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Winter illuminations around Christmas and New Year have become a popular attraction in cities across Japan. Illuminations are typically displayed between November and December, but some run longer, starting as early as October and running until Valentine's Day or even into spring. Among Japan's first and most spectacular light shows is Kobe's Luminarie, an Italian designed light festival which was first held as a memorial to the victims of the disastrous Kobe earthquake in 1995. Below are some of Japan's popular seasonal illumination spots:

(Photos are from previous years)

Tokyo

Shiodome

Caretta Illumination:
November 17, 2016 to February 14, 2017 (except January 1-2)
17:00 to 23:00
Admission: Free
Access: 5 minute walk from Shimbashi Station
Caretta Shiodome hosts an annual illumination event featuring a vast ocean of LED lights. Nearby Shiodome City Center puts on its own illuminations.

Tokyo Midtown

November 15 to December 25, 2016
17:00 to 23:00
Admission: Free
Access: A few steps from Roppongi Station
Tokyo Midtown's "Midtown Christmas" involves multiple illumination areas around the Midtown complex. The "Starlight Garden" is a particularly popular and attractive display located in the park behind the main tower.

More illumination displays in Tokyo...

Kanagawa

Sagamiko Illumillion

October 22, 2016 to April 9, 2017
16:00 to 21:30 (entry until 21:00)
Admission: 800 yen
Access: 8 minute bus ride from JR Sagamiko Station
The Sagamiko Illumillion in Lake Sagami Resort Pleasure Forest is one of the largest seasonal illuminations in the Kanto Region. Visitors to the illumination event can see about five million LED lights covering the hillsides in color, an animated lightshow and dancing water fountain set to music, light tunnels, a chair lift up the hillside and amusement park rides including a Ferris wheel.

Sendai

Sendai Pageant of Starlight

December 9 to 31, 2016
17:30 to 22:00 (until 23:00 on Fridays and Saturdays and until 24:00 on December 31)
Admission: Free
Access: 20 minute walk from JR Sendai Station
This illumination event in Sendai is located along Jozenji-dori Street with about 160 keyaki (zelkova) trees, which are decorated with over half a million LED lights that bathe the area in a warm glow. Other attractions include a small ice skating rink, a large Christmas tree and a light tunnel over at Kotodai Park.

Tochigi

Ashikaga Flower Fantasy

October 22, 2016 to February 5, 2017
16:30 to 21:00 (until 21:30 weekends and holidays)
Admission: 800 yen
Access: 10-15 minute walk from JR Tomita Station
The Ashikaga Flower Fantasy in Ashikaga Flower Park is one of the Kanto Region's top three largest seasonal illumination events with over 2.5 million LED lights covering most of the park. Attractions include hanging lights that are meant to resemble seasonal flowers and music-synchronized light shows.

Nagoya

Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination

October 15, 2016 to May 7, 2017
9:00 to 21:00 (until 22:00 on weekends and holidays)
Admission: 2300 yen
Access: 30 minutes by bus and train from central Nagoya
With about 8.5 million LED lights illuminating the flower park, Nabana no Sato is one of the largest illumination events in Japan. There are various attractions including a huge field transformed into a sea of lights below an animated light show, light tunnels and an observation deck that lifts visitors high above the park where they can get a bird's eye view of the lights.

Osaka

Osaka Hikari Renaissance

December 14 to 25, 2016
17:00 to 22:00
Admission: Free
Access: Short walk from Yodoyabashi or Naniwabashi Station
Nakanoshima Island hosts the Osaka Hikari Renaissance illumination event, stretching from Osaka City Hall to the eastern tip of Nakanoshima Park. Several of the historic buildings on the island are lit up with creative displays, and the light tunnels, art installations and food vendors around create a festive atmosphere.

Midosuji Illumination

November 20, 2016 to January 9, 2017
17:00 to 23:00
Admission: Free
Access: many stations along Midosuji Street, incl. Yodoyabashi and Shinsaibashi
The Midosuji Illumination stretches almost the entire length of the three kilometer long Midosuji Street through central Osaka, making it one of the world's longest illuminated streets. Hundreds of ginkgo trees as well as several shops and historic buildings that line the street are decked out in colorful lights and decorations, making it a pleasant place for a night stroll.

Kobe

Kobe Luminarie

December 2 to 11, 2016; 18:00-21:30 (Mon to Thu), 18:00-22:00 (Fri), 17:00-22:00 (Sat), 17:00-21:30 (Sun)
Admission: Free
Access: Short walk from Motomachi or Sannomiya Station
The Kobe Luminarie is one of Japan's oldest winter illumination events, having started in 1995 in the wake of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The vibrant light displays were designed by Japanese and Italian artists and meant as a memorial to the victims and to inspire hope in recovery. They draw more than three million visitors every year.

Nagasaki

Kingdom of Light

October 29, 2016 to May 7, 2017
Varying hours, typically 17:00 - 22:00
Admission: 3900 yen (entry only), 4300 yen (entry and rides after 5pm)
Access: Inside Huis Ten Bosch
The illumination at Huis Ten Bosch is found all across the theme park, utilizing about 13 million lights. They include a tall LED waterfall, a light and fountain canal cruise and collaborations of light with flowers and music.
Page last updated: October 17, 2016