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2022.02 Japan’s Most Spectacular Night Views Bright lights, big cities: Appreciating the art of a great night view

Photo credit: YAKEI Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

The Japanese cultural phenomenon of appreciating a good nature view is well known. But did you know that as cities have become bigger and brighter, this culture of appreciation has extended to the dazzling lights of Japanese cities? It’s true. There’s even a bureau dedicated to selecting what are called the New Three Major Night Views of Japan. The bureau sends out night view appreciation experts to assess and rank the myriad of twinkling cities so that you know which are the most beautiful.

In 2018, the cities that nabbed the top three positions and received the prestigious title were Kitakyushu, Nagasaki and Sapporo. (The next selection of cities to receive the award will be announced in March 2022.)

 

Kitakyushu’s factory lights and the Mojiko Retro bayside area

 

The night view in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture is an incredible example of Japan’s urban illuminations. Usually, industrial buildings are considered unsightly. They’re necessary, but you wouldn’t go out of your way to see them on holiday. However, make the trip down to Japan’s south and you’ll soon discover the dazzling beauty of strategically lit factories.

 

Buildings on the Moji Port, factories and residences make up Kitakyushu’s outstanding night view.
Photo credit: YAKEI Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

Kitakyushu’s Moji Port  opened in 1889 and flourished as a trade and industrial center. The early influence of its foreign trade partners and the later decision to redesign the harbor’s buildings to match their former architectural style give it its unique appearance as well as its current name: Mojiko Retro. To fully appreciate the Taisho era (1912–1926) retro cityscape by night, visitors can take advantage of the many observation options available.

 

For an up-close view, you can simply stroll the streets along the harbor. Then, there’s the Mojiko Retro Observatory on the 31st floor of the high-rise apartment building Retro Hi-Mart. But, as this is a harbor town, you can’t miss the opportunity to cruise along the Kanmon Strait and take in the factory lights from the water.

 

The best spot to view the great Wakato Bridge, which stretches 2.1 km (1.3 miles) across Dokai Bay, is Mount Takato Park. The gorgeous red of the bridge makes it the perfect centerpiece of the famous view known as Kappa’s Hidden Jewel Box. (Kappa are mythological Japanese creatures with a penchant for mischief.)

 

 

Wakato Bridge is a dazzling red and beautiful to behold–both up close and afar.

 

Last but certainly not least is the view from Mount Sarakura. Of the New Three Major Night Views, the one in Kitakyushu is the largest, spanning 40km east to west and 10km north to south. To view it in all its glory, make your way to the observation platform at Mount Sarakura’s peak and get the full 200-degree panoramic view. You’ll soon see why Kitakyushu made it into the top three of the 2018 best night view list.

 

The night view from Mount Sarakura is vast and beautiful.

 

Nagasaki’s breathtaking views: Mount Inasa and the Nagasaki Lantern Festival

 

Nagasaki’s “10 Million Dollar Night View” is the only one to remain in the top three each time there was a selection. Mount Inasa  offers the best views of it not only from the dedicated observation platform but also from the glass cable cars that get you there. There are two cable cars on the ropeway, each with its own name. Hoshi-no-shizuku (Stardrop) and Tsuki-no-shizuku (Moondrop) were so named because of how they descend from the sky.

 

It’s no wonder that Nagasaki has remained one of Japan’s top three night views.
Photo credit: YAKEI Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

The ropeway isn’t the only way to get up the mountain. The Inasayama Slope Car also started operating in 2020. It was specially designed to be harmonious with nature and gives you an uninterrupted panorama of the view.

 

Every year for the first 15 days of the Chinese New Year, a vast array of lanterns adds to Nagasaki’s numerous lights. The Nagasaki Lantern Festival  was originally started by the city’s Chinese residents in their Chinatown district. Over the years it grew and grew and in 1994, it became the Nagasaki Lantern festival.

 

 

Wandering around the streets of Chinatown, Hama-ichi and Kankodori Arcade, you’ll come face to face with up to 15,000 lanterns big and small bursting with color and light. Performances and music are also around every corner. You’ll see the Mazu Procession, Chinese acrobatics, dragon dances, mask changers, lion dances and more.

 

Taking a night stroll around Nagasaki at other times of the year will also show you exactly how Nagasaki’s night view came to be so spectacular.

 

 

Beautiful architecture combined with strategic lighting creates unforgettable scenes.
Photo credit: YAKEI Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

Sapporo’s Odori Park and wintertime illumination

 

While all of the Three New Major Night Views of Japan are popular date spots, the twinkling blanket of jewel-like lights lying across Sapporo and Odori Park  with its wintertime illuminations without a doubt make this night view the most romantic.

 

The city offers visitors spectacular views from numerous lookout points of varying altitudes. There’s the Mount Moiwa  Summit Observation Deck at a height of 531 meters (1,742 ft). There’s the Horomi Pass Lookout parking lot at a height of 320 meters (1,049 ft). There’s also the Okurayama Viewing Point at 307 meters (1,007 ft), the JR Tower Observatory T38 at 160 meters (524 ft), the NORIA Ferris Wheel at 78 meters (255 ft) and more. 

 

The view from the Mount Moiwa Summit Observation Deck is indescribable.
Photo credit: YAKEI Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

Odori Park, one of the Snow Festival ’s sites, stretches 1.5 km (0.93 miles) and is filled with snow and ice sculptures of all different sizes. It becomes all the dreamier and more romantic at night when the sculptures, trees, ice rink and everything else put in place for the festival is lit up in a rainbow of colors. Don’t miss out on the chance to experience it with your loved one.

 

If you think Odori Park is beautiful here, just wait until you see it with its winter illuminations.
Photo credit: YAKEI Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

“Otsukimi” and stargazing: Japanese night viewing traditions

 

The tradition of appreciating a good view goes back a long way in Japan. Otsukimi, for example, means “looking at the moon,” but refers to the custom of holding a party to look at the harvest moon as a way of showing appreciation for a good harvest. There are special tsukimidai (moon-viewing platforms) in castles and temples, and even Tokyo Tower offers special events. People still eat special foods such as tsukimi-dango, rice dumplings that represent the moon and bring health and happiness, along with edamame, chestnuts and pumpkins.

 

From otsukimi to dazzling night views, the Japanese people have a long tradition of appreciating the beauty of what’s around them.
Photo credit: YAKEI Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

Of course, since we can see how popular visiting the night views are, it’s no surprise that there is also a culture of stargazing. There are special dedicated areas far from the hustle and bustle, where you can lie back and stare at the millions of natural twinkling lights. So many people venture away from the bright city lights to find the best place from which to stop and enjoy the beauty of the natural night sky.

 

Business hours

 

Due to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, business hours may be subject to change; please check with the venues before visiting.

 

Information

 

Sapporo Snow Festival

WEB:https://www.snowfes.com/english/

Nagasaki Ropeway and Slope Car

WEB:https://www.inasayama.com/ropeway/ (in Japanese)

Mojiko Retro

WEB:https://www.mojiko.info/ (in Japanese)

A NIGHT VIEW HERITAGE OF JAPAN

WEB:www.yakei-isan.jp/index.php (in Japanese)

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