Every year, Japan’s busiest city becomes even busier and a lot brighter during the winter holiday season. While Christmastime in Tokyo may not evoke the same nostalgic sentiment as New York City’s Rockefeller Center or Vienna’s Christmas Market, what it lacks in history, Tokyo makes up for in millions of dazzling LED lights. From fall through spring, Tokyo’s commercial centers become blinking, magical wonderlands. Perfect for a romantic stroll, family outing or meet-up with friends, the vast lineup of majestic light shows will bring smiles to everyone from across the globe, even the North Pole.
While this year, many of our favorite winter light events have been canceled due to the pandemic, many will still shine bright, welcoming you to forget about it all for just a little bit and get in the festive mood — all while practicing social distancing.
With annually changing themes, Tokyo Dome City’s illuminations are one of the most spectacular and interactive lights of the season, spreading throughout the entire dome area. You’ll find magnificent tunnels of lights, a giant Christmas tree and dozens of winter-inspired sculptures scattered around the dome and La Qua shopping center areas. This year’s theme is “smile” — because, with everything that 2020 has brought upon us, we all need a bit of that for sure! The event’s highlight is the giant 15-meter tall “Smile Tree,” decorated with 5,000 glittering smiley face ornaments.
When: Nov 13, 2020 – Dec 25, 2020
Where: Tokyo Dome City
Roppongi Hills’ festive season lights consist of illuminations at multiple areas centered around Keyakizaka, which is the main attraction for this event. In the annual illumination event, the trees that line Keyakizaka-dori are dressed in over 700,000 “snow and blue” LED lights. This area is said to be one of the classic dating locations to walk through in Tokyo. Please note that some of the other popular illuminations in the area are canceled this year, including those at 66 Plaza and Mohri Garden. A little tip for photographers and Instagrammers: the bridge at the center of the street, as well as in front of Tsutaya Roppongi Hills and ESCADA are popular for taking the best photographs!
When: Nov 13, 2020 – Dec 25, 2020
Where: Keyakizaka-dori, Roppongi Hills area
The winter illumination event at Marunouchi Naka-dori is held to express gratitude to those working in the medical field and to everyone who is fighting to stay positive this year. As with every year, over 200 trees on both sides of the street will be brightly lit by about 1.2 million “Champagne Gold” lights. The starting date of November 5, 2020 is also the grand opening of “Marunouchi Terrace,” a new commercial building in the area. After enjoying the view, you can head to the Yurakucho area for more illuminations such as the Light Gate and a Christmas Tree and wreath decoration.
When: Nov 5, 2020 – Feb 14, 2020
Where: Marunouchi Naka-dori and Yurakucho area
The world’s only gemstone-inspired illumination event is taking place at Yomiuri Land, known as Tokyo’s largest amusement park! This year’s theme is “birthstones,” and the large amusement park is divided into twelve sections. Each section is designed in the image of a birthstone, such as the Amethyst area and the Moonstone area. The colorful lights look like small jewels glistening in the night, exceptionally beautiful from the top of the Ferris wheel or roller coaster (if you can keep your eyes open), where you can see both Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree in the distance. Also, keep an eye out for the illuminations at Yomiuri Land Station, an event available to enjoy for everyone who stops by the area.
When: Oct 22, 2020 – April 4, 2021
Where: Yomiuri Land
This mega illumination event, which started in 2018, is held on the grounds of a horse racing track. The illumination will open for the third year, not succumbing to the difficulties brought upon by the pandemic. You’re sure to be mesmerized by the upgraded rainbow water fountain show and the “closest aurora near the city.” It’s also a chance to meet one of their gentle and friendly horses. When visiting, allow yourself extra time — the facility is huge and features many different illumination areas.
When: Oct 24, 2020 – Jan 11, 2021
Where: Oi Racecourse (Tokyo City Keiba)
Omohara no Mori, a small forest built on top of Tokyu Hands Omotesando, will be illuminated with over 16,000 LED lights during the holiday season. The illumination is designed to give off a warm and relaxing feel, using blue and white lights that decorate the surrounding nature. Escape the crowds and enjoy Tokyo’s cool air mixed with natural trees’ smell on top of a famous shopping mall in Harajuku. On your way down (or up), you can do some Christmas shopping as the stores feature various Christmas-themed items and gifts for your loved ones.
When: Nov 14, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021
Where: Omohara No Mori (6th floor of Tokyu Hands Omotesando Harajuku)
The concept for this event is “a moment like magic.” Hibiya is a town that frequently appears in movies and television dramas, making it the best place to take a moment away from everyday life. The illumination lights are in “champagne gold,” “gold,” and “amber,” giving a warm and relaxing vibe to the whole area. Go to the Park View Winter Garden on the 6th floor for more illuminations and a beautiful view of city lights.
When: Nov 17, 2020 – Feb 14, 2021
Where: Tokyo Midtown Hibiya
The limited winter edition of Odaiba’s all-year illumination “Yakei” looks even more magical than usual, with the twenty-meter tall Memorial Tree and surrounding trees all illuminated with blue and white lights. The soft lights make the trees look as if they’re covered in snow, adding to the spectacular city view ahead. The area overlooks Tokyo Bay, Rainbow Bridge, and Tokyo’s bright city lights all at once! Don’t forget to take a picture in front of the classic ODAIBA sign as well.
When: All year-round
Where: Odaiba Decks Tokyo Beach 3F, Seaside Deck & Terrace
Yebisu Garden Place is a go-to location in Tokyo for a romantic winter illumination date. It’s also a great place to enjoy a nice dinner and a good glass of beer as you watch the beautiful lights with your friends and family. Every season, many people visit to enjoy the small shops and the red carpet area which is where the decorated Christmas tree stands. Even more mesmerizing than the romantic warm lights and the Christmas tree is the display of one of the world’s largest Baccarat chandeliers. There will be a light-up of the chandelier every 30 minutes from 17:00.
When: Nov 14, 2020 – Jan 11, 2021
Where: Yebisu Garden Place
Experience the winter magic at Tokyo Midtown plaza and garden area this holiday season! Every night, the garden path will be illuminated with countless golden lights, brighter and bigger in scale than in previous years. A three-meter tall Snow Light Globe and Step Lights that change in color when you stand on them are a couple of the illumination features that make the area truly magical and enjoyable for every generation. The small presents that decorate the trees change in color from green to red each day, helping you count down how many days are left until Christmas Day.
When: Nov 19, 2020 – Feb 28, 2021
Where: Tokyo Midtown
11. Akasaka Sacas Sound X Terrace 2020-2021
Illuminations, food booths and more bring seasonal magic to Akasaka Sacas. Produced by NAKED creative company the spectacular interactive sparkling illuminations will wow visitors of all ages and create the perfect festive atmosphere. A special edition ‘Little Planet’ digital attraction will also captivate small eyes and hands who can experience new forms of play with the latest technology.
When: Nov 4, 2020 – Feb 14, 2021
Where: Akasaka Sacas
Illuminations Near Tokyo
Celebrating their 15th anniversary in 2020, Tokyo German Village has decided that this year’s theme for their illumination event will be the “miracle of smiles.” It’s sure to bring smiles to the faces of anyone that’s visiting, with bright and colorful illuminations set up throughout the whole village. Even the individual houses are lined with brightly colored LED lights! For the first time, there will be a collaboration of winter illuminations and Chinese lanterns at this event as well.
When: Oct 30, 2020 – Mar 28, 2021
Where: Tokyo German Village (Chiba)
Stretching from Yokohama Station, through Grand Mall Park and ending at Sakura Street, Yokohama this year have taken illuminations to a whole new level with their city-wide illumination event. The illumination road spans almost 2km with beautiful blue lights illuminating the way, the road also hosts various illumination zones hosting their own special illuminations such as the Golden walkway in Hama Terrance or the blue river road in Suzuka street.
When: Nov 14, 2019 – Feb 16, 2020
Where: From Yokohama Station to Sakura Street
This year, Tobu Zoo hopes to bring smiles and a memorable holiday season to you and your loved ones with their 2020 winter illumination event. At night during the illumination season, rides and other attractions such as the Ferris wheel and roller coaster are brightly lit for some extra festivity. A light show using music and CG animation as well as an Aurora Illumination, are a couple of the many popular light-up events. Don’t forget to take some photographs with the giraffes and elephants made of LED lights too!
When: Nov 21, 2020 – Feb 14, 2021
Where: Tobu Zoo (Saitama)
This year, in addition to their regular display which uses six million LED lights and is spectacular on its own, Sagamiko Illumillion features a Pokemon-themed area for some extra fun. The illuminations are made in the image of the Pokemon world, making use of the natural environment at the resort. Different characters are dedicated to each section, such as Pikachu’s forest of lights and Eevee and Friends’ rainbow lift. Have fun taking pictures with your favorite characters who are hiding in various spots throughout the area! It’s also recommended to board the lift or the ferris wheel and enjoy looking at the view from above, as the lights are divided into different color themes in each section.
When: Nov 14, 2020 – April 4, 2021
Where: Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest
Article compiled by Sayaka Mitsui.