Winter Illuminations in Tokyo 7 of the bestArea Guide
Christmas traditions are a little different in Japan, it’s a romantic event, not a religious one, KFC is a dinnertime classic, and for most, it’s still a regular working day. However, there’s one classic Christmas treat that Japan has does better than most, and that’s the festive lights. Although the days are getting shorter and the nights colder, it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact, it’s one of the best times to get out of the house, as wonderful wintery displays of stunning illuminations fill some of the city’s most popular hangouts, here are Tokyo’s best.
Ebisu Garden Place
It comes as no major surprise that the stylish neighborhood of Ebisu is also home to some of the most elegant illumination displays in the city. The event runs from early November until late February in the shopping and entertainment area of Yebisu (aka Ebisu) Garden Place. In 2018 this impressive display featured a 5-meter tall and 3-meter wide Baccarat chandelier, one of the biggest chandeliers in the world. With 100,000 other LED lights and plenty of winter attractions on full display, it’s definitely worth braving the cold for.
During the holiday seasons, going to admire the city’s stunning winter illuminations is a favorite Tokyo pastime, but because it's so popular, some of the major destinations can get a little overcrowded. If you can’t deal with shouldering your way through clusters of people to get a good view of the lights, head to Caretta Shiodome where it’s not so busy. Each year they display something truly unique, and the late 2018 - early 2019 edition, 'Princess Illumination' crafted in collaboration with Disney MovieNEX was no exception.
As the years go on, it feels like the illumination displays are becoming a silent competition between neighborhoods to see who can put on the most magnificent illuminated spectacles, and Omotesando pulls out all the stops. Flanking the main thoroughfare from Harajuku Station down Omotesando shopping street runs a 1.1-kilometer passageway lit with around 900,000 LED lights. Like a fairytale scene come to life, this display runs from late November until late December, so while it’s a little more fleeting than the others, its central location and sheer size make it near impossible to miss.
Yoyogi Park, near NHK Studios
Not far from the golden lights of Omotesando, essentially just on the other side of Yoyogi Park sits another display with an entirely different ambiance. The light show is known as Ao no Dokutsu, in English the 'Blue Cavern' and runs throughout late November until the last day of the year. Like moths to a flame, this display of moody dark-glowing blue LED attracts draws countless couples, families, and tourists who come to marvel at the almost intergalactic, canopy of deep blue light.
Not to be outdone by Omotesando, the ritzy suburb of Roppongi goes out each year in a blaze of LED illuminated glory. As the sun goes down, the street of Keyakizaka behind Roppongi Hills transforms from a concrete jungle to a shimmering ocean of light. An excellent spot for a romantic dinner, waves of loved-up couples basking in the warm glow of lights and holiday cheer take over the streets between early November and late December.
Take a short stroll from Roppongi Hills, and you’ll find Tokyo Midtown, a multi-purpose art, entertainment, and business space, and home to one of the most impressive LED shows in the country. Known as “Midtown Christmas” the event is comprised of separate illuminations, but the star of the show is the famous Starlight Garden which engulfs the 2,000㎡ Grass Square in the center of Midtown. Featuring timed LED shows, music, and sculptural displays, it’s an entirely immersive multi-sensory experience.
Shinjuku Terrace City Illumination
Hop off the train at Shinjuku Station, take the south and west gate exit, and you’ll be welcomed by a sparkling cloud of baby pink light that practically swallows venues around Shinjuku Terrace City. Beyond that, scattered around the Odakyu area of the station, there are displays dotted all over the place, so even if you don’t have time to put aside to explore the many Tokyo illumination locations you can always embrace this little taste of festive winter cheer.