Tokyo Becomes Electric: The Weekender Guide to 2015’s Winter Illuminations

Tokyo’s light displays have been becoming more and more impressive every year, with the focus shifting a little from a sheer LED numbers game to large-scale projection mapping.

With some of the bigger displays lighting up as early as the first week of November, we can look forward to almost 2 full months of romantic meandering through the streets of Tokyo in the brisk night air.

Which do you think are the most impressive?

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Image: othree / Flickr, used under CC

Tokyo Midtown

The theme of the 8th annual Tokyo Midtown (Ropppongi) illumination display is a “Journey to the universe from the Earth.” The 200 square meters of grass will be covered in 3D projections using some pretty cutting-edge illumination technology. Easily one of the most popular locations for champagne-grasping couples. Go sooner rather than later to avoid crowds.

When: November 12–December 25

Where: 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku

More information:  http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/en/events_news/

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Image: Jun Takeuchi / Flickr, used under CC.

Ebisu Garden Place

Another popular spot for families and couples. You can’t miss the 10-meter-high Christmas tree and some of the largest chandeliers in the world, which have been contributed by Baccarat.

When: November 7 – January 11, 2016

Where: 4-20-3 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku

More information: http://gardenplace.jp/

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Image: Cookie M / Flickr, used under CC.

Odaiba Illumination Yakei

Over 22,000 LED lights and Tokyo’s tallest Christmas tree (20 meters high, 10 meters wide) at “Tokyo Decks.” The color-changing lights are synced with music too!

When: November 16 – January 31, 2016

Where: Decks Tokyo Beach, 1-1-6 Daiba, Minato-ku

More information: http://www.odaiba-decks.com/

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Image: Zengame / Flickr, used under CC.

Shiodome Caretta Illumination

Another big one with a sea of over 25,000 LEDs at this extensive shopping and restaurant complex located inside the 51 level Dentsu building.

When: November 13 – January 12, 2016

Where: 1-8-2 Higashishinbashi, Minato-ku

More information: http://www.caretta.jp/ 

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Image: kanegan / Flickr, used under CC.

Tokyo Dome City Illumination

One of the biggest in terms of sheer scale, this impressive annual show uses hundreds of thousands of lights displayed across the whole complex. Keep an eye out for some more creative installations – much more than the obligatory sea of LEDs.

When: November 10 – February 14, 2016

Where: 1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku

More information: https://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/

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Image: t-mizo / Flickr, used under CC.

Tokyo Michi Terrace

Held at the Marunouchi end of Tokyo station, past editions have featured some particularly impressive projection mapping on the station’s facade. What exactly is in store for this year is not yet confirmed, however we are told there will be a range of “lit up” fun character installations to explore.

When: December 24 – 29

Where: Tokyo Station

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Image: aki sato / Flickr, used under CC.

Roppongi Hills Artelligent Christmas

Although there are usually a few light installations around the garden area inside Roppongi Hills, the real action happens along the 400 meter stretch of Keyakizaka – a street that will boast over a million LEDs with two main color schemes, snow blue and candle red.

When: November 4 – December 25

Where: Along Keyakizaka Street, Roppongi

More information: http://www.roppongihills.com/events/2015/11/christmas/

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Image: Yuichi Sakuraba / Flickr, used under CC.

Omotesando Christmas

This is usually a no-frills affair, but that’s definitely not a bad thing when you have the beautiful surroundings of more than a hundred sparkling zelkova trees and some high-end window shopping on offer. Wander the length of the the street between Harajuku and Omote-sando stations to soak in the atmosphere.

When: December 1 – December 25

Where: Omotesando, 2 minutes walk from JR Harajuku Station

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Shinjuku Terrace Illuminations

Whether you’re on your way home from work, or going out on the town, swing by Shinjuku Terrace – right outside of South Exit and New South Terrace Exit of the station. There is a path line with trees and giant hanging lanterns, a line of metallic trees, a large Christmas tree and display for photos on the far south side of the terrace. Also of note is the alley between West Exit and South Exit – hanging lights and great holiday themes can be found throughout. Lights are on from early November through February, between 5 pm and midnight.

When: Early November to February

Where: Shinjuku Station

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Image: Zengame / Flickr, used under CC.

Yomiuriland Jewellumination

The name might be hard to pronounce, but it’s easy to see why the park is acclaimed for its illumination show. The entire amusement park is transformed, allowing for maximum viewing pleasure. With a fountain show, a variety of park paths, rides and displays, trees covered in lights, stage performances, and holiday-only booths and pop-up shops, Yomiuriland should be on your list of go-to places this winter season.

When: October 16 – February 14

Where: Inagi, Yomiuriland

More information: http://www.yomiuriland.com/english/

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Image: Hiragana Times

Enoshima Illuminations

Although known for its large summer crowds, Enoshima is not a place to miss during illumination season. Surprisingly beautiful and free from hordes of people, the sprawling grounds atop this Shonan coast island offer much to do and see. Lights come on after sundown, complete with a countdown and many “oohs” and “ahhs” right on cue. The Enoshima Lighthouse Tower has strings of lights stretching like a web into the park below. The park has a number of animals, tunnels, vines, and small bridges of lights to wander around, through and over. The illuminated tulips are another impressive draw. With the sea air and a long walk from the station (about 15 minutes depending on how well you do with stairs and a bit of uphill hiking), bring a jacket, scarf and a good camera for night photos. The town on the island itself is asleep from sundown, aside from a couple of cafes at the summit, so take that into account if you’re hoping for dinner.

When: November 30 – February 2

Where: Around Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture

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Image: jpellgen / Flickr, used under CC.

Ueno Park Entrance Illumination

Small and perhaps seemingly a little out of place, Ueno sports a small area for illuminations as well, known as the “Forest of Love.” As the name implies, it’s a scene of decorated trees and a small gazebo for people to stroll through casually. Offering just a modicum of flair, the display is best to check out if you have other plans in Ueno as well. Children will especially like the animal lanterns and hearts scattered beneath the trees. Close to the train station and the entrance to the park, it’s on the way to the zoo and the giant pond. Lights are on for a few hours each day.

When: Mid-November – Mid-January

Where: Ueno Park Entrance, Taito City

More information: http://www.kensetsu.metro.tokyo.jp/toubuk/ueno/index_top.html

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Image: Reginald Pentinio / Flickr, used under CC

Pleasure Forest in Sagamiko Park

Sagamiko Pleasure Forest is one of the lengthiest illumination shows within the Tokyo vicinity, giving Tokyoites plenty of time to check it out, even after the holidays have wrapped up. More than 5 million lightbulbs drape lawns, walls, trees and even entire buildings. The theme is mostly British, with a replica (in lights) of Parliament House and an Alice in Wonderland-worthy garden. Generally, the park is open until 9 pm daily.

When: October 31 – April 10

Where: Sagamiko Park, Midori-ku, Kanagawa Prefecture

More information: http://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/english/event/

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Image: Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Starry Sky

For those looking for great date ideas – and long lines, grab tickets to the Mori Tower Tokyo City View area on the 52nd floor. It’s similar to what the Mori Tower did during Tanabata season, but with a Christmas twist. The halls and rooms at the top of the tower are all completely covered in planetarium-style maps of the night sky (the theme of the decorations are “You can walk through the Milky Way”), and “touches of Christmas” are visible throughout the tower. Themed desserts are available at the cafe and couples are also invited to “make a wish” on special starry paper at a small shrine. Ohira Takayuki, the designer, hopes to inspire Tokyoites and give them a chance to see the Milky Way in a way that isn’t possible in the city. As always, telescopes are available for use on the sky deck during cloudless nights. It’s good timing, as the Gemini meteor shower is due to take place on December 14. Mori Tower will hold a special event on that day to mark the occasion. 

When: November 7 – December 25

Where: Mori Tower, Roppongi Hills

More information: http://www.roppongihills.com/tcv/jp/hoshizora/

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http://illumi.nihon-kankou.or.jp/

Keio Tama Center Plaza

For those who rely on the Odakyu or Keio Lines for their daily transportation, making a stop at the Keio Tama Center Plaza might be worth going past your home station for a look at the illumination on display. Each year brings a new theme, with the same general set-up: the row of trees are beautifully strung with hanging lights, with a giant Christmas tree decorated in the center. Last year, Hello Kitty was featured in a centerpiece, with a tower of dolls on the opposite end of the plaza at the end of the walkway. The Plaza also has a tunnel of lights, which are always popular, and always captivating. Viewable from platforms of both train lines, the Plaza is just down the stairs from the ticket gates. Lights are on daily until 22:00, from early November until the second week of January.

When: November 7 – January 7

Where: Tama City, Tokyo

Featured Image: Hideya HIMANO / Flickr, used under CC.

 

–Chris Zajko, with additions by Natalie Jacobsen

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