Matsumoto Illumination
Photo: Matsumoto Illumination 2021-2022Future-themed light show

In photos: this winter illumination at Matsumoto Castle in Nagano is spectacular

Matsumoto Illumination uses the castle as a canvas for stunning light displays

Tabea Greuner
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Tabea Greuner
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Illuminations are a major spectacle across Japan, kicking off in late autumn and running until early spring. One of the best light shows this year is Nagano prefecture’s Matsumoto Illumination around Matsumoto city’s stunning castle site. Matsumoto Castle is famous for its unique black exterior, earning it the nickname Crow Castle (Karasu-jo in Japanese). The colourful illuminations are especially spectacular, as the illuminated castle reflects off the surface of the moat surrounding the structure, creating an amazing mirror effect.

Matsumoto Illumination
Photo: Matsumoto Illumination 2021-2022Past-themed light show

The free event kicked off in December 2021 and has featured eight different light patterns so far: four standard ones and four special seasonal ones that were only available for a short time.

The four standard shows are themed on the present, past, and future plus an ice crystal display, while the seasonal shows were themed on Christmas, New Year, the Ice Sculpture Festival and Valentine’s Day.

Matsumoto Illumination
Photo: Matsumoto Illumination 2021-2022Present-themed light show

The Matsumoto Illuminations take place until February 28, however, we recommend visiting between February 22 and 28 for the Grand Finale. During the event’s last seven days, you’ll have the chance to see all eight light patterns during a single 30-minute show, which will take place six times a day at 6pm, 6.30pm, 7pm, 7.30pm, 8pm and 8.30pm.

If you can’t make it to the actual event, you can enjoy the mesmerising photos of the light shows below.

Matsumoto Illumination
Photo: Matsumoto Illumination 2021-2022Christmas light show

The Christmas light show turns Matsumoto Castle into a giant Christmas tree using green light, while flickering illuminations move to the sound of bells. 

Matsumoto Illumination
Photo: Matsumoto Illumination 2021-2022New Year light show

The New Year show rang in 2022 with a Japanese-inspired soundscape and traditional melodies.

Photo: Matsumoto Illumination 2021-2022
Photo: Matsumoto Illumination 2021-2022Ice Sculpture Festival light show

Towards the end of January each year, Matsumoto Castle celebrates its Ice Sculpture Festival, and this special show features moving ice crystals all over the castle.

Matsumoto Illumination
Photo: Matsumoto Illumination 2021-2022Valentine’s Day light show

The pink Valentine's Day show is inspired by the folk belief of the red thread of fate, which is said to connect a person to their one true love.

For more information, check the event’s official website.

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