Christmas Day in Japan is just another working day for the most part. The most interesting facet of the Christmas and holiday season in Japan is that all traces of it will be gone by morning on December 26th. Without fail, every bell, light, and garlands; every decoration will come down and the music will stop. This disappearing act does not, however, hold true for one of Japan’s most interesting holiday traditions; the “illumination.”
Illuminations are roughly equivalent to the western tradition of putting up Christmas lights. Rather than putting lights up on their own houses, cities or businesses will set them up and the people come to them. This is a very popular event for couples, and many illumination displays are set up and run from November straight until Valentine’s Day.
Here are some of Tokyo’s most popular places to see illumination!
Omotesando Hills Christmas
The shopping center known for its high-end stores and stunning architecture will be limiting their illumination to the installation of a 4 meter tall Christmas tree and the surrounding plaza.
Harajuku – Omohara Christmas Illumination
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku (or Omohara for short) holds their Christmas themed illumination on the sixth-floor rooftop terrace, featuring over 16,000 LEDs.
Harajuku Omotesando 100 Years of Light Illumination
Omotesando-dori itself usually gets lit up between Omotesando and Harajuku/Meiji Jingu Mae stations, and this year is just as luminous.
Shinjuku – MinamiLumi
At the southern half of Shinjuku Station, including the Bus Terminal, NewWoMan, Takashimaya Times Square, East Deck and Southern Terrace, you will find a variety of different illumination displays to get you into the holiday spirit with trees and surroundings festively decorated with lights. At some points, you will even find modern art-like objects with touch sensors that activate special audio/video shows.
Shiodome – Caretta Illumination
This event is one of the most highly recommended of the holiday season. The Carretta Shiodome shopping center is once again hosting its annual Caretta Illumination. You should also plan to visit the illuminations at nearby Shiodome City Center and Nihon TV, which are not as big, but are very close.
Roppongi – Roppongi Hills Artelligent Christmas
Roppongi Hills’ Christmas illuminations are always impressive. The scale of the illumination is simply impressive and not to be missed. Other highlights will be the Christmas Tree on 66 Plaza, and the illuminations in the Mori Garden. The Roppongi Hills Christmas Market, a German-style Christmas celebration, will also be worth a look.
Tokyo Midtown Illumination
Tokyo Midtown’s ‘Starlight Garden’ is among the most impressive illuminations on display in Tokyo, lighting up the spacious Midtown Garden area with 500,000 golden LEDs. This year’s theme is “Be Enchanted” which sounds like they are going all out for an impressive display. Other highlights here are the ice skating rink. It may be one of the best options for a winter date this December.
Tokyo Dome City Winter Lights Garden
Not to be outdone, Tokyo Dome City will illuminate us on the subject of winter with the theme being “laughter.” The area surrounding Tokyo Dome, including the amusement park, is festively and brightly lit in a cheerful golden light with a 15-meter tall tree decorated with 5,000 glittering smiley face ornaments being the centerpiece.
Ebisu – Yebisu Garden Place
The Yebisu Garden Place will again be emblazoned with thousands of lights and fixtures in an illumination display titled “Baccarat Eternal Light” that features a massive crystal chandelier 5 meters tall and 3 meters wide, adorned with a total of 250 lights (more than it sounds like!). It’s the largest chandelier in the crystal maker’s history. In addition to this, there are many Christmas trees, snowmen, and the usual items commonly seen in a holiday theme.
Kitte Building – White Kitte
White winter wonderland? Check. Immense tree? Check. Carolers ‘fa-la-la-la-la-ing’? Check. From November 22 until December 25 you can find a glittering 14.5m white tree in Marunouchi’s Kitte Building (It is the biggest indoor Christmas tree in Japan). Every thirty minutes it lights up, plays music and is serenaded by carol singers and other musical events.
Where do you go when you want to see the entire landscape bathed in lights as far as you can squint? Quick, to the suburbs! Located about 30 minutes by express train from Shinjuku station is Yomiuri-Land, Metro Tokyo’s largest theme park spread across the rolling Tama Hills just south of the Tama River. This year from October 19 until April 7(!) the park will be lit up with over 5.5 million lights for “Jewellumination”. This attraction is celebrating its 11th year and they are trying their best to coat every square centimeter of the park in lights! Every attraction, building, and ride will have some form of LED array glistening in holiday splendor as you stroll through the park. Fees start at ¥2,500 at the door/ ¥1,500 online for an adult Night pass; lower for children based on age. Combination entrance and free-to-ride attraction tickets can be found at 7-11 stores.
Until Valentine’s Day, a lot of downtown Yokohama will be bathed in iridescence. The area between Yokohama Station East Gate, over towards Landmark Square and Queen’s Quarter, the Cosmoworld Ferris Wheel, on down through the Akarenga Warehouse is awash in colorful lights; about 3 kilometers and several square blocks.
Around an hour outside of Tokyo and claiming to have the biggest collection of Christmas lights in the Kanto region – over 6 million LED lights – the illuminations at the Sagamiko Pleasure Forest is well worth checking out. There are various train/bus/park pass combos that combine the entrance pass and transport fees into one price; please be sure to check the website for details.