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:
November 14, 2020 to April 4, 2021 (closed every Wed and Thur from 1/6 to 3/11) Sunset to 21:00 (entry until 20:30) Admission: 1000 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 six 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. In 2020/2021, a special theme of the illuminations is Pokemon.
Sendai Pageant of Starlight
December 12 to 31, 2020, and January 2-3 and 9-11, 2021 18:00 to 22:00 (from 19:00 on weekdays) 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.
October 17, 2020 to February 7, 2021 (closed on December 31) 16:30 to 21:00 (entry until 20:30) Admission: 1000 yen Access: A short walk from JR Ashikaga Flower Park Station
The Ashikaga Flower Fantasy in Ashikaga Flower Park is one of the Kanto Region's largest seasonal illumination events with over five million LED lights covering most of the park. Attractions include hanging lights that are meant to resemble seasonal flowers and music-synchronized light shows.
October 24, 2020 to May 31, 2021 10:00 to 21:00 (until 22:00 on selected busy days) Admission: 2300 yen Access: 30 minutes by bus and train from central Nagoya
With millions of 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 Hikari Renaissance
December 14 to 25, 2020; 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.
November 3 to December 31, 2020; 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 between Umeda and Namba, 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.
Cancelled in 2020
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.
Kingdom of Light
November 1, 2020 to May 5, 2021 Varying hours, typically 17:00 - 21:00 Admission: 4000 yen (entry after 5pm), 7000 yen (full day passport) Access: Inside Huis Ten Bosch
The illumination at Huis Ten Bosch is found all across the theme park, utilizing millions of lights. They include an LED waterfall, and a light and fountain canal cruise.