February is a month in which you will find multiple things to see and do in Tokyo, despite the cold weather. If you want to get to know the culture of the Land of the Rising Sun, during this month you will be able to see several traditions celebrated in Tokyo. Each one has a special symbolism and rituals that you can participate in.
Although Tokyo is a modern city, you can always find a way to connect with its ancient customs. Also, you will see the particular way they celebrate world-famous dates like Valentine's Day. What are you waiting for to visit Tokyo?
1. Celebrate Setsubun: the end of the lunar winter
Year after year, Setsubun, or the end of lunar winter, is celebrated in Japan at the beginning of February. Through festivals and rituals to attract good luck, the Japanese prepare for a new year and a new season. Although several traditions are done at home with the family, others are performed in some temples in Tokyo that you can attend.
I recommend you visit the Senso-Ji Temple in Asakusa, in the Taitō district of Tokyo. During the celebration, roasted soybeans are thrown while the participants shout ¡oni wa soto! fuku wa uchi! which in English means: out with the demons, in with fortune!
To participate in this tradition, you can buy your bag of roasted soybeans at a supermarket, where you will also find the mask of oni, a demon in charge of punishing the evil and unjust. After the seed-throwing, at Senso-ji Temple, the Dance of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan is performed. They say that watching this performance can bring good luck.
Other traditions of this celebration is to eat maki sushi in one bite and facing a fixed direction. This is a ritual so that good luck will not be broken. The direction to face varies from year to year according to the sign of the Chinese New Year. As a curious fact, this tradition was imported from China and became popular in Japan. Do you dare to scare away the demons and receive the fortune that spring brings with this tradition?
- Location: Senso-Ji Temple in Asakusa, a district of Taitō in Tokyo.
- When to go: can be held on February 2 or 3, the date varies depending on when the lunar winter ends.
- Price: entrance to the temple is free.
- Hours: the celebration at the temple starts around 4:00 pm.
2. See the plum blossoms blooming in February
If you love nature and flowers, February is the ideal month for you to visit Tokyo. In the middle or end of this month, the well-known plum blossoms or Ume, as they are called in Japanese, bloom and are the first sign that spring has arrived. Be prepared to go out to specific places in the city and take the best pictures. You can even take a photo tour of Tokyo to capture the most beautiful colors this flower has to offer.
The plum blossom is a symbol of perseverance, hope, purity and beauty, but also a reminder of how fleeting life can be. To see them up close and meditate on their meaning, I recommend going to Shiba Park in Tokyo's Minato district. From there, in addition to admiring the flowers, you can see the famous Tokyo Tower. I also recommend visiting the Yushima Tenjin shrine on weekends. On those days you can watch traditional Japanese music performances while the site is adorned with plum blossoms.
If you are looking for something more lively I invite you to attend the Setagaya Plum Blossom Festival. This festival is held in Hanegi Park in Tokyo. During the celebration you can taste plum-flavored sweets, enjoy live music and free matcha tea. To participate in the festival you don't have to buy a ticket. Choose one of the ways you prefer to appreciate the February flowers and have fun in Tokyo.
- Location: Shiba Park is located in Tokyo's Minato district; Yushima Tenjin Shrine is located in Tokyo's Bunkyō Ward; and Hanegi Park is in Setagaya City, Tokyo.
- When to go: in mid to late February, you can see the blossoms in different places in Tokyo. Meanwhile, the Setagaya Plum Tree Festival is held throughout February until mid-March.
- Price: entrance to the temple is free.
- Time: it is best to go out during the day to see the flowers so that you can take the pictures you want.
3. See geisha in Tokyo neighborhoods during Setsubun
During the nights of Setsubun, a commemoration generally held around February 3 for the change of season, the geisha world holds Obake. This is a carnival-like celebration in which geisha dress up and attend gatherings and banquets. Although these celebrations are private events, you can find a way to see them up close, because they have become a cultural tradition throughout Japan.
Geisha traditionally prepare their attire throughout the year. When the special night arrives they have a party where they can show off their costumes. These can be related to flowers or popular characters of Japan. It is common for them to be at the Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, near Tokyo, during the Setsubun celebration. So if you go there during these dates you will see them in their costumes ready for their private celebration and many will be happy to take pictures after all the effort it took to make their attire.
In case you can't travel to see them, I recommend you to go to the Tokyo neighborhoods of Mukojima, Shinbashi or Asakusa. You will find geishas working in restaurants or temples and whose dresses are the main attractions for tourists. Many of them will also be wearing them for Setsubun.
4. Celebrate the festival Itabashi No Ta Asobi
Itabashi No Ta Asobi is a festival held every year at Tokumaro Kitano and Akatsuka Suwa shrines on February 11 and 13 respectively. Both shrines are located in the Itabashi district of Tokyo. It is forbidden to drive to the event, so it is best to take public transportation and walk to the shrine. Don't worry, after getting off the bus it's only a 5-minute walk.
During the festival different rituals are performed to attract prosperity in the harvest and to bid farewell to the previous year. Currently the purpose of the festival is to maintain the tradition of field work. One of these rituals is Ta Asobi, which means "playing in the rice field".
This ritual consists of simulating the sowing and harvesting of rice and is performed during the night as it was traditionally a secret celebration. The event involves humorous characters who express wishes for prosperity and a child represents the health of future generations.
After this ritual, it is the turn of the ceremony called "okagari" that takes place at the Akatsuka Suwa shrine. In it, the attendees gather and burn all the ornaments used in the New Year. This symbolizes the burning of the misfortunes of the previous year and asks for a new year full of blessings and joys.
If you go to these celebrations I recommend that you bring a good coat, as it is usually cold in Itabashi during February. These celebrations are things you can do at night in Tokyo, as they start from 6 pm until 11 pm.
- Location: both Tokumaru Kitano Shrine and Akatsuka Suwa Shrine are located in the Itabashi district of Tokyo.
- When to go: on February 11, the Ta Asobi ritual is held at Tokumaru Kitano Shrine. On February 13, the ceremony called "okagari" is held at Akatsuka Suwa shrine.
- Price: Admission to both events is free.
- Hours: Both events start at around 6:00 pm and end at approximately 11:00 pm.
5. Go to Some no Komichi or Dye Festival
In the 1950s there were many dye factories along the Myōshōji River near Nakai Station in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Workers would clean fabrics in the river and it became a regular occurrence for the population. To remember this part of the city's history, the Some no Komichi has been held for years and lasts 3 days and is celebrated at the end of February. If you travel to this area you will see long pieces of dyed cloth hanging over the river.
The cloth that is hung is the "tan mono", usually boiled to the kimono to adjust the size so that the kimono can be passed on to other generations. In addition to photographing the river adorned with these fabrics, you can enjoy other activities. Usually the stores in the area offer kimono, dyeing workshops or show beautiful fabrics that you can also buy.
In these stores it is usual to see artists exhibiting their own decorated fabrics, so it may be your chance to acquire a unique work of art. It is important to note that a tradition of this celebration is to find a piece of cloth called "noren" at the doors of the stores. This means that the shop is open to the public and you can pass by.
- Location: near Nakai Station in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.
- When to go: at the end of February.
- Price: admission is free.
- Hours: throughout the day you can see the fabrics hanging or visit the stores.
6. Participate in the Hari Kuo or Needle Funeral ritual
The Hari Kuyo is a Buddhist and Shinto ritual that takes place on February 8 every year in the region of Kantō, on the island of Honshū, the largest island of Japan, where Tokyo is located. The purpose of this custom is to thank the needles for the hard work of the past year. Mostly those who do this ritual are housewives or people who are engaged in sewing and fashion. You can visit the temples and be a spectator of this curious tradition.
In the main hall of the temple the monks perform a religious service as a symbol of the funeral of the needles. In this event 4 women dressed in Nara period style clothing perform a dance. This dance is an offering in honor of Orihime, the divine weaver.
As an attendee of the funeral, you can take one of the needles and stick it into a block of konnyaku jelly. To do this you must say a prayer for the needles to rest. Temples that perform this ritual in Tokyo are Sensō-ji temple or Tomioka Hachiman-gū temple.
- Location: the Sensō-ji temple is located in Asakusa, Taito City. Tomioka Hachiman-gū temple is located in Tomioka, Koto City. Both are in the metropolis of Tokyo.
- When to go: February 8.
- Price: admission is free.
- Hours: you can attend the temple during the day.
7. Visit the kite market at Oji Inari II Shrine
The kite market is a tradition held every year in February at Oji Inari II Shrine. The date may vary as it depends on Horse Day according to the Chinese zodiac, but it is usually in the first week of February. The kites have a special significance, as in the Edo period of Japanese history they were believed to protect against fires by cutting the wind.
It is now a custom to visit the shrine on this day. Outside the shrine there is a market where you can buy a kite for around 10 €. In this place you can also find food and drink stalls
The entrance to the event is completely free, you only have to pay for what you consume or want to take as a souvenir. You can attend from 10 am to 6 pm.
- Location: Oji Inari II Shrine is located in Kishimachi, Kita City, Tokyo.
- When to go: Horse Day
- Price: admission is free.
- Hours: you can attend the shrine from 10 am to 6 pm.
8. Dare to eat Mochitsuki
If you like to get to know new cultures through their gastronomy, you should take the opportunity to eat Mochi in February. It is a classic Japanese dessert that is eaten to celebrate the Lunar New Year, but in February is the last opportunity of the year to eat it. If you want to try other typical foods, I recommend you to take a gastronomic tour in Tokyo.
This sweet is prepared with rice that must be soaked and steamed. Then it must be mixed in a mortar and pestle, where two people beat the dough with a piece of wood known as kine. While they pound, another person mixes the dough with his hand. For many families it is a tradition to do it together, while laughing and taking turns. However, there are restaurants that prepare this sweet and have the fastest mochi cooks in the country, because there are even competitions for this.
If you want to try this particular sweet you can visit Takemura, one of the oldest restaurants that serve the classic mochi. This place is located in the city of Chiyoda.
9. Eat the best chocolates at the Valentine's Day in Tokyo
If you travel to Tokyo during February 14th you can take advantage of experiencing Valentine's Day in a different way. On this date women are the ones who give gifts not only to their romantic partner, but also to men who are family or friends. The gifts are usually typical Valentine's Day chocolates that come in different flavors and each one has a different meaning. Besides tasting those sweets, you will find romantic plans that you can do this day.
Among the chocolates that you can eat or give as a gift is the honmei-choko, which is the most special because it is given to the person for whom you feel romantic feelings. The tomo-choko is for close friends, the fami-choko is for relatives and the sewa-choko is given to co-workers, classmates, bosses or teachers. The giri-choko is the cheapest chocolate and women give it to men with whom they do not have a close relationship.
These sweets can be bought in stores such as Gransta Marunouchi, located in Tokyo Station. A month later, on March 14, White Day is celebrated and it will be the turn of women to receive gifts. But chocolates are not the only thing you can have on your Valentine's Day while visiting Tokyo. In addition to this exchange of gifts, you can have a romantic date in beautiful places in the city.
If you travel with your partner I recommend you to go to Odaiba, an artificial island located in Tokyo Bay. Here many couples come to have a romantic date that usually has the purpose of confessing their love for each other. You can also go to Tokyo Tower, either to go up or enjoy the restaurants and bars located around it. There is a tradition that says that when the lights go out at midnight if you are with your partner, you will be happier. How about eating some chocolates at midnight in this tower?
10. Skiing in the surroundings of Tokyo
February is still a cold month for Tokyo and if you like it, you can take advantage of this time to go to ski resorts around the city. This is certainly one of the things you can do in winter in Tokyo. So that you can easily travel for skiing you should choose the closest places.
For any of the resorts you must pay an entrance fee that varies between 40 € and 20 €. Children pay the cheapest entrance fee, so this is an activity you can do with children in Tokyo.
- Location: GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort is located in Minamiuonuma district, Niigata. Shiga Kogen Resort is located in the Shimotaki district of Nagano.
- When to go: the ski resorts are open from December to March, provided there is enough snow.
- Price: Admission can vary from about €40 to €20.
- Hours: Typical skiing hours are during the day.
What is the tourist flow in Tokyo in February and what are the prices like?
If you don't like crowds, February may be the best month for you to visit Tokyo. During this month it is still winter and there are not too many tourists visiting the city. Because of this you will get to explore more places without waiting in long lines, although it is always recommended to make reservations in advance.
On the other hand, prices can be cheaper compared to other months. For example, a room in a 3-star hotel can have an average cost of 100 €. For your reference, in July (the most expensive month) the same room can cost 170 €. But keep in mind that if you will spend a week in the city, you will surely spend between 20 and 50 € in transportation and also, you will have expenses for food and tickets for different sites that you should not miss. It's all a matter of calculation.
What is the weather like in February in Tokyo?
If you are thinking of traveling to Tokyo in February you should know that it is a month as cold as January. Like the previous month, on average there are only 6 hours of sunshine. Temperatures vary between 6 °C and 15 °C. However, the cold is a little more tolerable.
The breeze is a little light during this month and humidity can reach 30%, but it is not very common. It is generally a dry month, with mostly clear skies. Also, on average it rains about 5 days or more.
Tokyo is a city that is known for having extreme temperatures. In the summer months, it is too hot and in the winter months, it is too cold. Don't get complacent and try to plan your entire schedule around the temperature, especially if you are going to outdoor activities.
What to pack to visit Tokyo in February?
As it is a cold month, it is best to pack a coat that you can carry everywhere. Try to have comfortable clothes under your coat in case you are traveling to shrines or temples. Comfortable and warm shoes should also be in your suitcase.
Don't forget to bring your umbrella, as February is the rainy season and you better have a way to protect yourself. Make sure to make room in your suitcase to return home with chocolates and other souvenirs of your visit to Tokyo in February.