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Raina's Japan Travel Journal
by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2016/12/19 - Winter Illuminations in Tokyo

Aoi-dokutsu illumination in Shibuya

After the end of the autumn color season, one of the seasonal events that many look forward to is the winter illuminations. Some of the cities across the country go all out to light up their streets and some parks have incredible light displays featuring a lot of small LED lights. In Tokyo, the sun typically sets at around 16:30 during the winter and the evening illuminations make the short daylight hours more bearable.

There are a number of winter illuminations in Tokyo which adds a holiday cheer to the otherwise cold city. Today, I visited three of the illuminations all located in southwest Tokyo: Jewel Dome in Naka-Meguro, Meguro-gawa Minna no Illumination between Gotanda and Osaki stations on the Yamanote Line, and Aoi-dokutsu in Shibuya. It was a good mix of city illuminations and seeing the different colored lights. It was hard to pick my favourite but I would go for either the one at Naka-meguro or the one in Shibuya.

Jewel Dome 2016

Naka-Meguro's Jewel Dome illumination for this year started on December 16 and will run through to the 25th, from 16:00 to 21:00. The Meguro-gawa river east of Naka-Meguro station is a popular cherry blossom spot in Tokyo, and come winter, the trees along a 500-meter stretch are decorated with lights making for a romantic stroll along the river. Note that if visitor numbers are too overwhelming, the illumination may be cancelled prematurely like it was last year. This year, there are more staff and security directing people and traffic. It wasn't a crushing crowd when I was there, but I can't say for sure over the weekend and coming holiday.

Another attraction for me asides from seeing the illumination, was checking out the t-site Tsutaya bookstore at Naka-Meguro Koka-shita. The site opened in late November this year, and other shops include cafes and fashion labels. The newly opened area is a great use of dead space underneath train tracks and was filled with people chillaxing.

Visitors standing on the bridge
It was a relatively still night for reflections
Not too crowded tonight
Along the riverside
Lots of security along the way
It was incredibly romantic
Train above the t-site Tsutaya bookstore in the newly opened Naka-Meguro Koka-shita

Moving on to my next spot, Meguro-gawa's Minna no Illumination. The light up started from November 18 and will run through to January 19, 2017, from 17:00 to 22:00. Minna no Illumination is located along the Meguro-gawa river between Gotanda and Osaki stations along the Yamanote Line. The river here is the same as the one at Naka-Meguro, and one could technically just follow it to move from one illumination to the other. It would take about 40 minutes to walk between the two sites, but I opted to take the train instead.

This year's illumination is the longest one in its history, spanning about two kilometers along the riverside, and the trees are decorated with pink lights meant to resemble cherry blossoms. It was by far the least crowded light up I've been to, with most of the visitors office workers on their way to the train station. If you're sick of crowds but want to see some illuminations, this is the one to go to.

Surrounded by mostly office buildings
Pink reflections
Sakura season isn't too far off
A bit of sakura solitude
Meguro-gawa Minna no Illumination 2016
Light up near Gotanda Station

My last spot for the night was the Aoi-dokutsu in Shibuya which started this year. The illumination started from November 22 and will run through to January 9, 2017, from 17:00 to 23:00. The lights will be on all night on December 31, 2016, and will likely be a popular choice for those who decide to go to the nearby Meiji Shrine to ring in the new year.

Originally at Naka-Meguro last year, the Aoi-dokutsu illumination was extremely popular and had to be cancelled early as the site could not cope with the sheer number of visitors. This year, it is held in Shibuya instead, on the pedestrian street between the NHK Studio Park and the Yoyogi National Stadium. It is about a ten-minute walk from Shibuya Station, and the trees from the Shibuya Modi intersection is decorated in blue lights to lead the way to the main site. The pedestrian street should be able to handle large number of crowds and not obstruct traffic this year (i hope!). While it was not super crowded when I was there, it may be a completely different story during the weekends and national holidays

Lights will guide you to the main site
Aoi-dokutsu 2016 in Shibuya
Feels like Christmas
Sea of blue above my head
Pretty sure everyone was far from feeling blue
The tunnel stretches for about 750 meters
Crowds came in waves

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List of Posts:
2017/07/03 - Spiritual Chichibu
2017/05/02 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2017/04/14 - Sneak Peek from Ginza Six
2017/03/21 - A bit of everything in Fukui
2017/03/13 - Nikko Toshogu Uncovered
2017/02/15 - Subculture in Ikebukuro
2017/02/07 - Travel to the Goto Islands
2017/02/06 - Nagasaki Lantern Festival

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/12/19 - Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
2016/10/24 - The way of old on the Kunisaki Peninsula
2016/10/11 - Following the Tadami Line in Oku Aizu
2016/08/27 - Fool's Dance at Koenji Awa Odori
2016/08/16 - The three sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan
2016/06/20 - Train travel into the Ise-Shima region
2016/04/03 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2016/03/08 - The hunt for Namahage on the Oga Peninsula
2016/03/02 - Sake Sangria
2016/02/20 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2016/01/26 - Tour de Reinan: Obama, Oi and Takahama
2016/01/25 - Tour de Reinan: Tsuruga, Mihama and Wakasa

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/10 - 48 hours in Tokushima
2015/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kankakei
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2015/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2015/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2015/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Dazaifu
2015/10/28 - The 44th Tokyo Motor Show
2015/10/21 - Hirado, where East meets West
2015/10/20 - Kujukushima Islands and Winter Illumination at Huis Ten Bosch
2015/10/19 - Navigating the Christian sites in Nagasaki
2015/10/18 - Cosplay at Haco Stadium Tokyo
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2015/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2015/09/24 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2015/09/16 - Nakanojo Biennale 2015
2015/08/19 - Traditional culture and hot springs of the Aizu Region
2015/08/17 - Nature and Hot Springs at Naruko Onsen
2015/08/04 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015
2015/04/30 - Sapporo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/29 - Hakodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/23 - Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/22 - Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/21 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/16 - Sendai Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/09 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/08 - Fukushima Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/06 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/02 - Nara Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/01 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/31 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/27 - Fukuoka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/26 - Kumamoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/25 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Sendai
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Tokyo
2014/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2014/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2014/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2014/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Karuizawa
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2014/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2014/10/01 - Autumn Color Report: Oze National Park
2014/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/06/19 - Toranomon Hills opens in Tokyo
2014/04/24 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/23 - Morioka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/22 - Aizu-Wakamatsu Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/16 - Matsumoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/15 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/14 - Yoshino Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/13 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/12 - Kanazawa Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/10 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/06 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/05 - Hiroshima Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/04 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/02 - Nagoya Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/31 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/26 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/04 - Early Tokyo Blossom Report