So you thought illuminations were a winter-only affair? In the past few years, many winter illuminations have started going on well into spring, and even until the end of Golden Week. Some places have started summer illumination events to celebrate Tanabata, also known as Star Festival — and lately also as Japan’s second Valentine’s Day thanks to its romantic story of star-crossed lovers — with beautiful illuminations to light up the summer nights. Here are a few modern and traditional style summer illuminations in Tokyo and beyond:
Tokyo Tower Milky Way Illumination
In the spirit of the recent Tanabata holiday, Tokyo Tower is making sure that lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi have a chance to meet all summer long by recreating a starry night — complete with Milky Way — on the first floor of the main observatory deck. The outer staircase, usually only open on weekends, is open daily and has its own illumination starting around sunset. Brave the 600 steps from the ground up to the main observatory for a great view and some serious sweating.
When: Until September 3, 9am-11pm (inside the tower), 5pm-11pm (outer staircase)
Where: Tokyo Tower
More information: Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Midtown’s Summer Light Garden
Tokyo Midtown will be ablaze with “light fireworks” on a big screen this summer, with fireworks shows scheduled three times an hour. The light shows will feature programs from each of the three grand fireworks festivals in Japan: Nagaoka, Omagari, and Tsuchiura. For four days, August 10 to August 13, there will be a special performance featuring 300 real fireworks in combination with the light show, in celebration of Tokyo Midtown’s 10th anniversary.
When: July 14-August 31, 6:30pm-11pm
Where: Tokyo Midtown, Roppongi.
More information: Tokyo Midtown
Puroland Natsu Illumi
Hello Kitty and Gudetama enthusiasts are in for a treat this summer, as Sanrio Puroland goes all out with an illumination event consisting of more than 500,000 LED lights on the first floor of Puro Village. Select Sanrio characters will also get a chance in the spotlight for two weeks each, except Hello Kitty, who stays lit the whole season. There are plenty of other events, such as an Obon festival, food stalls, and a marching parade.
When: July 15-September 3, 10am-5pm
Where: Sanrio Puroland
More information: Sanrio Puroland
Izu Grand Pal Park Gran Illumi
This summer illumination extravaganza on the Izu peninsula in nearby Shizuoka is in its second season and shows no signs of stopping soon. This interactive, high-density illumination display features wild worlds of dinosaurs, beautiful floral displays, and even a trip into outer space.
When: Until the end of August, 4:30pm-9:30pm
Where: Izu Grandpal Park, Shizuoka
More information: Izu Grandpal Park
Enoshima Toro Lantern Festival
Down in Kanagawa, they take a more traditional approach to summer illuminations, lighting up Enoshima island with traditional paper lanterns. It’s the largest illumination event in the area, featuring over 1,000 paper lanterns lining the streets of the island.
When: August 1-31, 6pm-8:30pm
Where: Enoshima Island, Kanagawa
More information: Enoshima Breeze
Tatsunokuchi Take Toro Festival
This spectacular illumination event takes place at historical Ryukoji Temple in Katase (near Enoshima) and uses 5,000 bamboo lanterns to light up the whole temple grounds. The flickering lights create a mystical atmosphere around the temple, while colored lights illuminate the temple itself.
When: August 5-6, 6pm-9pm
Where: Ryukoji Temple, Katase
More information: Enoshima Breeze
Final two images: Courtesy of Enoshima Breeze