We’re not trying to squash the romance and wonder of the season, but Tokyo winter illuminations have become something of an arms race with the various districts trying to out-gun each other with more and more fantastically produced illuminations.
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. Now, the light-up game has changed with projection mapping, digital choreography and interaction being used to draw in an audience.
Anyway, screw the analysis, here’s our list of the best and twinkliest (in a very roughly best to least best order).
1. Caretta Shiodome Illumination 2018This event has proved to be such a hit with Christmas light-up junkies (many rank it as the best in a competitive field) that the event now goes until mid-February. This should hopefully ease the crowds slightly around the 24th of December.
This year’s show is a Disney princess extravaganza with live performances by Beverly (we’re not sure either). There will be two shows—Tangled and Frozen—alternating by week and with performances every 15 minutes. During November and December there will also be an opening performance at 5pm.
2. Roppongi Hills Christmas 2018
Going all out with the Christmas lights, Roppongi Hills has a few different spots to visit in an evening. The West Walk and Roku-Roku Plaza will have stunning trees but the big guns are saved for Keyakizaka—the street which runs down a gentle slope on the Azabu side of the Hills. There are about 700,000 LEDs glowing in the theme of ‘LIVE Veil’ and the pattern of Snow and Blue. Nearby, the Mohri Garden will feature an installation called Kin no Kokoro to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Roppongi Hills.
3. Midtown Christmas 2018
This is hands down one of the most popular displays in Tokyo. If you dare to go there on December 24th (don’t!) then you will be greeted by hundreds of security guards herding the tens of thousands of champagne-carrying couples into a squishy mass of humanity on the edge of a sea of twinkly blue. It starts in mid-November, so just go early. This year the 12th Starlight Garden will feature 190,000 lights and special balloons to create a space-like theme that is duly impressive.
4. Omotesando Hills Christmas 2018
The mature zelkova trees, the wide sidewalks and the fancy shops make Omotesando 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. If you feel like a moment of ponderance, pop into Omotesando Hills to view their Christmas tree decorated with 30,000 bulbs which change color.
5. Marunouchi/Ginza 2018
Calling the Marunouchi Illumination a “winter illumination” is a bit of a misnomer as it seems to be “on” each year for about the same time as it’s “off”. Nonetheless, this illumination is one of the classier ones—with cobblestone streets, 200 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 “eco-illuminations,” lights that perform with 65% less power than standard. For an added Christmas-y touch, head over to the Mikimoto Christmas tree on Chuo Dori.
6. Autumn Evening Illumination at Rikugien Gardens
OK, it says “autumn” but at least half of it is in winter so it still counts. This is the ‘anti-Christmas’ with up-lighting illuminating the brilliant hues of the changing autumn leaves.
7. Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination 2018
Something about the size and all the open space around Tokyo Dome makes it seem really, really cold in winter, but the illuminations make up for it. The theme this year is Japanese style and there is a beautiful exhibition of traditional Japanese umbrellas .
8. Ebisu Garden Place 2018
The Ebisu Garden’s Baccarat Eternal Lights champagne-gold illumination definitely goes heavy on the amps. The area in front of the main tower is typically flooded with fairy lights, illuminated bells, chandeliers and anything else they can find to make it extra bright and shiny. There will be a European-style Christmas market to peruse and the nearby beer hall of course.
9. Tokyo Skytree Dream Christmas 2018
The Skytree will be decked out in colorful finery until Christmas day, and will also be surrounded by a “Christmas market” selling things like German-made ornaments, beer, sausages and the like.
10. Yomiuri Land Jewellumination 2018
Yomiuri Land is an amusement park less than an hour away west of Shinjuku Station on the Odakyu Line. The winter illumination at Yomiuri Land is justifiably named “Jewellumination” seeing as Motoko Ishii—a famous Japanese lighting designer—bling-ified the entire amusement park with literally millions of LED lights. This year’s theme is Lightopia and features a complete renewal of the lighting displays.
And a couple more for good measure:
Shibuya Blue Cave Illumination
A cave made up of trees (much nicer than a real cave in our opinion) – this illuminations is one of the most magical thanks to the impressive colours. Originally held in Nakameguro and moved to Shibuya for the past couple of years, it draws huge crowds for good reason. The 600,000 LED lights are strung up on an 800m route between Shibuya and Harajuku and you can access it from either station.
Shinjuku Terrace City Illuminations
Head to the Odakyu area of Shinjuku station for a confusingly floral display of Winter illuminations this year. There will be brightly lit roses, overhead creations and trees aplenty, all perfect to get you in the mood for festive shopping.
Need more holiday cheer in your life? Check out these Tokyo Christmas markets.
|Name:||Places mentioned in this article|
|Location(s):||Akasaka, Asakusa, Azabu Juban, Harajuku, Omotesando, Otemachi, Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Shiodome,|
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