Valerie (also known as “Eri”) is a modern day nomad based in Tokyo, Japan. She makes her living dancing contemporary, teaching yoga, writing about her adventures, and making other people smile. When life hands her lemons, she brews up tea to sip with pinkie raised.
Latest posts by Valerie Taylor (see all)
- Best Places and Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Japan - December 29, 2017
- Tokyo’s 10 Best Spots to See Christmas Illuminations in 2017 - December 15, 2017
- Samurai, Ninja and other Martial Arts Classes to Try in Tokyo - November 27, 2017
When you think of Christmas abroad, what’s the first thing that appears in your thoughts? Glittering lights, dazzling Christmas trees, and singing carols might not be what comes to mind when you think of the holidays in Japan – and if so, you are in for a treat! Christmas in Japan is sparkly and bright, and there is no shortage of mind blowing illuminations throughout the city. So here are the top 10 illuminations in Tokyo this Christmas:
Since the Omotesando is quite a popular spot in Tokyo already, you can expect the illuminations to be simple yet spectacular. At night, the mature zelkova trees come alight with 900,000 champagne-colored LED lights.
Numerous shops also put up their own Christmas displays in the front windows, adding to the magical ambiance. Meanwhile, thousands of people walk up and down the streets of Omotesando – with hot chocolate in one hand and camera in the other. The illuminations here will last until December 25th, 2017.
Shibuya Ao no Doukutsu
Once you have seen the bright lights of Omotesando, head towards the main venue in Shibuya, known as “Ao no Doukutsu” or “Cavern of Blue.” This street’s illumination is rather breathtaking.
The 750 meters long street in front of the NHK Shibuya’s headquarters is darkened, save for the bulbs, while a reflective sheet is laid in the middle of the road to create a panorama of sparkles. Now imagine yourself walking through a long cavernous space. The event happens from 5:00pm – 10:00pm daily, and will last until December 31st this year.
Yebisu Garden Place’s Christmas Illuminations
Yes, it’s kind of garish and overly bright, but the “Baccarat Eternal Lights” are also something of a tradition now. The Yebisu Garden Place‘s illuminations include an enormous Baccarat chandelier (one of the largest in the world) as the focal point of their glittering display. There are 250 lights on the chandelier in total.
Aside from the chandelier, there are smaller but equally bright exhibits surrounding the area. Start with the Entrance Pavilion, then make your way towards the Clock Plaza, Glass Square, and the Promenade Center Plaza. You will take in over 100,000 more lights. The Yebisu Garden Place’s Christmas Illuminations will last until January 8th, 2018.
Artelligent Christmas at Roppongi Hills
Most people come to see the Christmas tree and the beautiful garden inside the Roppongi Hills’s building. They also enjoy the special markets and fun events there, while completely overlooking the huge display along the Keyakizaka Dori, a street that slopes downward towards the Azabu side of Hills.
From a decent observation point, you can view a stream of over 1,000,000 LED lights flowing towards a clean view of Tokyo Tower. This year’s themes are “Snow and Blue” and “Candle Red.” You can see these lights from 5:00pm -11:00pm daily, until the Christmas Day.
Tokyo’s Midtown Christmas
Midtown is a particularly famous location for its annual “Starlight Garden.” Though every year is slightly different from the previous, you can count on the illuminations to look like a glittering sea of sapphires, creating quite a romantic atmosphere.
In 2017, visitors will also be treated to the “Vision Dome” lights show that uses projection mapping to show the moon and stars over the Roppongi sky. For the show location and hours, check out the event’s official page. It will last until the Christmas Day, so be sure to get there soon!
Caretta Shiodome Illumination
Year after year, the Caretta Shiodome Illumination blows countless minds away. It is the ultimate location for illumination junkies. The event usually lasts until mid-February since it is so popular. The illumination is usually themed, and this year you will find a banquet hall from the ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
There are around 250,000 LEDs, candle-like décor, and the accompanying musical scores. Though you don’t have to stay for the show, it is a worthwhile display that is only 20 minutes long. It is recommended to come here on a weekday, since this overtly commercial display attracts thousands of couples and tourists over the weekends.
If you find Caretta Shiodome’s ocean of lights a bit too much to handle, then head over to the nearby Shiodome City Center which should have a somewhat quieter atmosphere.
Shinjuku Terrace City Illumination
The lights of the Shinjuku Terrace City are a true custom of Tokyo. Every year, a pink glow emanates from the Southern Terrace towards the Odakyu group’s area and reaches all the way to Shinjuku west exit. The 2017’s theme is called “Smile.”
Even if you don’t get to see the illuminations here, you can actually spot them from the Yamanote line – giving you a chance to brighten up your spirits, even on the coldest of Tokyo’s Winter nights. This also happens to be one of the longest running Christmas illuminations, lasting until February 22nd 2018.
Tokyo’s Dome City Winter Illuminations
There is something special about the vastness of the Tokyo’s Dome City, which makes it a perfect location for complex winter lights and frigid nights. Fortunately, once you’ve enjoyed the 2,000,000 LED lights, you can take a late night dip in the nearby onsen to warm up!
The theme for 2017 is “sweets,” and there is a ‘Hansel and Gretel’ inspired cottage at the heart of it all. The entire display looks more like a Christmas version of a Candy-land rather than a Winter-wonderland – but it’s still very pretty! For those who’d like to see the Tokyo’s Dome Illuminations, you don’t have to worry about it disappearing anytime soon. The event runs until February 18th, 2018.
Nakameguro Jewel Dome
In the same vein as Shibuya Ao no Doukutsu, we also have the marvelous Nakameguro Jewel Dome. The walkway along the Meguro River is already extremely popular throughout the year, but in the Wintertime it becomes a special place. The lights around it make it a wonderfully romantic 500 meters stroll.
However, on the downside since the Nakameguro area is already quite popular with groups, the event sometimes gets canceled when the crowds become too overwhelming to control. If you want to see this illumination, you have to be rather quick, as it only lasts until the Christmas Eve. The lights are turned on daily from 4:00pm to 9:00pm.
The Decks Odaiba and the Rainbow Bridge Illumination are always a fantastic set up. The major shopping center usually has the outdoor walkways lit up and some kind of special interactive displays for both couples and children. Other sections of Odaiba, such as the Venus Fort and the Palette Town, will also have their own exhibits. This year, the projection mapping in the Venus Fort outlets has been customized. So be on a look out while shopping!
There are countless other illuminations to be found throughout the Tokyo’s metropolitan area (such as the Skytree, Showa Memorial Park, and Ginza), but these are the most popular. Just because you aren’t home for the holidays, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the same ambiance and Christmas cheer. Come to Tokyo, walk around soaking in the beauty of the million LED Christmas lights and maybe you won’t even miss home!