A neighborhood festival for children, families and friends: “Minato Citizens’ Festival 2017”

Minato Citizens' Festival

Last year, my friends and I visited the “Minato Citizens’ Festival” for the first time. We had a lot of fun there so we had to go again this year! “Minato Citizens’ Festival” is a big local festival in Tokyo. At the festival, you can experience Japanese culture and try dishes from countries all around the world. You are travelling with kids? Great! There are a lot of games and activities for children, too. So, let’s go!

Minato Citizens' Festival

The festival starts from here, right in front of the Zojoji temple.

This year’s “36th Minato Citizens’ Festival” was held on October 7th (Sat) and October 8th (Sun) around Shiba-koen (Shiba Park) in the Minato Ward in Tokyo. The festival venue was even larger than last year and it was divided into several areas. I visited the “Zojoji area” and “Tokyo Prince Hotel area”.

Japanese folk dance

This group is performing a traditional Japanese folk dance.

On our way towards Zojoji temple from Daimon Station, a parade was just taking place moving slowly through the city. There were furry mascots mostly used for promotional purposes – called “yurukyara” in Japanese -, and various dance teams performing traditional dances. We walked with the parade and suddenly found ourselves in front of the main gate of Zojoji temple.


This is a good example of what a Japanese “yurukyara” looks like…This one is called “Hato-san” and represents the Real Estate Agents’ Cooperative of Tokyo.

When a temple turns into a big music stage

Zojoji temple

Zojoji temple was one area of the venue.

There were a lot of booths everywhere on the temple grounds. Every booth had a different topic, like recycling or life-saving measures. There even was a booth with rescue dogs and therapy dogs.

rescue dogs

The rescue dogs were very relaxed despite all the noise around them.

The highlight of this area was the special stage in front of the temple’s main hall. They had a variety of live performances, such as Japanese drums (wadaiko). When we arrived, a steel pan band was playing “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid”. Local grandpas and grandmas were sitting on benches in front of the stage and moving their feet rhythmically to the music. What a peaceful sight!

Steel pan band

Steel pan band

Tokyo Tower

Crossing the street to get to the Prince Hotel area…

Japanese culture experiences for free

The “Tokyo Prince Hotel Area” was next to Zojoji. You just had to cross one road (leading to Tokyo Tower and another area). At the hotel area, there were food stalls with international dishes and some booths where you could try some Japanese traditional arts for free. First of all, I played a Japanese instrument called “koto” (zither). Thanks to my teachers’ support, I managed to play the probably most famous Japanese song “Sakura” to the end. The score of a koto is completely different Western music scores:  the tempo is not fixed, and instead of whole and half notes you just get the numbers of the 13 strings written in Chinese symbols (kanji).

Japanese koto

Yena with one of our friendly teachers trying to play koto.

Next, I challenged the shamisen which is a three-stringed instrument. Again, the song of our choice was was “Sakura”. In the case of a shamisen, you don’t have any frets like you have on a guitar to help you find the right tone. You need a good hearing because you’ll have to play while constantly checking the pitch with your own ears.

Learning to play the shamisen!

Learning to play the shamisen!


This what you use to play a shamisen.

Moreover, since you use a kind of paddle to pull the strings, playing shamisen is quite difficult for beginners. The teacher told me: “It usually takes about three years to learn how to play well.” However, since koto and shamisen are very nice instruments with a beautiful intriguing sound, I would definitely like to play again! There weren’t only Japanese instruments, but also booths where you could wear a kimono, or try Ikebana (flower arrangement). It was so nice to be able to experience so many Japanese instruments and arts in just one day… and everything was for free.

At the Prince Hotel area

At the Prince Hotel area, looking for something yummy to eat.

Still so much to see…

After our Japanese intruments experience, we went on exploring the area. We saw a British balloon artist ‘s street performance and had some delicious Chinese dumplings and German sausages. As it was quite late, we left the venue. There was still so much we didn’t see, like the “Tokyo Tower area” where you could try out different types of sports…

Chinese food!

Chinese food! Yes, please!

British ballon artist

All kids loved this British ballon artist: he was great!

Next year, I will come back! then, I’ll try to conquer all areas – even if it takes me two days 😉 How about you? “Minato Citizens’ Festival” is a fun festival for the whole family and I would definitely check it our if you are in Tokyo in October 2018. See you then!!

See you next year!!

See you next year!!

Minato Citizens’ Festival 2017 HP:

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I was born and raised in Kiel/Germany. When I was 16 I came to Japan for the first time. I fell in love with this beautiful country, so I returned after my university graduation. Since then, I have been living in Tokyo - and I don't plan to change anything about that ;-) My hobbies are taking a stroll around the city, taking photos and drinking coffee.

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