Tokyo's finest light-up shows
Marunouchi Naka-dori, always one of the most popular Tokyo illumination spots, will be lit up with countless champagne-coloured, extra-low energy LED bulbs this year too, making for a display that's as environmentally friendly as it is stylish. Just strolling down the glittering street, which is lined with fancy boutiques and cafés, makes for a nice post-dinner date option.
Held every autumn since 2011, Yokohama's Smart Illumination show makes use of the latest in energy-efficient lighting technology to turn the city's waterfront areas into a sea of colour. Workshops and interactive installations complete the lineup, so make sure to head south to Yokohama in late autumn and see this spectacle light up the evening. Note that although the main festival takes place from October 31 to November 4, the illuminations will remain in place until December 31.
An annual wintertime display at Yebisu Garden Place, this one incorporates a Baccarat chandelier that's 5m tall and 3m wide – making it one of the largest chandeliers in the world – and decorated with 250 lights, 230 of which symbolise the number of years from the company’s establishment to the construction of the chandelier in 1994. In total – including lesser displays in areas such as the Entrance Pavilion, Clock Plaza, Promenade, Center Plaza and Glass Square – the venue makes use of almost 100,000 lights. The festivities are kicked off with a lighting ceremony on November 3.
Yomiuri Land's annual winter illumination show tends to bedazzle even the most ardent illumination-fiend. As the name might give away, jewels are the focus here: literally millions of colourful LEDs are set up throughout the vast area, which is split into eight areas, while visitors can also expect to be treated to a 25-metre tall dazzling mountain inspired by the Matterhorn and lit-up roller coasters. If you're looking for the most OTT illumination experience in Tokyo, this should be it.
As is customary, the Shinjuku Terrace illumination takes place around the Southern Terrace and the Odakyu Group-controlled area that reaches toward the West Exit. 2018's theme is 'Be Connected!', with trees around the terrace area decorated with pretty lights with flower motifs. We're not quite sure where the 'be connected' bit comes in, but it's the thought that counts. Partially visible from Yamanote line trains, this one always gets our spirits up around the holidays.
Rikugien's annual light-up returns again for when the park's trees turn red and golden in the autumn night. The view reflects beautifully off the water, creating a magical and unforgettable atmosphere. The park stays open until 9pm for the duration of the event, the cosy teahouses are open throughout, and you can catch guided tours of the park at 11am and 2pm daily.
The Tokyo Midtown illumination is particularly famous for the 'Starlight Garden' lights that are put up around the spacious Midtown Garden area, creating a magical, wintery atmosphere with over 100,000 blue LEDs. This year, the event will include a good 100 lit-up balloons, plus thousands of soap bubbles a day. To top it off, the intergalactic-inspired light show will project artificial stars and moons high into the sky over Roppongi, showing everything from their birth to their eventual demise.
The Oi Racecourse, aka the Tokyo City Keiba, is hopping on the illumination bandwagon with this new event, with the nighttime races set to be lit up. What's more, there will be a whopping eight million lights, making it the biggest illumination in the Kanto area. Making a detour to the racecourse has never been more worthwhile.
Always one of Tokyo's most popular light-up shows, the Omotesando illumination is back as an annual occurrence, with some 900,000 champagne-coloured LED lights shrouding the zelkova trees that run between the Jingumae and Omotesando crossings.
Dubbed Ao no Dokutsu ('Blue Cavern'), this illumination show was a huge hit when it first took place along the Meguro River back in 2014. Brought back to Shibuya last year, it will again engulf the backstreets of Shibuya in a mysterious glow until New Year's Eve. Set up along a 800m stretch covering Koen-dori all the way to Yoyogi Park, thousands of blue LEDs reflect off the ground to create an immersive light-up experience.
70,000 blue and white lights around Roppongi Hills in winter are a well-known sight for most Tokyoites. Just like in previous years, this year's illumination show is also set to feature warm colours, so try sticking around, wait for the bulbs to switch, and see the area in a whole new, uh, light. For additional excitement, check out the understated decorations at Mohri Garden and make your way to the huge tree set up in the middle of 66 Plaza.
This Shiodome shopping complex always puts a lot of work into its Christmas light-ups, and this year is no exception: for this year, the Caretta Illumination will have a 'Princess Story' theme inspired by Disney and Pixar films like 'Tangled' and 'Frozen'. It's blatantly commercial, sure, but still worth a quick look on a dark winter evening. Just like last year, the illumination display will stay up until Valentine's Day. Also, from November 21st, as they'll have a special light up dedicated to 'The Incredibles' at 5pm each day.
One of the top illumination events in Tokyo in terms of scale, and boasting hundreds of thousands of LEDs strung all around the complex, Tokyo Dome City’s light-up has an ‘Edo Elegance Japanese Beauty’ theme this winter inspired by traditional Japanese crafts. You can also look forward to Edo Kiriko transformed into a kaleidoscope, glowing origami cranes and other quirky contraptions, while the restaurants and cafés around the facility offer special candy-themed menus.
The rooftop garden at Tokyu Plaza Omotesando assumes a Christmasy character from mid-November, when 16,000 lightbulbs start giving off a warm, orange-tinged light. Wear your warm jacket, grab a bento and try a wintertime picnic under the pretty LEDs.
The risquely named Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest will be again be pulling out all the stops for its winter illumination show: the Illumillion supposedly uses the largest amount of lights in the entire Kanto region (around six million LEDs). The production has once again been renewed and features a wide range of colours, accompanying music, and light constructions that take advantage of the fountains and lush greenery of the park. Visitors can also use the amusement park rides (including the ferris wheel) at night, so take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy the sparkling forest scenery from a different viewpoint.