Dance, Theater, and Music
Tokyo’s signature performing art features amazing costumes, battle scenes, and stagecraft; melodramas of samurai and courtesans played by all-male performers; rent the English blow-by-blow audio narration. Tickets start at about $20. 4-12-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku; tel. 81 3 3541 3131. www.shochiku.co.jp/play/kabukiza/theater
New National Theater Tokyo
Opened in 1997; top venue for opera, ballet, and contemporary dance. Expect crowd-pleasers like Carmen, La Traviata, and Swan Lake, as well as more obscure, adventurous fare. 1-1-1 Honmachi, Shibuya-ku; tel. 81 3 5351 3011; www.nntt.jac.go.jp/english
This hypnotic, sonorous theater art is the world’s oldest continuously in performance. Reminiscent of classical Greek theater; employs masks, grand robes, and great allegory. Tip: Read the synopsis before the show. Cerulean Tower Noh Theater (26-1 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya-ku; tel. 81 3 3477 6412), or National Noh Theater (4-18-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku; tel 81 3 3423 1331).
All-female counterpart to the all-male Kabuki stage; presents revues and dramas; expect tuxes; English synopses available. Tickets from $33. 1-1-3 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku; tel. 81 3 5251 2001. kageki.hankyu.co.jp/english
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra
Led by the Korean conductor Myung-Whun Chung; performs in venues including Suntory Hall and Tokyo Opera City (both worth a visit for their renowned acoustics). http://www.tpo.or.jp/en/
Most of the bars and clubs in Tokyo’s gay district (Shinjuku Ni-chome) are behind closed doors, but the crowd at this tiny corner bar often spills out onto the street. 2-18-1 Shinjuku; tel. 81 3 3358 3988. www.advocates-cafe.com
The Japanese are serious connoisseurs of jazz; this branch of the New York club packs them in with acts like Angie Stone and the Average White Band. Tickets from about $56. 6-3-16 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku; tel. 81 3 5485 0088. www.bluenote.co.jp/en/
“If you’re interested in local or national indie music, La.mama is a great ‘live house.’”—Wendy Yanagihara, author, Lonely Planet’s Tokyo Encounter guidebook. See up-and-comers amid relatively generously spaced seating; an escape from the cacophony of Shibuya outside. Tickets around $19. 1-15-3 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku; tel. 81 3 3464 0801
Le Baron de Paris
All-night dancing with the city’s beautiful people at this exclusive member’s club (open to non-members on certain nights); a branch of Paris’ Le Baron; leather couches, intimate dance floor, and tiny red lights; founding team includes graffiti artist Andre and product designer Marc Newson. Aoyama Center Building, B1F, 3-8-40 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku; tel. 81 3 3408 3665. www.lebaron.jp
Bartenders here take serious pride in their work; dense, hand-cut ice keeps cocktails glacier-cold; top-notch ingredients like fresh ginger in the Moscow Mule; also small tapas-style plates. 2F Keyakizaka Terrace, 6-15-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku; tel. 81-3-5786-9655.
Late December-early January. Nation virtually shuts down for the days around January 1, except at Shinto shrines, where people come in colorful kimono to ask for blessings in the year to come.
Cherry Blossom Viewing
Early April. Families and co-workers gather on tarps in parks during peak blooming season for hanami (flower viewing) parties.
Mid-May. Tokyo’s biggest festival fills the streets of Asakusa as groups of revelers chant rhythmically and hoist mikoshi (portable shrines) around the neighborhood. Attracts about 1.5 million spectators.
Sumida River Fireworks
Late July. Though you’ll have to brave the crowds, it’s worth it for these splendid displays up and down Tokyo’s main river. Get in the spirit by donning a yukata (cotton bathrobe-style kimono), as is local custom, to watch the pyrotechnics.
Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3 Festival)
Closest weekend to November 15. Traditional rite of passage for seven- and three-year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys; participants dress in their finest kimono—many for the first time—and head to shrines and temples to offer thanks for health and growth.
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