Here is a wonderful way to get rid of the Japanese winter doldrums: go to see some of the many locations that offer breathtaking nighttime illuminations! Most are on display from late autumn until the end of the year, and some through early next year. Many are free and easily accessible by public transportation. There are many beautiful illumination attractions in Japan, and here we've listed some of the most popular. Please check individual websites for details.
In Tokyo, nothing is quite as spectacular as Roppongi Hills' three illumination displays. The blue and white lights all along Keyakizaka Street; the almost 30-foot high Christmas tree at 66 Plaza, and the visually enchanting art illumination at Mori Garden all mustn't be missed. Visitors may see the lights from around early November until Christmas.
Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO world heritage site in Gifu Prefecture known for its characteristically shaped thatched roofs, has a light display from mid-January through mid-February 2013. Spotlights illuminate the snow-covered thatched roofs and snow-clad environs. Visitors arriving by car or taxi will be taken from a designated parking lot by shuttle to the venue.
Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, will host its 64th Snow Festival in February 2013. This event attracts about two million people from all over, who come to marvel at finely detailed gleaming white snow and crystal-like ice structures, small and large alike. Lit at night, they create a mesmerizing winter fairyland.
In Kyoto, two separate light and flower walkway festivals, called Hanatouro, will illuminate the Arashiyama district (December 2012) and the Higashiyama district (March 2013). Both of these festivals use traditionally designed and hand-sculpted open air lanterns which light up walkways through temples, parks, along bridges and some urban areas, inviting visitors to explore the beauty of the area at night. Specially designed flower arrangements will also be on view.
Nabana no Sato, near Nagashima Onsen Resort in Mie Prefecture, is a theme park known for its flora, but also for its four month long illumination spectacular that runs from mid-November to mid-March. There are several different displays, including a light tunnel and a lit-up flower display.
The Kobe Luminairie in Kobe city, Hyogo Prefecture started in 1995 to commemorate the devastating Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, and is the original illumination attraction in Japan. For about two weeks in December, beautiful hand-painted small lights and LEDs donated by the Italian government are lit – a memorial to those who suffered, and a celebration of Kobe's recovery.
Another favorite is the Renaissance of Light in Osaka. For several weeks in December, there are celebrations of holiday cheer that include a stunning illumination tapestry projected onto the wall of Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library accompanied by a musical performance. There are also illuminated boats providing river cruises for romantic evenings!
No matter where you are in Japan, there are many beautiful nighttime illuminations for you to enjoy, and to warm your heart during the cold, dark winter evenings!