front of me was the Emperor and Empress of Japan in clear view. They were impeccable, splendid, breathtaking…imperial. It was the perfect ending to my day at the Palace.

I had started my morning just as fortuitous, with a welcome and unexpected reunion with an old JET buddy from my days in Ibaraki. I was on my way to the Palace Hotel when a mail came in from my old friend. I had plenty of time to spare before my engagement, so we arranged to meet in the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace for a walk and a catch up. Not expecting to meet anyone before my engagement at the Palace, I had a route planned to do myself before meeting up with my Irish family and friends at the Palace Hotel.  I adjusted it for a walk-and-talk and we only did a small part of the formidable gardens, but it was more impressive than either of us had anticipated.

Walking map of the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace
From Mapple Walking Maps 2016, Print Edition App Copy.

I actually walked in from Sakuradamon station over Iwaida bridge on the side of the Hibiya moat. (The yellow line of the left foreground of the above photo). We caught the gardens at the end of the autumnal colours, but the trees and shrubbery were still magnificently resplendent.

The leisurely walk brought us from the KoukyoGaien National gardens to the Imperial Palace East Gardens, home to the Sannomaru Shozokan, a museum of the Imperial Collections. All are public and FREE. You can check the opening hours and schedule of Sannomaru Shozokan and the Imperial Palace East Gardens here:

In the Imperial Palace East Gardens, I was particularly awed by the Ninomaru gardens. Ninomaru was the area of the secondary circle when it was Edo castle. THe area was converted into a spectacular garden. I ran out of time shortly after we arrived in the Ninomaru gardens and it was onto the Palace Hotel for afternoon tea with dear friends and family (possibly another blog entry!). Next year, I will definitely return to finish the full route and take in more of the spectacular Autumn scenery at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Santa Claus Village | Gate City

Gate City SantaGate City Plaza in Osaki, Shinagawa Ward, has a free Santa Village until Christmas Day.  The Atrium is decorated as a Santa grotto and village. It is free and open to the public daily from 7am to midnight. For the month of December, they also have a special area set up to write your wishes to Santa Claus and put them in a box for him to pick up.



On the 23rd, Santa Claus will personally visit Gate City to pick up the letters. He plans to hang around for most of the day so there will be an opportunity to see him. From 1pm and again from 4pm they will have a family group event with Santa.  Separate to that they will have a photo with Santa event at 11am to 1pm and 3pm to 4.30pm.  However, if you want to get your photo with Santa at the allocated times, you must request a ticket at the delivery corner of the Atrium. Tickets are limited, so first come, first served.  There is also a family singing event in the Atrium that day at noon and 3pm.


Further, information is available in Japanese on the website:








Source: ゲートシティプラザ・イベント

Santa Dive, Reindeer Photo|Sunshine Aquarium Christmas

2015年11月12日~12月25日までサンシャイン水族館にて開催される「Sunshine Aquarium Christmas」のイベント情報です。

Source: サンシャインシティ |Sunshine Aquarium Christmas

For the month of December Sunshine Aquarium in Ikebukuro are running a number of Christmas events. Some are covered by the regular cost of the entrance into Sunshine Aquarium, but some require an additional fee.**This information is for 2015, a similar event has been confirmed for 2016**

Santa Dive

Currently, one of the special events covered by the standard admission price is a Santa Dive. This is a special show with Santa and his reindeers, which includes a dive performance by Santa. It is held daily at 11.30am and 3pm for 10 minutes each time.

Sea Lion Performance time

Also, covered by the general admission is the Sea Lions performing to Christmas music and handbells. Each day at 11.00am, 12.30pm, 2pm and 3.30pm for 10 minutes each time.

A photo with the Reindeers

For 1,200 yen you can get your photo taken with Santa’s reindeer and sleigh. The reindeer are there each day at 11am, 12 noon, 2pm and 3pm for 30 minutes each time.

Santa hat

They are giving a Santa hat with purchases of soft toys of more than 1,000 yen.

Sunshine Aquarium Entry Fees and Times

Hours: Winter hours – 10am to 6pm. (Till 8pm from December 23rd to 25th).
Price: 2000 yen for adults, 1,700 yen for seniors, 1,000 yen for students, 700 yen for preschoolers, free for under 3.
Tickets can be bought in advance in most convenience stores.

URL: Sunshine City Aquarium Website


Picture taking with Santa Claus | RITZ-CARLTON, TOKYO


A photo with Santa @ Hilton Odawara | KANAGAWA

Santa is coming |Grandberry Mall

Santa’s Grotto|Toyosu Seaside Christmas


Santa’s Grotto|Toyosu Seaside Christmas



At the entrance to the Urban Dock Lalaport, Toyosu, there is a great photo spot free to use. It includes a back-drop of Santa’s grotto and an artificial Santa beside whom you can get a photo.  Every night from 4pm to midnight the “Santa Claus Hiroba” is lit up, as are other parts of Lalaport and the dock area. Within Lalaport there are all sorts of Christmas offers, workshops and special events, including many centred around the very popular animation “Yokai Watch”.

One of their popular free events is a live concert event with fireworks to the backdrop of the seaside illumination. This year, 2015, it is taking place on Sunday the 13th of December from 7pm around the Seaside Deck Area. More information on the big event on December 13th can be found here:

From the English version of their website:

Located 10 minutes by train and on foot from Ginza, it can be accessed from the Yurakucho Line Toyosu Station and the Yurikamome Line Toyosu Station.
The site is next to Tokyo Bay, making it possible to access the mall from Asakusa and Odaiba via a water-bus. The location of the shopping mall is excellent, even providing a view of Rainbow Bridge.
The wide variety of shops (180 in total) includes everything from Uniqlo and other casual fashion shops to the 100-yen shop The Daiso. When the weather is clear, you can even sit on the terrace and have a relaxing meal while gazing over the ocean.

You can find information for all Christmas events, for all Lalaports, on their website here: ららぽーと|LaLaport Xmas.

Even more Christmas events on this blog:


Santa Claus Greeting | Haneda Airport

You can meet Santa Claus between journeys on December 24th and 25th at Haneda Airport. Santa and two helpers will be walking around the lobby giving out candy. On the 24th there are two opportunites in Terminal 2, the first is from 1oam then again from 11.30am. It has not been specified how long he will be available each time. He will also visit in Terminal 1 twice at 2pm and 5pm.

There is nothing on their website yet, but they will post in the next couple of days. It is anticipated that they will also conduct a free Christmas concert as they have done in the past. The website is:


Fave Foto Friday… on a Monday

This is part of Sandy (of Scribbles and Musings) #FavFotoFriday challenge. I am not a photographer, nor am I aspiring to be one. I just like taking photos. The #FavFotoFriday is a WordPress Daily Post approved challenge. It’s simple; pick a favourite photo you took in the last week, share it, pingback to Sandy and use the tag.


This photo was taken in the public part of the Imperial Palace Gardens, Sunday November 29th. It has not been edited in anyway. The autumn leaves are stunning and thanks to the blue sky the reflection in the pond is picture perfect.  More to come on the gardens later in the week.


This is my 30th post for #NaBloPoMo meaning that I passed the challenge to post every single day during November.  Party over here!


UPDATED. New Year’s (Countdown) events | Tokyo

This post was for New Year’s Eve 2015 New Year’s Day 2016, you can find New Year’s Eve 2016, New Year’s 2017 here:
New Year Countdown Events Japan 2016/7 | Tokyo

There have been a number of queries on Japan Travel Friendly Discussion Group, a Facebook group I help administer, about things to do in Tokyo for the New Year.  Bait taken.  Hereafter a selection of New Year COUNTDOWN events in the Greater Tokyo Area.  A separate post for NEW YEAR’S DAY will follow soon. Most of this information is EXCLUSIVE and not available mainstream yet This information is now publicly available on the official websites and other webpages. (*The Johnny’s countdown party in Tokyo Dome is near impossible to get tickets for, so there is no information for that popular event on this page.)


ASAKUSA, Countdown event in Hanayashiki Amusement Park.

Information about the event is not on their website yet, but they will add it soon. You heard it here first! The park will open for this special event from 9pm on the 31st to 2am on the 1st. It will cost 1000 yen per person from 2 years old up. Not all of the park will be open, but there will be certain areas open and stage events. The ticket includes unlimited access to 9 rides, which include the merry-go-round, Little Star and Helicopter rides.

URL: Hanayashiki Countdown official webpage (Japanese only)

IKEBUKURO, Nanja Countdown Party 2016

Information for this event is also not mainstream yet, but it will be added to the official website soon was added on December 7th.  The event will take place from opening hours on the 31st and Namja Town will remain open until 5am on the 1st.  They will have a special New Year’s menu available. Entry is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children 4 years old or over. You can also get live updates from their Twitter, if you read Japanese: Namja Town Twitter feed.

JOYPOLIS, Countdown Party 2016

pcCastThis lively event runs from 11pm on New Year’s Eve to 5am on New Year’s Day. They start the New Year off with bingo. Entry into Joypolis is 800 yen for adults and 300 yen for children of school going age. This includes access to some of the main stage events on New Year’s Eve. However, for the countdown parties you have to pay extra. A ticket bought in advance can be used from 8pm on New Year’s Eve. Those tickets are already on sale and can be bought in any Lawson – the code is 33417.  A ticket bought on New Year’s eve can be used from 10pm. Both cost 2,400 yen for adults and 1,900 yen for children.

URL: Joypolis Countdown Event


EDOGAWA, Kasai Rinkai Park Ferris Wheel Countdown

KasaiThe event is free, but you have to pay 700 yen to ride the ferris wheel. There will be live entertainment.  It opens from 23.30 to 0.30 on the 1st. There is no official information on the website yet.

This park is also running another event for New Year’s – on the 2nd and 3rd the first 200 customers will receive a special mini “Lucky Bag”.

URL: Kasai Ferris Wheel homepage

**For REGULAR business days (NOT valid for New Years special event) there is a coupon on their website for a discounted price of 630 yen. This coupon can be used up until March 31st 2016. It has to be printed off, you cannot just show on your mobile.

SUMIDA, 2016 Countdown at Higashi Shirahige Park

The riverside area has a long running year-end event and more recently illumination, too. It is a free event. It starts 15 minutes before midnight.  Illumination starts at 5pm and on New Years is on until 6am on New Year’s day.  Queries to 03-3619-8888.

TOKYO BAY, Countdown Cruising, New Year’s Eve 2015

For adults, there are two different cruises you can enjoy on New Year’s eve in Tokyo Bay. Both provide a meal, a glass of champagne plus another free drink and music. The buffet course cruise costs 13,500 yen per person and leaves Tokyo Bay at 22.50 returning to land at 1.20am. The symphony cruise costs 14,500 yen and leaves at 22.30, returning at 1.10am New Year’s Day. You can book from 10am to 7.30pm on 03-3798-8101.  You can find more information in Japanese on their website.

URL: Countdown Cruising Website


AGEHA, Ageha Countdown 2016

**This one is not suited to children**.  Ageha is a famous dance club venue in Shin Kiba. It has a great New Year’s event, from 9m to sunrise. This year’s line up is the EDM superstars W&W as well as DJ Kaori, among others. You need to buy a ticket in advance. Tickets are already on sale and will be until the 29th of December. It is 4,980 yen per person. There’s lot of little events on during the night, including a Ageha shrine and the traditional food of soba.  The phone number is 03-5534-2525.

URL: Ageha Countdown 2016

ENYUJI, Night bells and Projection Mapping

Enjoy a mixture of old and new traditions at the Enyuji Temple in Meguro.  Colourful images, including pictures drawn by children, are projected onto the temple. There are 5 free showings scheduled for New Year’s eve night at 21.00, 21.30, 22.00, 22.30 and 23.00. From 23.30 they will ring the temple bell 108 times, an age old New Year’s Eve tradition.  The bell tolls are to rid us of our 108 worldly desires! The phone number is 03-3712-2098.

URL: Enyuuji (Information in Japanese only)

(The tradition of ringing the temple bell 108 times is practised in many temples all over Japan on New Year’s eve night, I mentioned this one due to the projection mapping shows.)



IKSPIARI, Countdown Live 2016

The free area beside Tokyo Disney resort will host a free live countdown in the Celebration Plaza. The tribute band Queeness are performing live from 11.30pm to 0.15am. A concurrent event is the sale of fukubukuro, lucky bags, from midnight. Restaurants are open until 1am and shops until 3am.

URL: Official Ikspiari Website



OSANBASHI, Yokohama Countdown

Live FREE music concert in the passenger terminal of Osanbashi pier from 8pm to 4am. The line up includes Y.M.G, Good Coming, Star Bell Plus and Lili.  From 0.30am until sunrise they are showing movies for free. This event is taking place on the 2nd floor of CIQ Plaza of the International Passenger terminal. Unfortunately, they haven’t released information publicly yet. WATCH THIS SPACE!

URL: Osanbashi Event page .

Event flyer:

Information about Osanbashi in English:

HAKKEJIMA SEA PARADISE, Happy Island Countdown

Hakkejima Sea Paradise’s New Year celebrations start at 7pm on New Year’s eve and run all night. You can even witness 2016’s first sunrise over Boso Peninsula at around 6.50am. There will be live music and comedian performances throughout the New Year celebrations.  Fireworks synchronised to music will see out the old year and welcome in the new one.  This popular countdown event has been running since about 2000 and draws crowds.  You can already purchase tickets online. The Countdown All Night Pass with special illumination (at 20.30 OR 21.30) included is 3,500 yen per person over 4 years old. Without illumination is 3,000 yen per person.

URL: Happy Island Countdown 2016
Information about Hakkejima Sea Paradise in English:


YOKOSUKA Countdown 2016

From 6pm to 1am on New Year’s day you can enjoy the holiday atmosphere of Yokosuka as thousands celebrate in Verny Park, close to Yokosuka station.  Two of the highlights of the night are the navy ships covered in lights and the fireworks show at midnight. Queries to the Yokosuka City Tourism Association 046-825-1080. *This event may not take place if there is bad weather.*




FUJIQ HIGHLAND, Countdown live

You can attend the event if you buy an entry ticket for the amusement park on the 31st. If you buy the pass after 5pm, it gives you access until 8pm on the 1st. They have a decent line up of comedians and TV “talents” for the main stage. There are fireworks around midnight. For those attending the FujiQ New Year party you can enjoy ice-skating all through the night for free.

URL: FujiQ Highland Countdown Live

Information about FujiQ in English: FujiQ Official English website


Please note that some of these events will be dependent on weather, so if it is a rainy or stormy day on the 31st please do check the homepages or ring the numbers provided to see if the events will go ahead.

This is just some of the special events on for New Year’s Eve 2015/2016. There are other types of events you can enjoy, too. For example, a lot of Japanese people go to a shrine or temple to welcome the New Year. My pick for the Greater Tokyo area is the Yakuouin Temple on Mt Takao. However, it is cold, dark and crowded. So why do people go? Two very big reasons; the first sunrise AND the first glimpse of Mt Fuji for 2016. Mt Takao cable car runs from 8am on New Years Eve right through to 6pm on New Year’s Day.

For even more suggestions of great ways/places to spend New Year’s Eve, please see the comprehensive list with details on Separate posts on New Year’s day and early New Year will follow on this blog soon.

Manhole Monday

Regular Monday feature for the month of NABLOPOMO, introducing the manhole cover art of the Greater Tokyo area of Saitama and beyond.


Even at 599 metres there are manhole covers! I couldn’t find a coloured one, but the steel one is quite nice regardless.



Kawagoe manholes have featured on my blog before, but this week I managed to find a new-to-me one and a coloured version of the Bell Tower manhole cover.



Kawagoe coloured manhole

If you are interested in manhole covers, I recommend you check out these three blogs with a great selection:

Shizuoka Gourmet:

Life in the Land of Wa:

KA Japan:

Christmas Concerts in the Greater Tokyo Area

There are a number of special events being held in the Greater Tokyo Area to celebrate Christmas. Among them, you can find some choir group performances and Christmas concerts. Below is a selection of some of the Christmas choir and concerts available this year.



From the 19th of December the luxury 5 star hotel in Nihonbashi give us their Christmas present; a week of FREE Christmas concerts for guests and the general public to enjoy. Twice a day they have a public performance, one at 1.30pm and one at 5pm.  Each day is a different concert including the Marunouchi Choir on the 19th,  Wagner Society female choir on the 20th, the Tokyo Bell Orchestra handbell performance on the 21st, St Paul’s Glee Club  on the 22nd and the Japan Women’s University Choir on the 23rd. More information on their Christmas events on their website in Japanese:


The 125 year old hotel located near Hibiya Station offers a variety of Christmas events, some of them open to the general public. Among the many events organised for the month of December is the Tokyo FM Boys Choir performance on December 23rd in the hotel lobby from 3 to 3.30pm. This is a one of the events that is open to the general public. It is also free. More information in Japanese on their official webpage for the event:

From the official website for the Imperial Hotel event.


The annual Roppongi Hills FREE Christmas concert is being held from December 23rd to 25th. On December 23rd are KRAJA, a Swedish choir group, and LITTLE CAROL, a Japanese choir group are preforming. On the 24th and 25th there will be two performances by KRAJA.Information in English:
クリスマスコンサート | ROPPONGI HILLS ARTELLIGENT CHRISTMAS 2015  Information in Japanese:

 六本木ヒルズ クリスマス2015特設サイト。このクリスマスは、忘れるのがむずかしい。


On December 23rd the hotel will host two charity concerts of Christmas carols in the Atrium Chapel. The first performance is at 5pm and the 2nd is at 7pm. Both last 40 minutes. Information on their official website in Japanese:  The Hotel New Otani also has other Christmas events  including a Santa house, on this blog:


Marunouchi Symphony orchestra will perform a live FREE Christmas Concert at Megaweb on the afternoon of December 23rd. You can already enjoy Christmas illumination at Megaweb. More information will be available about the full orchestra performance on their website soon.


Starting next weekend, November 28th, each weekend leading up to Christmas, there will be a live Christmas concert of classical music held at the Galleria. Each weekend day there will be 3 performances, lasting 30 minutes, between 3pm and 8pm.  More information is available in English here: The Japanese page is


Christmas Concert in Keyaki Hiroba

On December 19th, 20th, 23rd, 24th and 25th  there are FREE Christmas concerts scheduled from 4pm to 8.30pm in Saitama Shintoshin. The concerts will include gospel choirs, a capella groups, Jazz and other types of music. You can enjoy the magical backdrop of wonderful winter illumination too. The website is in Japanese only:

If you have any Christmas concerts you would like to see added to the list, please do not hesitate to comment below.

For a fully comprehensive list of concerts that require advance booking, please see:


Thank you.

#NaBloPoMo post #22


Candle events in the Greater Tokyo Area

Santa in Ochanomizu

Santa in Ikspiari