by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2016/12/19 - Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
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.
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.
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.
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