Tokyo’s biggest Hawaii festival
Aloha Tokyo is the city’s number one Hawaii festival, accommodating around 200,000 attendees hungry for the hula and pineapple patties over the 3-day event. I know what you’re thinking; Tokyo has more than one Hawaii festival?! Well, Japan and Hawaii go waay back, and the Japanese gush at the thought of summer vacays in the land of luaus, so anything Hawaii themed is easily a hit. This tropical celebration brings a taste of Polynesia to Tokyo at Ebisu’s extensive entertainment and shopping complex, Yebisu Garden Place.
What’s on offer
The event showcases a spread of Hawaiian and Japanese-Hawaiian musical acts and dance performances. The Friday is a slightly smaller affair with around 10 acts, but the Saturday and Sunday host around 35 acts each day across 3 stages.
Earlier in the day, it’s easy enough to see a few performances, but the crowd fills out as it get later. Each of the stages has a small barrier surrounding the area where people can stand, but the spaces aren’t so big and quickly fill up. If you come late, there’s the risk of being unable to watch performances in the crowd at all, as the staff members will shoo you along on the outlying footpath where it’s prohibited to stand.
There’s no shortage of shops to browse, with around 60 pop-ups bursting with tropical merchandise. From shirts to sarongs, bags to bikinis, jewellery to stationary, everything sings, ‘aloha’. If you want to stroll at your leisure however, then head down earlier as by mid-afternoon, it’s chaotic with shoppers.
There are also around 15 food and drink stalls, dishing out Hawaiian-esque cuisine and fruity concoctions. Indulge in the classic Loco Moco, garlic shrimp or honey mustard chicken, and quench your thirst with fresh lemonade or a tropical cocktail.
While you’re free to shuffle amongst folk in floral and bask in beach vibes, if you want your own little piece of paradise, you’ll be paying out 800 yen (£6) for a 300ml can of Maui Brewing Co. and potentially 20,000 yen (£150) for a tropical shirt.
Or you can just pop downstairs to the Mitsukoshi department store, pick up a can of something for about 200, and drown your sorrows about your lack of fitting attire instead!
The food is pretty much what you’d expect for festival prices; around 1,000 yen (£7.50) for a meal and about the same for a fruity drink.
I think two hours is probably enough time to peruse the shops, see a couple of acts and get a feel for the festival. You could spend a few more hours if you are one of the lucky few to nab a seat at the main stage and have a supply of drinks to keep the vibes alive.
Ease of navigation
It’s fairly straightforward. Once you arrive at Ebisu Station, follow signs for the ‘Yebisu SkyWalk’ and it’ll spit you out across the road from the venue. Or if you’re arriving through some other means, Yebisu Garden Place is a huge complex and easy to find using Google Maps.
Nope! They offer a free guide leaflet, but it’s only in Japanese. The staff at the information counter, don’t speak English either. However, you can translate the festival website into English and check out what’s on offer and who’s performing prior to your arrival.
The event has been held on the first weekend of June for the last two years, but this could change. Festival hours are from 10am to 8pm each day.
Should you go to Aloha Tokyo in 2020?
I really enjoyed Aloha Tokyo actually. The shops are interesting enough to look around, even if you don’t buy anything and the range of musical acts and performances is pretty decent considering the event is free. It’s a relaxing way to spend a few hours and a fair few yennies. Hawaii is a pretty pricey destination anyway, so it aptly captures the expense. Just take your own booze and blissfully unwind to the strums of ukuleles.