Christmas Day in Japan is just another working day for the most part. The most interesting facet of the Christmas and holiday season in Japan is that all traces of it will be gone by morning on December 26th. Without fail, every bell, light, and garlands; every decoration will come down and the music stops. This disappearing act does not, however, hold true for one of Japan’s most interesting holiday traditions; the “illumination.”
Illuminations are roughly equivalent to the western tradition of putting up Christmas lights. Rather than putting lights up on their own houses, cities or businesses will set them up and the people come to them. This is a very popular event for couples, and many illumination displays are setup and run from November straight until Valentine’s Day.
Here are some of Tokyo’s most popular places to see illumination!
Omotesando Hills Christmas 2017
The shopping center known for its high-end stores and stunning architecture will hold their Christmas-themed “100 color Christmas Tree Forest” illumination from November 8 until December 25. There will be 1,500 trees scattered all over the interior of the complex, and should take around 30 minutes to see them all.
Harajuku – Omohara White Christmas
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku (or Omohara for short) holds their “Omohara Forest” themed illumination on the sixth floor terrace, featuring forest-inspired illumination designs erupting from over 1,600 LEDs. This is more of a winter illumination, being on display from November 17 until February 28.
Shinjuku – Terrace City Illumination
From 11/15 to 2/22 at the Terrace City Shopping Center you will find a variety of different illumination displays to get you into the holiday spirit with trees and surroundings festively decorated with lights. At some points you will even find modern art-like objects with touch sensors that activate special audio/video shows.
Yurakucho/Ginza – Mikimoto & Marronnier Gate Christmas Trees
The Ginza likes Christmas; no doubt about it. A stroll down Chuo Street will reward the walker with dozens of illumination displays of various sizes which turn this already colorful section of Ginza into a festive and dazzling corner of the world. With the return of the Mikimoto Christmas Tree you can now see 2 impressively-decorated traditional Christmas Trees by visiting the Maronnier Gate shopping center. Christmas Illumination in the area runs from November 10 to December 25, Winter Illumination runs from December 26 to February 18.
Yurakucho – Mullion Illuminaton
The Yurakucho Center Building plays host to a spectacular light display every year, and being just a stone’s throw south of Yurakucho station, makes for an easy stroll with a hot beverage to enjoy a bit of quiet before or after walking about the Ginza during the winter. The Christmas theme runs from November 9 til Christmas Day; afterwards a “Spring Illumination” theme will run until Valentines day, February 14, 2018.
Shiodome – Caretta Illumination
This event is one of the most highly recommended of the holiday season! Running from November 16 to February 14, 2017 the Carretta Shiodome shopping center is once again hosting its annual Caretta Illumination. This year they are offering a “Beauty and the Beast “. There is also a ‘romantic’ light show every 20 minutes. You should also plan to visit the illuminations at nearby Shiodome City Center and Nihon TV, which are not as big, but are very close!
Roppongi – Roppongi Hills Artelligent Christmas
Roppongi Hills’ Christmas illuminations are always impressive. This year the centerpiece Keyakizaka Galaxy Illumination, which consists of around 1.2 million LEDs, will alternate between two colors, “snow and blue” and “candle and red”. Other highlights will be the Christmas Tree on 66 Plaza, and the illuminations in the Mohri Garden. The Roppongi Hills Christmas Market, a German Style Christmas celebration, will also be worth a look.
Tokyo Midtown Illumination
Tokyo Midtown’s ‘Starlight Garden’ is among the most impressive illuminations on display in Tokyo, lighting up the spacious Midtown Garden area with 510,000 blue LEDs from November 15 until December 25. This year’s feature attraction of the ‘Midtown Cruise Illumination’ is a dome representing a planet surrounded by stars. In addition, the Galleria shopping area will host a small ‘Marché de Noël’, and an ‘illumination concierge’ service will be on offer to provide visitors with guidance regarding the various attractions.
Tokyo Dome City Illuminations
Not to be outdone, Tokyo Dome City will illuminate us on the subject of winter from November 9 until February 18, with its ‘Brightly Sweets’. The area surrounding Tokyo Dome, including the amusement park, are festively and brightly lit up with both holiday and winter themed displays.
Ebisu – Yebisu Garden Place
From November 3 until January 8 the Yebisu Garden Place will again be emblazoned with thousands of lights and fixtures in an illumination display titled “Baccarat Eternal Light” that features a massive crystal chandelier 5 meters tall and 3 meters wide, adorned with a total of 250 lights (that is more than it sounds like!). It’s the largest chandelier in the crystal maker’s history. In addition to this there are many Christmas trees, snowmen, and usual items so commonly seen in a holiday theme.
Tokyo Skytree Dream Christmas
If you’re looking for a particularly big Christmas tree, then the Tokyo Skytree should fill your needs, even if there’s not a single pine needle in sight. The whole area goes Christmas mad with the pathways to Skytree and Oshiage stations gleaming with hundreds of thousands of lights until December 25. Perhaps the biggest draw will be the projection mapping displays from December 1 to 25, every half hour between 17:30 to 20:00 coloring the tower red, green and gold.
Kitte Building – White Kitte
White winter wonderland? Check. Immense tree? Check. Carolers ‘fa-la-la-la-la-ing’? Check. From November 22 until December 25 you can find a glittering 14.5m white tree in Marunouchi’s Kitte Building (It is the biggest indoor Christmas tree in Japan). Every thirty minutes it lights up, plays music and is serenaded by carol singers and other musical events (though these will be in December only).
Where do you go when you want to see the entire landscape bathed in lights as far as you can squint? Quick, to the suburbs! Located about 30 minutes by express train from Shinjuku station is Yomiuri-Land, Metro Tokyo’s largest theme park spread across the rolling Tama Hills just south of the Tama River. This year from October 12 until February 18, 2018 the park will be lit up with over 5.5 million lights for “Jewellumination”. Every attraction, building and ride will have some form of LED array glistening in holiday splendor as you stroll through the park. Entrance fees are 1800 JPY for adults; lower for children based on age. Do note that the rides and attractions themselves have a separate fee, carnival style.
Around an hour outside of Tokyo and claiming to have the biggest collection of Christmas lights in the Kanto region – over 6 million LED lights – the illuminations at the Sagamiko Pleasure Forest is well worth checking out, and runs until April 8. Entrance fees are 800 JPY for adults and 500 JPY for children, and this year the theme is Great Britain, meaning glowing London buses, a flickering Buckingham Palace and plenty of Fish and Chip stalls, but hopefully with none of the cold and rain of the British winter.