Here is a wonderful way to get rid of the Japanese winter doldrums: go to see some of the many locations that offer breathtaking nighttime illuminations! Most are on display from late autumn until the end of the year, and some through early next year. Many are free and easily accessible by public transportation. There are many beautiful illumination attractions in Japan, and here we’ve listed some of the most popular. Please check individual websites for details.
Nabana no Sato, near Nagashima Onsen Resort in Mie Prefecture, is a theme park known for its flora, but also for its seven month long illumination spectacular that runs from mid-October to mid-May. There are several different displays, including a light tunnel and a lit-up flower display.
Roppongi Hills Illumination, Tokyo
In Tokyo, nothing is quite as spectacular as Roppongi Hills’ three illumination displays. The blue and white lights all along Keyakizaka Street; the almost 30-foot high Christmas tree at Roku Roku Plaza, and the visually enchanting art illumination at Mohri Garden all must not be missed. Visitors may see the lights from around early November until Christmas.
In Kyoto, two separate light and flower walkway festivals, called Hanatouro, will illuminate the Arashiyama district (December 2019) and the Higashiyama district (March 2020). Both of these festivals use traditionally designed and hand-sculpted open air lanterns which light up walkways through temples, parks, along bridges and some urban areas, inviting visitors to explore the beauty of the area at night. Specially designed flower arrangements will also be on view.
Kobe Luminarie, Kobe
The Kobe Luminarie in Kobe city, Hyogo Prefecture started in 1995 to commemorate the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, and is one of the original illumination attractions in Japan. For about two weeks in December, beautiful hand-painted small lights and LEDs donated by the Italian government are lit – a memorial to those who suffered, and a celebration of Kobe’s recovery.
Sendai Pageant of Starlight, Miyagi
The Sendai Pageant of Starlight, which began in 1985, is now famous nationwide as one of Japan's most spectacular winter illuminations. In December, go for a stroll down the Tunnel of Illumination, with 600,000 lights strung across four rows of towering zelkova trees along Jozenji-dori Street. At this time of year light snowfall adds to the atmosphere.
Ashikaga Flower Fantasy, Tochigi
What makes Ashikaga Flower Fantasy stand out is its incredible use of the entire park space. The shows cover the whole hillside, with a mural depicting the four seasons of Japan. The Light and Flower Collaboration runs from early-November through mid-November. The Christmas Fantasy show starts in late November, then the New Year Illumination begins on New Year’s Day through early February.
No matter where you are in Japan, there are many beautiful nighttime illuminations for you to enjoy, and to warm your heart during the cold winter evenings.