Winter illuminations in Japan

Nabana no Sato Light Tunnel

Winter illuminations in Japan 2016

One of the highlights of winter in Japan is the spectacular winter illuminations which can be seen around the country. The illuminations typically start in late autumn and finish around the end of December with some even lasting until spring. Most are FREE and are definitely worth checking out if you are traveling in Japan during the winter months.

Some of the most popular and spectacular winter illuminations in Japan include:

Kobe Luminaire

Kobe Luminaire in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture is considered the original and most famous light festival in Japan. The illuminations run for twelve days in December with the lights turned on for just a few hours each evening. The lights are truly spectacular with each one individually hand painted. They are designed to imitate the grandeur of Italian Renaissance architecture, with this year’s gala highlighting Galleria Cooperta, (Covered Gallery), a 16 meter long covered corridor of lights that is a kaleidoscopic experience. Kobe Luminaire is held in memory of the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. The iconic festival of lights started in 1995 with the hope to give courage and inspire the people of Kobe. It was such a success that it has continued as an annual event each year beautifully illuminating Kobe every winter. Kobe Luminaire will run from December 2-11.

When: December 2 to 11, 2016
Times: Monday to Thursday (6:00 pm – 9:30 pm)
Friday (6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Saturday (5:00 pm – 10:00 pm)
Sunday (5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Price: Free

Official Website

Kobe Luminaire 2016

Nabana no Sato

Nabana no Sato is a theme park dedicated to flowers located on the island of Nagashima in Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture. It is considered to be one of the largest and best winter illuminations in all of Japan and actually runs for more than 6 months from late October to early May. The flower park is covered in more than 8 million LED lights with the highlight being the spectacular light tunnel. There are various attractions including a huge field transformed into a sea of lights below an animated light show, light tunnels, and an observation deck that offers birds eye views of the lights from above. Last year’s theme was “Heidi a Girl of the Alps” a collaboration with the famous anime that creates magnificent views of the Swiss Alps. This year’s main theme is “The Beauty of Mother Nature”.

When: October 15, 2016 to May 7, 2017
Times: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm (until 10:00 pm on weekends and holidays)
Price: Winter ¥2,300

Official Website

Nabana no Sato Light Tunnel

Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go is a historic collection of villages located deep in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gassho zukuri houses with their unique steeply slanting thatched roofs that look like two hands joined in prayer. Shirakawa-go has been famous for many years now, but during the winter the village takes its beauty to an even higher level when all covered in snow. To enhance this experience even further for a few select Saturdays and Sundays in January and February it puts on a stunning winter illumination. The houses and surrounded grounds of the village are lit by spotlights which illuminate the snow-covered thatched roofs creating a picturesque winter wonderland straight out of a fairy tale.  The gassho zukuri houses are lit up individually from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, while the entire village is softly illuminated until around 8:00 pm.

When: January 22, 23, 29, 30, 2017 February 5, 6, 2017
Times: 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Price: Free

Official Website

Shirakawago

Image Source

Kingdom of Light

The kingdom of light is a spectacular winter illumination at Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park that recreates a Dutch town in Nagasaki Prefecture. It creates a distinctly European atmosphere with its picturesque canals, iconic windmills, beautiful gardens and architecture. In winter, the theme park utilizes about 13 million lights to create spectacular scenery such as a tall LED waterfall, a light and fountain canal cruise and collaborations of light with flowers and music. It is the world’s largest light display and one of the most popular illuminations in Japan.

When: October 29, 2016 to May 7, 2017
Times: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Price: ¥3,900 (entry only) or ¥4,300 (entry and rides after 5 pm)

Official Website

Kingdom of Light
Image Source

138 Tower Park

138 Tower Park located in Ichinomiya City, Aichi Prefecture is regarded as one of the best public parks in Japan and features the tallest arch style tower in Asia. From mid-November to late-December the park is decorated with around 500,000 lights creating a spectacular winter illumination. The theme is “Merry Christmas from the Twin Arches”. The spectacular dual arched tower at 138 meters high offers amazing views of the illuminations from above. Various events are also held such as a fireworks display, wreath-making workshops and baking classes.

When: November 14, 2016 to December 27, 2016
Times: 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Price: ¥500 (entry to the tower)

Official Website

138 Tower Park Galaxy Fantasy

Winter illuminations in Tokyo

Tokyo has many beautiful winter illumination spots including the following:

Caretta Shiodome – fantastic annual illumination using 270,000 lights that create an ocean of blue LED lights several times each day, making it one of Tokyo’s best.

When: November 17, 2016 to February 14, 2017
Times: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Price: Free

Official Website

Omotesando illumination – one of Tokyo’s most popular illuminations with 500,000 LED lights along the length of the street from Harajuku Station to Omotesando Station lighting the area up in “champagne gold”.

When: December 1, 2016 to December 25, 2016
Times: Sunset to 9:00 pm
Price: Free

Official Website

Marunouchi Illuminations – a European-style Christmas light-up with the entire district lit with a million champagne-colored lights along Naka-dori street.

When: November 10, 2016 to February 19, 2017
Times: 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Price: Free

Official Website

Tokyo Dome City – ‘Promenade of Light” themed on the night sky is one of Tokyo’s best winter illuminations featuring over 2.2 million lights. This year will feature iconic Italian themes to celebrate 150 years of Japan-Italian relations.

When: November 10, 2016 to February 19, 2017
Times: 5:00 pm to 1:00 am
Price: Free

Official Website

Tokyo Midtown – Midtown Christmas is one of the most popular displays in Tokyo and features multiple illuminations around the Midtown complex including the ‘Starlight Garden’ with 280,000 LED lights.

When: November 15, 2016 to December 25, 2016
Times: 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Price: Free

Official Website

John Asano (93 Posts)

John Asano is a blogger, traveler and freelance writer living in Gifu, Japan. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, he has lived in Japan now for over 12 years. John loves nothing better than picking up his camera and exploring all the amazing sights and attractions that Japan has to offer. He writes about the must see sights and attractions in Japan at Japan Travel Advice, as well as about Japanese culture and modern life on his blog Japan Australia. You can read more of his work at http://japan-australia.blogspot.com/