Photo By: Cara Lam

Japan’s illuminations make winter come alive. 

Tokyo annually transforms into a twinkly holiday wonderland, but the light-up magic spans across the entire country, with towering Christmas trees and intricately choreographed light shows. From north to south, here is a selection of our favorite illuminations in Japan in 2018-19.

10
Hakodate Winter Festival

Hokkaido Prefecture

Japan’s “Most Attractive City 2015” is back in the spotlight – 50,000 of them – with an annual light up taking place along the city’s picturesque, bayside streets up in Japan’s most-northern region. This isn’t an illumination event per se; more a scattering of decorations at various locales, including the beautiful Hakodate Bay Area and the sloping streets of Hachimanzaka and Nijukkenzaka. Perfect for people who don’t want to fight the crowds, you can even get a wintery lit-up view of the star-shaped Goryokaku area. It will inevitably be snowing wherever you are, ramping up the magical winter wonderland factor.

9
Flower Fantasy

Ashikaga Flower Park, Tochigi Prefecture

Experience every season at Ashikaga Flower Park, where the illuminations replicate the park’s famous flowers, including the beautiful hanging wisteria. Illuminated bulbs cover almost every inch of the park, as well as audiovisual shows, tunnels, and projections. Just a few hours north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture, this illumination is one of Japan’s Top 3 biggest and has even won awards for its display. Flower power has never shined so bright.

  • Oct. 27, 2018, to February 5, 2019
  • 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (until 9:30 p.m. weekends and holidays)
  • ¥900
  • Closest station: JR Ashikaga Flower Park
  • http://bit.ly/FlowerFantasy

8
Fantaseum

Lake Yamanaka, Yamanashi Prefecture

Weekly fireworks running up to Christmas accompany this illumination at the base of iconic Mount Fuji. The light displays are your standard romantic spectacle; it’s the surrounding scenery that makes this one special. In February, the Ice Candle Festival coincides with “Diamond Fuji,” the week when the sun sets directly over the summit of the mountain. Lake Yamanaka is a special sidestep from the more touristy Fuji Five Lakes area and has nearby onsen, hiking and all the Fuji views you could ever want.

7
Caretta Shiodome

Tokyo

Tokyoites attest you can count on the Shiodome shopping complex to put on a fantastic display of winter illuminations. Every twenty minutes, a dazzling audiovisual spectacle takes over the plaza, featuring pillars of light and rainbow-colored movements set to a rousing soundtrack. There’s tons of time to catch this show with your date, as it’s staying up until Valentine’s Day. Aweeee.

6
Sagamiko Illumillion

Lake Sagami Pleasure Forest, Kanagawa Prefecture

Not too far from Tokyo, this is an awesome date spot for an evening of spectacles. The punny name sums up this illumination event featuring six million bulbs of light. Billed as a 360-degree light-up, you can view the displays from the Kanagawa Prefecture amusement park rides that stay running into the night. There’s plenty of food and drink for sale to keep you going. It’s bold, it’s brash, and, dare we say it, beautiful.

5
Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination

Mie Prefecture

Pictures are worth a thousand words; or in this case, millions of LED lights at Mie Prefectures’s Nabana no Sato at Nagashima Spa Land, one of the country’s biggest and best winter illuminations. The Kawazu Sakura light tunnel features 700,000 twinkling lights to transport you into another world. Take a romantic stroll through this nightscape of star-like bulbs before retiring to one of the many hot springs nearby.

  • Oct. 20, 2018, to May 6, 2019
  • 9 a.m to 9 p.m.
  • ¥2,300
  • Closest station: Nagashima Kaigan Bus Stop
  • http://bit.ly/nabananosatolights (Japanese)
  • This is one of GaijinPot Travel's Top 10 Destinations of 2019.

4
Kobe Luminarie

Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture

Enjoy a warm drink under this ornate tunnel which honors the victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. This impressive light festival draws millions of visitors each year, so you’ll have to shuffle in step with the crowds to see the displays. A collaborative design between Italian and Japanese artists reminiscent of a Gothic cathedral, visitors feel they’ve been transported to an LED version of Europe even though they are just in Kobe.

  • Dec. 7 to 16, 2018
  • Hours: 6 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. (Mon to Thu), 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. (Fri), 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. (Sat), 5 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. (Sun)
  • Free
  • Closest station: Motomachi
  • http://kobe-luminarie.jp (Japanese)

3
Osaka Hikari Renaissance

Osaka City

Hosted at the city’s most gorgeous urban park, Nakanoshima, this illumination stretches from Osaka City Hall to the eastern tip of this lush island. Massive, kaleidoscopic projection mapping displays decorate the historic library. Festive food stalls are set up around the park, and a 3-kilometer stretch of Midosuji Avenue is lit up, making this one of the longest illuminations in the world. Check the webpage below for several illumination light ups in the area.

2
Tottori Sakyu Illusion

Tottori Prefecture

People don’t generally associate winter with the desert, but this event hosted on Tottori‘s majestic sand dunes means that you can! With gravity-defying sand art, projection mapping, and light tunnels crossing the dunes, this a is Lawrence of Arabia disco-style extravaganza. This is a great chance to see “Japan’s desert” look even more stunning than usual.

  • Dec. 8 to 24, 2018
  • 5:30 p.m to 9 p.m.
  • ¥300
  • Closest station: Kodomonokuniiriguchi Bus Stop
  • https://www.tottori-sakyu.jp (Japanese)
  • This is one of GaijinPot Travel's Top 10 Destinations of 2019.

1
Kingdom of Lights

Huis Ten Bosch, Nagasaki Prefecture

Taking up much of this beloved Dutch theme park, you’ll need several hours to explore the Kingdom of Lights, made up of a whopping 13 million bulbs. The amazing light waterfall hanging from a height of 66 meters is one of the best night views in Japan. There’s also an enormous electric dragon, a 3D balloon street, and a lit-up zoo. Even the tulips are illuminated. As they say in Holland, “wauw!”

  • Nov. 3, 2018, to May 6, 2019
  • Varies by date but typically 5 p.m. to 10 p.m
  • ¥500-¥700
  • Closest station: Huis Ten Bosch
  • http://bit.ly/KingdomOfLights

More on GaijinPot

Check out our ultimate guide to illuminations in each prefecture of Japan’s 74 prefectures.