Return to site

Event Roundup: December 2019

'Tis the season for winter illuminations, crafts, and classical concerts

· Events,Winter

1. Fall colors at Nakakamado Temple


Through early December

Iwaki, Fukushima

Fall color season in Tohoku is pretty much over, but there's one holdout where the fall colors last into December—Iwaki, Fukushima. If you're craving one last hit of koyo before winter really sets in, head down soon! There are several nice fall color spots in Iwaki, but Nakakamado is one of the most beautiful and one where the fall colors last the latest. This tiny temple temple famous for its weeping maples, designated National Natural Monuments. On busy days during peak fall color season, the neighbors open up a market stall selling handmade sweets and postcards. You can check the progress of the trees' leaves at the link below.

Hours: 24/7 but unlit at night

Admission: Free


Location: Nakakamado Weeping Maple Tree (中釜戸のシダレモミジ). Map here.

2. Zazen Meditation at Shifukuji Temple


December 17

Central Sendai

Shifukuji is a quiet temple in the hilly Kitayama neighborhood of Sendai. Locals flock to the temple in early summer to see the beautiful hydrangeas, but for the rest of the year it is largely free of sightseeers, making it a nice spot for tranquil repose. To promote mental and spiritual health, the temple is offering free Zen meditation sessions every day during the first week of December, no reservations necessary!

Hours: 19:00–21:00

Admission: Free


Reservations: Not necessary

Location: Shifukuji Temple (資福寺). Map here.

Access (by subway): 15-minute walk from Kita-Sendai Station (Sendai Subway Nanboku Line)

Access (by city bus): 5-minute walk from Kitayama Ichichome (北山一丁目) bus stop. See timetable here.

3. Okiagari-Koboshi Project exhibition

おきあがりこぼし プロジェクト

Through December 15

Date, Fukushima

Everyone's favorite inspirational Japanese toy, the okiagari-koboshi, now has an exhibition devoted to it! The okiagari-koboshi (lit. "getting up little priest"), is a traditional Japanese toy that dates back to at least the 14th century. Its rounded, elliptical shape makes it so that even when it's knocked over it will immediately roll back to an upright position. Perhaps seeing the toy's action as a metaphor for dealing with life's challenges, okiagari-koboshi continue to be popular in Japan even with adults. This exhibition showcases original, individualistic twists on the traditional okiagari-koboshi painted by professional designers and hobbyists alike.

Hours: 9:30–15:00

Admission: Free


Location: Yanagawa Museum of Art (伊達市梁川美術館). Map here.

Access: 15-minute walk from Yanagawa Station

4. Winter Illumination in Michinoku Park

冬のイルミネーション inみちのく公園

Through December 15 (Saturdays & Sundays), December 2125 (every day)

Kawasaki, Miyagi

A large-scale holiday illumination held at Michinoku Park, a huge public park southwest of Sendai. The park will be decked out in over 110,000 Christmas lights, in an arrangement inspired by the waters of Zao under a starry night sky.

Hours: 16:30–21:00

Admission: ¥450 adults & children ages 15+, ¥210 seniors 65+, children ages junior high & younger free


Location: Michinoku Park (みちのく公園). Map here.

Access: About 60 minutes by city bus from Sendai Station. From Sendai Station West Exit Bus Pool Platform #8 (仙台駅西口バスプール8番), board an Akiu Line (秋保線) bus bound for Kawasaki (川崎). Alight at the Michinoku Mori no Kohan Koen Iriguchi (みちのく杜の湖畔公園入口) bus stop. Timetable here.

5. Concerts inside Abukuma Cave 


Saturdays & Sundays December 129

Tamura, Fukushima

Come enjoy live music like you've never heard it before—echoing through the limestone caverns of Abukuma Cave! The cave itself is quite an attraction in its own right too—large and photogenic with colorful lighting.

Hours: 11:00–11:30 & 14:00–14:30

Admission: ¥1,200 adults , ¥800 middle school-aged children, ¥600 elementary school-aged children. Concerts are free with price of admission to cave.

Reservations: Not necessary


Location: Abukuma Cave (あぶくま洞). Map here.

Access: a 40-minute walk or 6-minute taxi ride from Kammata Station

6. San Juan Illumination


Through January 5

Ishinomaki, Miyagi

A holiday illumination at the San Juan Bautista Museum, a museum about the Keicho Mission, an envoy sent to the Vatican and Spain by the Date clan around 400 years ago to establish trade relations. The focal point of the museum is a recreation of the ship used by the envoy to cross the ocean. During this illumination event, the ship and surrounding hillside will be decked out in Christmas lights.

Hours: 16:30–20:30

Admission: ¥350 adults, children ages high school & younger free


Location: Miyagi San Juan Bautista Museum (サン・ファン館). Map here.

Access: 25-minute walk from Watanoha Station

7. Yukyu no Shidzu Machi Akari


Through January 11

Tagajo, Miyagi

A holiday illumination event conveniently located just outside Tagajo Station. The focal point is the tunnel of blue Christmas lights, an Insta-genic backdrop for holiday selfies.

Hours: 17:00–24:00

Admission: Free


Location: The park in front of Tagajo Station (多賀城駅前公園). Map here.

Access: Next to Tagajo Station

8. Aono FumiakiMono, sleeping, Koejiyama, voice-over

展覧会 青野文昭 ものの, ねむり, 越路山, こえ

Through January 12

Central Sendai

An exhibition of the work of Aono Fumiaki, a Sendai-based artist whose primary medium is found objects. Collecting broken items (furniture, etc.) washed up on beaches across Japan, he "repairs" them into works of art. This exhibition displays both his early and later works, so it will be interesting to compare his pre-2011 works to his post-tsunami ones, and observe how the tragedy affected the Fumiaki's artistic expression. The exhibition takes place at Sendai Mediatheque, the city's hub of culture and contemporary art.

Hours: 11:00–20:00 (last entry 19:30)

Admission: ¥500 adults, children ages high school & younger free


Location: Sendai Mediatheque. Map here.

Access by subway: 6-minute walk from Kotodaikoen Station

Access by bus: At Sendai Loople Bus Stop #14 Sendai Mediatheque. Timetable here (English).

9. Jun Sugimura: The Legend of the Presence and Absence of Objects "Rhythm of the Atelier"

「杉村惇 作品展」存在と空間の伝説 ~画室の韻律~

Through January 19

Shiogama, Miyagi

The latest exhibition at the Sugimura Jun Museum of Art, an English-friendly museum just north of Sendai. In the museum's words:

"After settling in Shiogama City around 1955, Jun Sugimura gathered together everyday objects of various shapes, textures, sizes, and colors to create his vivid and strong impressionistic paintings.

Made possible with the generous support from the City of Sendai and the Museum of Kamei Collection, we will not only exhibit exclusive paintings but also the first draft of sketches of his work. Together these creative pieces will help you understand Sugimura’s world better."

Hours: 10-00–17:00 (last entry 16:30)

Admission: ¥500 adults, ¥400 college & high school students, children ages junior high & younger free

Details (English):

Location: Sugimura Jun Museum of Art (塩竃市杉村惇美術館). Map here.

Access: 10-minute walk from Hon-Shiogama Station

10. A Bunshun Saito Exhibition: Soshite, Itsuka


December 38

Central Sendai

Step into the monochrome world of sumi-e ink wash painting at this exhibition showcasing the work of Bunshun Saito, a Sendai-based a contemporary artist.

Hours: 11:00–19:00 (until 17:00 on December 8).

Admission: Free?


Location: SARP Sendai Artist-Run Place (SARP 仙台アーティストランプレイス). Map here.

Access: 10-minute walk from Kotodaikoen Station

11. Volunteering with Peace Boat Disaster Relief

December 38

Iwaki, Fukushima

Peace Boat Disaster Relief is offering a free English-friendly program to help out with typhoon-related recovery efforts! Volunteers will help distribute supplies and clean flooded houses. Accommodation is provided, and volunteers aren't required to drive or have cars.


Registration: Required 2 days before the date you wish to volunteer. Can register online in English.
Fee: Free for day-trippers, ¥1,000 for those staying overnight. Insurance: Volunteers are required to have volunteer insurance. It costs ¥500, can be used at any volunteer program in Japan, and is good for one year (April to April). You can register for it at any social welfare center in Japan, or online (see link for details).

Location: Meeting place is in front of Izumi Station. Map here.
Access: Iwaki is 3 hours by highway bus from Sendai. For bus details, see here.

12. Love All Cats: A Chiemi Amano Exhibition

天野千恵美 個展 LOVE all CATS

December 49

Central Sendai

A mini exhibition of Amano's cat-themed paintings and sculptures at the cat-themed gallery-shop Matatabido.

Hours: 11:30–20:00 (closed Tuesdays)

Admission: Free


Location: Matatabido (猫専門 またたび堂). Map here.

Access: 3-minute walk from Aoba-dori Ichibancho Station

13. Japan's Nature, Japan's Heart: A Kawai Gyokudo Exhibition 

日本の自然、日本のこころ~ 川合 玉堂 展

December 512

Central Sendai

Kawai Gyokudo was a nihonga painter active from the Meiji through Showa eras, awarded the Order of Culture by the Japanese government in 1940. He is known for his beautiful depictions of mountains, rivers, and the four seasons of Japan. This exhibition will showcase some of his works featuring those quintessential motifs.

Hours: 10:00–19:30 (until 16:30 December 12)

Admission: Free?


Location: Fujisaki Department Store Honten 6F Art Gallery (藤崎本館美術ギャラリー6F). Map here.

Access: Next to Aoba-dori Ichibancho Station

14. YMCA International Christmas


December 6

Central Sendai

A welcoming and English-friendly Christmas party hosted by the Sendai YMCA, spreading Christmas cheer through international exchange! The program will feature a Christian sermon and prayer service followed by food, drinks and games. If you are looking to make friends with English-speaking Christians in Miyagi, this is the event for you!

Hours: 18:00–20:30

Reservation: Required in advance. Please fill out the registration form on the event website (English OK)

Fee: ¥1,000 adults, foreign students free, elementary school students ¥300, children ages younger than elementary free

Official event website (English):

Location: Sendai Shimin Kaikan Exhibition Hall (仙台市民会館展示室). Map here.

Access: 11-minute walk from Omachi Nishi-koen Station

15. Sendai Cooking Meetup

December 6 & 20

Central Sendai

An English-friendly cooking event at the convivial Hostel Kiko. Learn to cook delicious homestyle Japanese dishes using local ingredients. The menu changes every meetup, so repeat visitors can always find something new to learn (and eat!).

Time: 19:00–21:00

Fee: ¥1,500 adults, ¥1,000 students, ¥800 yen children ages elementary school & younger

Reservation: Required by 16:00 on the day of the event. Can book online (English OK).


Location: Hostel Kiko. Map here.

Access: 5-minute walk from Atagobashi Station

16. Sendai Winter Park Starlight Rink & Winter Market

Sendai Winter Park ~スターライトリンク~と~クリスマスマーケット~

December 625

Central Sendai

Sendai's holiday ice skating rink is back by popular demand! For most of December, conveniently enjoy skating outdoors in central Sendai. Take a break from skating or warm up afterwards at the Christmas Market or Kirin Ichiban Shibori Kitchen set up next to the rink. Both will be serving food and hot drinks.

Hours (ice skating): 15:00–21:00 weekdays, 12:00–21:00 weekends & holidays

Hours (Christmas Market): 16:00–21:00 weekdays, 12:00–21:00 weekends & holidays. Market closed December 9–12 & 16–17.

Hours (Ichiban Shibori Kitchen): 17:00–22:00 weekdays, 15:00–22:00 weekends

Fee (ice skating): ¥900 (includes skate rental)

Details (ice skating):

Details (Christmas Market):

Details (Ichiban Shibori Kitchen):

Location: Kotodai Koen Shimin Hiroba (勾当台公園市民広場). Map here.

Access: Above Kotodai-Koen Station

17. Sendai Pageant of Starlight


December 631

Central Sendai

Sendai's most famous winter event. The 160 zelkova trees planted along Jozenji-dori Avenue may have shed their leaves but will gain 600,000 light bulbs, making for a simple yet elegant winter illumination.

Hours: 17:30–22:00 (Sunday–Thursday),17:30–23:00 (Fridays, Saturdays & December 22, December 24), 17:30–24:00 (December 31)

Admission: Free

Official website:

Location: Jozenji-dori Avenue (定禅寺通). Map here.

Access: A short walk from Kotodaikoen Station

18. Ogawara Sakura Illumination


December 6January 13

Ogawara, Miyagi

The Hitome Senbonzakura in Ogawara is Miyagi's most famous cherry blossom spot. Though the blossoms won't be back until spring, Ogawara reprises their delicate blush in winter with pink Christmas lights wrapped around the famous cherry trees.

Hours: 17:00–22:00

Admission: Free


Location: Along the Shiroishi River between the Ogata Bridge and the Suehiro Bridge (白石川右岸桜堤の尾形橋ー末広橋間). Map here.

Access: 3-minute walk from Ogawara Station

19. Christmas Craft Marché


December 8

Shichigahama, Miyagi

Get into the holiday spirit at this Christmas craft market, where you can both shop for items as well as learn to craft your own! Crafters will be selling a variety of quality handicrafts, from pottery to stained glass. Visitors can also learn to make their own crafts, from tole painting to tin badge making, at the workshops here (reservations required). Though the event information online is only in Japanese, the American Shichigahama CIR will be on hand, teaching Japanese people about "American Christmas" and breaking down the language barrier for English-speaking visitors.

Hours: 10:00–15:00

Admission: Free (market, concert, illumination). Workshops from ¥100.

Reservations: Required for workshops. See link for details.


Location: Shichigahama Kokusai Mura (七ヶ浜国際村). Map here.

Access: 30 minutes by bus from Tagajo Station. Board a Shichighama Shimin Gugurinko (七ヶ浜市民バス「ぐるりんこ」) bus bound for Shichigahama Kokusai Mura (七ヶ浜国際村) or Hanabuchi (花渕), alight at Shichigahama Kokusai Mura.

20. Shimada Candy Festival


December 14

Taiwa, Miyagi

This traditional festival began in ancient times when the head priest of this shrine fell in love with a bride wearing a Shimada wedding hairstyle. He struggled between his love and his conscience until he became ill. Village people learned about this and donated candies in the shape of the Shimada hairstyle to the shrine, and he recovered from his sickness. The priest was so grateful to the villagers that he began the festival to celebrate the day he recovered: December 14. Due to the festival's origin, it is crowded with people wishing for good marriages. If you want to score a Shimada candy, arrive early and be prepared to queue.

Hours: Festival is 9:30–14:00. Candy sales start at 8:30 and stop whenever the candy runs out.

Official website:

Location: Yoshioka Hachiman Shrine (吉岡八幡神社). Map here.

Access: About 45 minutes by bus from Sendai Station, followed by a 17-minute walk. From Sendai Station, board bus bound for Ohira (大衡). Alight at the Taiwa-cho Bus Terminal (大和町バスターミナル). Timetable here.

21. Swingy Christmas Party!

December 15

Central Sendai

An English-friendly swing-dance Christmas party hosted by the Swing Dance in Sendai group, featuring live music by The Gypsy Stompers with Kenji Yamanochi! If you don't know how to swing dance, no problem! The party kicks off with a 30-minute basic step lesson. After the lesson, give your new moves a spin with fellow beginners and veteran swing dancers alike.

Time: 14:00–17:00

Admission: ¥2,000, includes free soft drinks. Alcoholic beverages can be purchased at the bar.

Reservation: If you plan on attending, please click Going on their FB Event Page.

Facebook Event Page:

Location: APA Hotel TKP Sendai Station North (アパホテルTKP仙台駅北). Map here.

Access: 3-minute walk from Sendai Station

22. Everyone Sings Along to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony Concert

みんなで歌う第九の会 演奏会

December 15

Iwanuma, Miyagi

A singalong concert of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. A 150-person choir will accompany the orchestral performance. Rather than being comprised of professionals, the choir is made up of enthusiastic laypeople who signed up to take part in the performance.

Time: Doors open 14:30, concert starts 15:00

Tickets: ¥3,500 (reserved seating), ¥3,000 (free seating). Tickets can be purchased online or in person at the Iwanuma Shimin Kaikan. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance.

Official website:

Location: Iwanuma Shimin Kaikan (岩沼市民会館). Map here.

Access: 20-minute walk from Iwanuma Station

23. Sendai Philharmonic Christmas Concert


December 18

Central Sendai

A concert of timeless classical Christmas pieces by Tchaikovsky, Strauss, and others, performed by the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra.

Time: Doors open 13:15, concert starts 14:00

Tickets: ¥3,000 adults, ¥500 children ages junior high to 5. Tickets can be purchase online from the Sendai Philharmonic homepage.


Location: Hitachi Systems Hall Sendai (日立システムズホール仙台). Map here.

Access: Across the street from Asahigaoka Station

24. Decorative Japanese Dessert-Making Workshop


December 20

Central Sendai

Learn to make traditional and delicious wagashi sweets at this English-friendly workshop. After making the wagashi, you'll be able to enjoy them right away with a cup of freshly-whisked matcha!

Hours: 13:45–15:00

Fee: ¥1,590

Reservations: Required by 16:00 the day before the event. Can book online (English OK).


Location: AU Sendai. Map here.

Access: 2-minute walk from Aoba-dori Ichibancho Station

25. Sketch Christmas by teamLab


December 20–26

Naraha, Fukushima

A Christmas-themed event designed by teamLab, the creators of the Instagram-sensation teamLab Borderless in Tokyo. This more modest event consists of two installations: their signature Light Ball Orchestra, and a creative center where visitors design their own vehicles and scan them into the virtual Christmas Village projected onto the surrounding walls.

Hours: 10:00–20:00

Admission: Free


Location: J-Village Fitness Club Arena (Jヴィレッジ フィットネスクラブ アリーナ). Map here.

Access: 6-minute walk from J-Village Station

26. Abalone Festival


December 21

Kesennuma, Miyagi

A festival small in size, but big on abalone! Enjoy abalone sashimi and sales of fresh abalone—high priced delicacies being sold at the kind of low prices you can find only at local festivals like this. In addition to the abalone, there will also be other market stalls selling fresh produce and other local products.

Hours: 9:00 until whenever the abalone runs out

Admission: Free


Location: Michi no Eki Oyakaigan (道の駅大谷海岸). Map here.

Access: 3-minute walk from Oyakaigan Station

27. Onagawa Winter Festival


December 2122, 2425

Onagawa, Miyagi

An fun winter festival featuring an eclectic array of events, with different ones happening each day. The events reach a climax, oddity-wise, on the 23, with an appearance by a pro-wrestling panda and a drum performance by heavy-metal drumming mascot Nyango Star. A fireworks show will be held the night of the 24. Local Konpo's Factory, manufacturers of the life-sized cardboard Lamborghini model the Damborghini (Lol, it's a pun, get it?), will be hosting a cardboard-toy play area every day. In addition to the oddities, there will also be the standard market stalls and live musical performances. The festival is conveniently located just outside Onagawa Station, a train station designed by Ban Shigeru complete with onsen bathing facilities.

Hours: 10:00–15:00 December 21 &22, 18:20–19:00 December 24

Admission: Free


Location: In front of Onagawa Station (女川駅). Map here.

Access: At Onagawa Station

28. Santa no Mori no Monogatari 


December 22

Central Sendai

A quirky Christmas parade of Santa Clauses, marching bands, and Santa Claus marching bands! The parade takes place along Jozenji-dori Avenue in conjunction with the famous Pageant of Starlight.

Time: 17:30–19:45

Admission: Free


Location: Jozenji-dori Avenue (定禅寺通). Map here.

Access: A short walk from Kotodai Koen Station

29. Partial Solar Eclipse Appreciation Meet-up


December 26

Minamisanriku, Miyagi

Come view the partial solar eclipse from the roof of Minamisanriku Hotel Kanyo, a seaside hotel with stunning onsen baths. A telescope will be set up and other simple eclipse viewing tools will be available, so visitors will be able to the eclipse safely. The hotel is located on the tranquil and scenic Shizugawa Bay, another breathtaking sight to behold once you've had your fill of the solar eclipse. The event is open to everyone, not just overnight guests. To see what their last solar eclipse appreciation event was like, check out their blog entry here.

Hours: 14:30–16:00

Admission: Free


Location: Minamisanriku Hotel Kanyo (南三陸ホテル観洋). Map here.

Access: 27-minute walk from Rikuzen-Togura Station

30. Shoyo Susubarai・Mochitsuki & New Year's Eve Joyanokane・Sanpai-sha Furumai

鐘楼すす払い・お供え餅つき会 & 大晦日除夜の鐘・参拝者振舞い

December 30 & 31

Yamadera, Yamagata

Celebrate New Year's Eve the traditional Japanese way—at a temple! The sublime Risshakuji Temple in Yamadera is hosting two special New Year's events open to all. On the day of the 30, get ready for New Year's Eve with a bell tower cleaning and mochi making. Visitors are invited to participate; no reservations are necessary!

As the clock strikes midnight on the night of the 31, the temple bell will be rung and visitors invited into the temple for New Year's prayer. The path through the temple grounds will be illuminated by candlelight, and free tama konnyaku will be served.

Hours: 10:00~ (December 30 events), 23:30~ (December 31 events). The temple itself will be open all day and all night.

Admission: Free

Reservations: Not necessary


Location: Risshakuji Temple (立石寺). Map here.

Access: 4-minute walk from Yamadera Station.

31. Setsugekka Fireworks Display

慈恩寺大晦日花火大会 雪月華

December 31

Sagae, Yamagata

Another Yamagata temple is inviting visitors to come out and celebrate New Year's with a bang—a fireworks show at the temple! After the fireworks, visitors are invited to come do their first prayer of the new year at the temple.

Hours: Concerts 21:50~, fireworks 23:40–24:00. The temple itself will be open all day and night.

Admission: Free

Reservations: Not necessary


Location: In front of the Jionji Temple Kasseika Center (慈恩寺活性化センター前). Map here.

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!