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 2017: Nov 16-Feb 14
This 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.
The show features approximately 250,000 LEDs and accompanying music—and will take place every 20 minutes beginning at 17:00 and going until 23:00. There may be extra late shows closer to Christmas. The Shiodome is closed for Jan 1 and 2, 2018)
2. Roppongi Hills Artelligent Christmas 2017: Nov 7-Dec 25
Although there is a Christmas tree and the garden inside, Roppongi Hills has some lights strewn around it, the big illumination happens along Keyakizaka—the street which runs down a gentle slope on the Azabu side of the Hills. There are about 1,200,000 LEDs shining up the place turning from a “Snow and Blue” theme to “Candle and Red”. Lighting goes from 17:00-23:00 everyday.
More details here.
3. Midtown Christmas 2016: Nov 15 to Dec 25
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 event’s boasting 180,000 lights and a new “starry sky illumination” technology.
4. Omotesando Hills Christmas 2017: Nov 30-Dec 25
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.
More on the Omotesando Hills website (link in Japanese).
5. Marunouchi/Ginza 2017: Nov 9 to Feb 18
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. This year, 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.
Lighting time is from 17:00 until 23:00 (and until 24:00 during the month of December)
More details here.
6. Autumn Evening Illumination at Rikugien Gardens: Nov 18 to Dec 6
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.
More about the event.
7. Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination 2017: Nov 9 to Feb 18
Something about the size and all the open space around Tokyo Dome makes it seem really, really cold in winter. Perhaps for this reason, they’re trying really hard to get you to go and see their winter light-up. The theme of this year’s illumination is “sweets”. The illuminations will feature sweet-themed displays including a Hansel and Gretel type cottage.
8. Ebisu Garden Place 2017: Nov 3 to Jan 8
The Ebisu Garden’s Baccarat Eternal Lights 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.
The Ebisu beer hall provides alternative entertainment if you get bored of the lights after 10 minutes.
More info on the Garden Place website (in Japanese).
9. Tokyo Skytree Dream Christmas 2017: Nov 9-Dec 25
The Skytree will be decked out in Christmas finery for the next two months, and will also be surrounded by a “Christmas market” selling things like German-made ornaments, beer, sausage, and the like.
Skytree info here (in Japanese).
10. Yomiuri Land Jewellumination 2016-17: Oct 12-Feb 18
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 4-million LED lights.
*Note that the night admission (16:00 and on) is 1,400 yen for adults and 600 yen for high school and junior high school students. Here for more info.
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,|
|Show All Locations Mentioned|
Watch this next
New Video: Tokyo City Flea Market
Tokyo flea markets are a great for bargain-hunting, pick up a new kimono or snag a new book on a shoestring!