In Tokyo, where redevelopment has been progressing rapidly in recent years, there are many shopping streets that are becoming deserted due to the modernization of the city. Amidst this, the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, which retains a strong Showa-era atmosphere and the unique charm of a downtown area, is gaining popularity.

Known as a "holy place for cats", it's fun to encounter the official mascot character Sen-chan, cat-themed products, and cat objects throughout the area. 

There are also many historic temples and shrines in the surrounding area, making it a great place for strolling. As someone who enjoys visiting temples and shrines and collecting goshuin (shrine/temple seals), it's a very attractive area for me.

Goshuin are seals that can be received as proof of visiting a temple or shrine, and also include the date of visit and name of the temple/shrine. Not only are they a great memento of the visit, but they are also visually impressive as an art form.

There are also special goshuin available during festival periods, so be sure to visit. This time, I've compiled a list of the events and festivals packed with highlights in Yanaka Ginza.

Yanaka Ginza Event Schedule

January: Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage & Shopping Street Tour

New Year Festival
Source:Yanaka Ginza Official Website

This is an annual event held at the beginning of the year. The Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage is based on the belief that visiting all seven temples and shrines enshrining the seven deities known as the Seven Lucky Gods will bestow seven blessings. It is said that completing this pilgrimage between January 1st and 7th (or 15th depending on the area) will grant blessings for the whole year.

While the pilgrimage is held in various parts of the country, the Yanaka Seven Lucky Gods are known as the oldest in Edo (Tokyo). The course is about 6km long and takes about 2 hours to complete the model course. It's also recommended to take a full day to leisurely visit the shopping street and shops along the way. There are also special goshuin available only during this period.

The shopping street tour features a stamp rally, New Year's mochi pounding event, and a New Year's lottery with luxurious prizes totaling 600,000 yen, making it a lively and exciting event.

<2024 Event Information>
・Dates: January 7th (Sun) and 8th (Mon/Holiday), 2024
・Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage Registration: From 10:00 AM, first 250 people
・Shopping Street Tour Registration: From 10:00 AM, first 500 people
・Registration Location: Yuyake Dandan Staircase Square
・New Year's Lottery: Scheduled to start around noon

*Please note that dates are subject to change each year, so please confirm.

February / June / November: Bikkuri Market

The "Bikkuri Market", held about 4 times a year in the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, is a one-hour time sale in the evening. It's usually held in February, June, November, and December. Participating stores offer products and services at truly surprising prices, so you're lucky if you can visit at the right time!

It often starts around 4:00 PM, but be sure to arrive early as there will inevitably be long lines. In addition to the above 4 times a year, the "Kids Bikkuri Market" held during the summer "Hyakkoi Festival" is very popular, with many popular products from the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street available for purchase at a price of 100 yen each. Popular items such as menchi-katsu (breaded and fried ground meat patties) and donuts are also offered each year. This event is for children in junior high school and younger.

July: Mid-year Gift Appreciation Festival

Twice a year, in July and December, a grand appreciation festival is held. In July, it's the Mid-year Gift Appreciation Festival. It's a customer appreciation sale to express gratitude to customers. The atmosphere is that of a summer festival.

In the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, there is a service where you can receive a shopping stamp featuring the official mascot character Sen-chan the cat when you shop at stamp member stores, and the collected stamps can be used as gift certificates.

This service gets an upgrade during the appreciation festival period! Stamps are doubled, and a lottery is held where you can win luxurious prizes with the stamps you've collected. In 2023, the festival was lively with grand prizes such as 10,000 yen worth of hotel dining vouchers and 5,000 yen worth of gift certificates.

<2023 Event Information> 
・July 1st to 23rd: Double Sen-chan shopping stamps 
・Stamp Lottery Dates: July 22nd (Sat) and 23rd (Sun), 2023
・Lottery Start: From 3:00 PM

*Please note that dates are subject to change each year, so please confirm.

August: Yanaka Hyakkoi Festival (hyakkoi=cold)

Summer Festival
Sorce:Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street Official Website

Many festivals are held throughout Japan in the summer, and the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street also holds a festival that embodies the essence of summer and downtown. The theme of the festival is "Downtown Cool".

To convey the downtown-style way of keeping cool in Tokyo, where the summer heat is getting increasingly severe, local people have brainstormed and come up with many ideas to make the festival enjoyable.

There are about 30 icicles lined up in the passageway, and many original ideas such as "toy ice" made by freezing toys in ice and loach scooping, making it a summer tradition in Yanaka Ginza.

The highlight of 2023 was the "Ice Sculpture Live Show", an art of water and light. It was very exciting to see what shapes would be created. Why not experience the coolness of downtown at this one-of-a-kind summer festival?

<2023 Event Information>
・Dates: August 5th (Sat) and 6th (Sun), 2023
・Stamp Rally Start: From 11:00 AM
・Ice Sculpture Live Show: 12:00 PM, 4:30 PM

*Please note that dates are subject to change each year, so please confirm.

December: Year-end Appreciation Festival

Just like in July, the grand appreciation festival is held twice a year. In December, it's the Year-end Appreciation Festival. The basic event content is the same as in July, but combined with the year-end atmosphere, the December festival has a more grand impression.

At the base of the stairs called "Yuyake Dandan", the lottery venue, staff wearing happi coats, a festival-specific attire, line up, and there is a large, nostalgic hexagonal lottery drum.

Customers turn the drum themselves to draw out a lottery ball, and if they win, a large bell is rung and celebratory sounds resonate. Filled with the lively voices of people, you can truly feel as if you've slipped back in time to the Showa era.

<2023 Event Information>
・December 1st to 17th: Double Sen-chan shopping stamps
・Stamp Lottery Dates: December 16th (Sat) and 17th (Sun), 2023
・Lottery Start: From 3:00 PM

 *Please note that dates are subject to change each year, so please confirm.

Check the details of these events on Yanaka Ginza Official Website.

Events and Festivals Around Yanaka Ginza

April: Nezu Shrine "Azalea Festival"

azalea festival
Source:Nezu Shrine Official Website

Every spring, Nezu Shrine holds its Azalea Festival for about a month around April, coinciding with the best viewing time for azaleas. During this period, visitors can enter the "Azalea Garden" where about 3,000 azalea plants of around 100 varieties are in full bloom. (Admission fee required)

The sight of white, pink, red and other colorful azaleas spread out is spectacular. The rounded, plump branches lined up are cute. There are early, middle, and late-blooming varieties, and as they gradually bloom one after another, visitors can enjoy different scenery depending on the timing during the garden's opening period.

This year's festival has already ended, but since it's usually held around the same time every year, I'll summarize the information at the end. During the festival period, food stalls also line up in the shrine grounds, creating a lively atmosphere. It gets very crowded during the peak viewing time, and there are many stairs inside the Azalea Garden, so it's best to wear comfortable walking shoes.

There is a limited edition goshuin distributed every year, and the beautiful design is a must-have for me as I enjoy collecting goshuin.

<2024 Event Information>
・Dates: March 30th to April 30th, 2024
・Hours: 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM
・Garden Admission Fee: 500 yen
・Limited Edition Goshuin: 1000 yen
Information on the blooming status of the azaleas is provided on Instagram and live camera
Instagram: ​​​​​​

*Please note that dates are subject to change each year, so please confirm.

October: Nezu Sendagi Downtown Festival

Shitamachi Festival
Source:Bunkyo Sightseen Orgnization Official Website

This festival has been held every autumn since 1998 with the aim of promoting tourism in the area and conveying the charm of the downtown. The schedule for 2024 has not been announced yet, but it is usually held around early to mid-October.

With Nezu Shrine as the main venue, visitors can enjoy going around 9 sub-venues throughout the town. As you walk through the streets, you can hear the cheerful music of flutes and drums called "matsuri-bayashi" coming from somewhere, making your heart pound.

In the precincts of Nezu Shrine, food stalls and booths set up by local shops, neighborhood associations, universities, etc. line up in a row, further heightening the Japanese festival atmosphere. There are also flea markets and local product fairs.

Voices calling out from each shop fly back and forth, conversations naturally flow, and it's a warm festival with the kind of human interaction unique to the downtown area. When I was a child in the Showa era, such festivals were held frequently in many regions. They have become less common now, so being able to experience such a traditional festival has become a valuable opportunity.

<2023 Event Information>
・Dates: October 14th (Sat) and 15th (Sun), 2023
・Main event hours: Around 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Sub-theme: "The Charm and Liveliness of Downtown, Once Again"

 *Please note that dates are subject to change each year, so please confirm.

In the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, various events are held throughout the year, allowing for enjoyment suited to each season. There are also many temples and shrines with history in the surrounding area, so it's recommended to experience traditional Japanese festivals, visit the temples and shrines, and collect goshuin.

I too would love to take on the challenge of the Yanaka Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage next year. Many of the events feature handmade plans by local people, allowing visitors to experience the downtown atmosphere unique to Yanaka Ginza.

In addition to the events introduced this time, there are also "10% Off Sales at All Stores" held on the 1st and 15th of every month, so if the timing is right, you'll have a chance to do some bargain shopping. Please check for announcements on future event schedules, which are expected to be made from time to time.