Ah, winter! When the residents of Japan celebrate the festive season with cream-covered sponge cakes, buckets of KFC, and visits to love hotels.

Even if you can’t bring yourself to partake in these fine traditions, it’s well worth making the effort to enjoy some of the spectacular Christmassy light-ups that proliferate throughout Tokyo.

Until recently, it was all about the number of bulbs — LEDs make it possible to string up tens of thousands of twinkly lights without draining all the electricity from the power grid or electrocuting birds on a rainy day. But now, the light-up game has changed with projection mapping, digital choreography, and markets being used to draw in an audience. Here’s our list of the best and twinkliest.

1. Tokyo Mega Illumination

Aurora Forest Tokyo Mega Illumination
The Aurora Forest at Tokyo Mega Illumination | Photo by Gregory Lane

Unlike the other places on this list, Tokyo Mega Illumination is a destination in itself. As such, the organizers have pulled out all the stops. In total, there are more than 15 different illumination installations spread over an enormous area — plus, horses! The ample breathing space is welcome as some of the other places on this list can get a little bit crowded.

2. Roppongi Hills Christmas Illumination

Going all out with the Christmas lights, Roppongi Hills has a few different spots to visit. For the first time in three years, Mohri Garden will be lit up (from Nov. 18) and the Christmas Market will return. There will be two different types of Christmas trees, a “reflective” one on the West Walk and a Cartier-inspired tree at Roku-Roku Plaza. But the big guns are saved for Keyakizaka — the 400-meter-long street that runs down a gentle slope on the Azabu side of the Hills. Here, there will be about 800,000 LEDs glowing in the theme of “Snow Blue” (i.e. white and blue).

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3. Omotesandō Illuminations

Omotesando illuminations
Photo by iStock.com/chachamal

The mature zelkova trees, wide sidewalks, and fancy shops make Omotesandō one of the top illumination spots each winter. There aren’t really any gimmicks — you just go there and walk up and down the street strewn with 900,000 lights. Don’t forget to drop into Omotesandō Hills while you are in the area. This year, they’ll have a Christmas tree made up of (and surrounded by) around 14,000 shining balloons.

4. Marunouchi Illumination

illuminations tokyo marunouchi/ginza
Photo by iStock.com/kanzilyou

Marunouchi Illumination is one of the classier ones — with cobblestone streets, 220 roadside trees, public sculptures, and the reproduced facades of big banks, this is probably the closest you’ll get to a ye olde European-style Christmas light-up. They’re using 1.2 million “eco-illumination” lights (in champagne gold, the classiest of colors) that perform with 65% less power than standard. Continue the journey by visiting the other illuminations in the area, like White KITTE and Hibiya Magic Time Illumination, and the Marunouchi Building, where you’ll see a Christmas tree laden with clocks.

5. Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination

Tokyo dome christmas illuminations
Photo by iStock.com/kanzilyou

Something about the size and all the open space around Tokyo Dome makes it seem really, really cold in winter, but the two million twinkly LED lights make up for it. The theme for 2022 is Gifts and there will be a stamp rally, a photo competition, and a unique food menu.

6. Ebisu Garden Place Illumination

Photo by Alex Ziminski

The Baccarat Eternal Lights champagne-gold illumination at Ebisu Garden Place definitely goes heavy on the amps. The area in front of the main tower is typically flooded with fairy lights, illuminated bells, a giant chandelier, and anything else they can find to make it extra bright and shiny. The chandelier will occasionally turn different colors, so pay attention.

7. Tokyo Skytree Dream Christmas

skytree christmas lights
Photo by iStock.com/yaophotograph

The Skytree (and Skytree Town) will be decked out in colorful finery for the festive season and this year they are going the extra mile to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the illuminations. From November 18, the Christmas market is back and selling things like German-made ornaments, beer, sausages, and the like. There will be live music and a general wintery feeling all around.

8. Midtown Winter Lights

Midtown Winter Lights 2022 | Photo by Gregory Lane

This is hands down one of the most popular displays in Tokyo. It usually sees thousands of visitors (and hundreds of security guards) every evening until the dramatic finale on December 25 with monster crowds. A huge snow globe will be erected surrounded by colorful lights, along with smoke, bubbles, and a “Party Popper” tree that will change color. Next door, take your chance on the ice at Midtown Ice Rink.

9. Kioi Winter 22/23

Kio Winter Lights from Benkeibashi
Kioi Winter Lights from Benkeibashi Bridge | Photo by Gregory Lane

Featuring a 10-meter-tall Christmas Tree and Tokyo Garden Terrace’s distinctive giant stag symbol, Kioi Winter 22/23 is set to run from November 2022 until February 2023. You can get some striking pictures from nearby Benkei Bridge, which you will cross if you are coming from Akasaka Mitsuke.

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10. Yomiuriland Jewellumination

Photo by Yomiuriland Co., Ltd.

Yomiuriland is an amusement park less than an hour away, west of Shinjuku Station on the Odakyu Line. The winter illumination at Yomiuriland is justifiably named “Jewellumination” seeing as Motoko Ishii — a famous Japanese lighting designer — blingified the entire amusement park with literally millions of LED lights. You can choose between a viewing ticket or a pass ticket which includes access to all of the rides. While you’re here, you should also try the Hana Akari bamboo light illuminations next door.

Honorable mentions

You won’t be able to head out in winter in Tokyo without running into an illumination or two. Nearly all department stores will have a Christmas tree and some lights, such as Miyashita Park, who are having a purple explosion for its first Christmas illumination, and the year-round lights in Odaiba. Here’s a few of our other favorites.

Shibuya Blue Cave Illumination

Shibuya Blue Cave winter illumination festival
Photo by iStock.com/CHENG FENG CHIANG

A cave made up of trees (much nicer than a real cave in our opinion), this illumination is one of the most magical thanks to the impressive colors. It draws huge crowds for good reason; 600,000 LED lights are strung up on an 800-meter route between Shibuya and Harajuku, and you can access it from either station. 2022 will see it back for the first time since 2019.

White KITTE

Photo by JP Building Management Co., Ltd.

Running from November 24 until December 25 within the KITTE shopping mall next to Tokyo Station, White KITTE is a unique Christmas light-up event featuring real fir trees and white decorations. With the Marunouchi Illumination and a light up in Hibiya happening nearby, this is sure to be a hugely popular free show.

Shinjuku Southern Terrace Illumination

Shinjuku Terrace City Illumination in  tokyo , Japan
Photo by iStock.com/BestForLater91

These annual illuminations around the south side of Shinjuku Station always attract a crowd and are well worth checking out if you’re in the area. This year, there will be around 170,000 LED bulbs.

Meguro River Illumination

meguro river
Photo by Meguro River Minna no Illumination Executive Committee

From Nov. 11 to Jan. 28, 2023, you’ll be able to see the famous cherry blossom view of Meguro River in winter — well, sort of. The area along the river bank between Gotanda and Osaki Station will shine with nearly 350,000 pink-colored LEDs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night. The lights will be powered by cooking oil waste from local homes and businesses.

Need more holiday cheer in your life? Check out these Tokyo Christmas markets.

This post is updated every year and throughout the winter season. Last update: November 2022.
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