On a balmy Tokyo evening, nothing beats watching a movie under the stars. Take your pick of urban screenings on rooftops, at shopping complexes and museums, or head out into the countryside for full-fledged outdoor cinema festivals held at camp sites or ski resorts. These parties are usually all-night affairs, complete with DJ gigs, food markets and fun for the whole family.
Our top outdoor cinema picks
Kohan Film Festival
Indie filmmakers join forces with locals at Yamanashi's Lake Motosu for this outdoor film and music extravaganza taking place over the first weekend of August. During the day, you can catch gigs and DJ performances all around the campsite venue, while the movie screenings start after sunset and go on all night. The programme usually consists of fresh Japanese cinema (including 100 Yen Love (2014) and confusingly named horror flick Greatful Dead by Eiji Uchida last year) – look out for further details to be announced later in summer.
Stardust Theater in Haramura
An annual summer highlight for Kanto folks fond of watching movies in the great outdoors, this open-air film festival returns to Nagano's picturesque Yatsugatake Natural & Culture Park for its 31st edition. Head out into the mountains for beautiful 35mm films, projected onto a massive screen, and enjoy an offbeat cinematic experience under the starry sky far away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Programme and schedule details will be announced at a later date.
Forest Movie Festival
Started in Saitama's Chichibu in 2014, Japan's first all-outdoor film festival moved to the forests of Yamanashi last year, and will return to the Verdant Garden park again for 2016. Take a break from the city on an October weekend and watch movies under the night sky – everything from short films to full-length features will be shown on screens set up around the area, with screenings going on until early the next morning. Programme and ticket info will be announced later.
Catch a movie outdoors on a hot summer evening at Ebisu's Garden Place, where screenings start from 7.30pm on nine August days. The free movies will be shown on a big screen set up in the middle of the complex, with the programme including light fare like Jon Favreau's 2014 culinary comedy Chef, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and the ever-inspiring Be Kind Rewind (2008) by Michel Gondry – uplifting and harmless fun, in other words.
Open-Air Films at the Museum
Building on the success of similar events over the past few years, Ueno's National Museum sets up a huge screen in front of the main museum building for these summer night movie screenings. This time around, the feature film will be Mamoru Hosoda's 2006 sci-fi romance anime The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – a fitting choice, seeing that the National Museum is featured extensively in the story. Food and drink stalls complement the main attraction, which can be enjoyed at no extra cost as long as you pay the museum's entrance fee. Reserved seats are available for 1,500 yen (includes museum entrance).
Tokyo summer festivals