Celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, the opulent Hotel Gajoen Tokyo is commemorating the occasion by holding the Wano Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan Illumination Art Festival. Taking place from July 7 to September 2, the event boasts more than 1,000 installations by 63 artists and organizations, displayed in the historic hotel’s Hyakudan Kaidan wooden building, which is designated a tangible cultural asset. Now in its fourth year and attracting around 100,000 visitors each time, the matsuri-themed event is bigger and brighter than ever with double the number of exhibitors taking part.

Stepping out of the hotel’s elevator, which is a work of art in itself, you’ll enter a room filled with traditional folk culture (and a most magical scent that proves the power of aromatherapy). As you explore the many rooms of art, your path is lined with paper fish lanterns (which you can purchase at the gift shop on your way out). Each exhibit is more impressive than the last, with most of the works involving paper, and all employing light in one way or another.

The central room transports you to the world of the renowned Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, which is an Important Folk Cultural Property. If you’ve never been to the festival, spending some time in this room will offer a breathtaking glimpse at the art and dance performances involved. Giant washi paper lanterns are suspended above a black marble floor which reflects the light like a lake.

We participated in a tea ceremony and watched an energetic pair of haneto (nebuta dancers) demonstrate the traditional stomping dance. The experience provides a wonderful way to feel the history of Hotel Gajoen Tokyo coming together with the modern technology of the installation.

Continuing on, you’ll find everything from lighted origami to glass-blown jewelry that you’ll be as tempted to take home as we were. And, in some cases, you can! Many of the artists sell their work locally around Tokyo or online and will be present at the exhibition so you can ask them for their details if you’re interested in learning more about them.

For admission fees, opening hours and more information, see our event listing.

TICKET GIVEAWAY [Update] This giveaway is now closed.

We’ve got one pair of exhibition tickets to give away! To win, email your full name and postal address to [email protected] by Monday, July 16.