I had asked the student what they were up to during the weekend and she replied that she was going to a German Christmas market deep in the heart of Tokyo. Intrigued, I asked her about the details and she showed me the website, replete with images of quaint cottages, cooked sausages, and a variety of Christmas ornaments. Finding out that it was closing the day after Christmas, I ventured forth to Hibiya Park, just south of the Imperial Palace, to get some Christmas cheer.
Tokyo Christmas Market 2017
The market itself runs for about 10 days in Christmas: Usually the 15th through the 25th. I ended up going on the 23rd. There are a few issues that should be noted about my chosen date:
- This was the last weekend the market was open, so a surge of last-minute Christmas folks surged upon the park.
- It was the Emperor’s Birthday, leading the whole of the Chiyoda ward, right above Hibiya Park, to also be incredibly crowded.
- It also happened to be a Saturday afternoon and evening, which tends to be the busiest day and night for people to go out and enjoy their free time.
What I Didn’t Like
As implied by the list above, the crowds were suffocating. There were points where I was standing completely still as the crowd tried to move forward, unable to. People would be shoving, applying the old train logic of “if we push really hard, we can all fit!” It was an environment that set off claustrophobia, that’s for sure. It made it very difficult to get to shops, pass restaurants, and eventually leave the park. I like that Japanese people go out and do things like this, but sometimes you forget that there are over 10 million people in and around Tokyo who may want to pop in for a visit.
What I Did Like
With that out of the way, the actual goods they had on display were very impressive. They had nice commemorative mugs you could get filled with cider or hot cocoa, copious amounts of European-style lagers and pilsners, and more sausage dishes than you could shake a stick at. The smells coming from the booths were incredible; I regret not grabbing a small something to taste during my short stay.
It should be noted that all the booths were free-standing wooden houses, decorated top to bottom with lights, garlands, and ribbons, giving off a very cozy Christmas vibe. The detail and craftsmanship involved were much appreciated.
There were also multiple nations represented in the Christmas market, not just Germany. There was a French booth, a Russian Matryoshka doll shop, and (what I believe was) a Hungarian booth with unique rolled pastries. In the center of the park was the Christmas pyramid, or Weihnachtspyramid, rotating away in the setting sun. I never knew these existed but Halee told me that the candles on the pyramid create hot air that helps spin the rotor and turn the carousel. The characters on the carousel are usually from the nativity and the one in the Christmas market stood impressively above the cottages.
Next year, I’ll definitely revisit the market, try some delicious foods, and maybe look into buying myself a nice hand-crafted ornament. I’ll just need to make sure I go during a weekday before the 23rd.