Christmas holiday lights can be quite the spectacle in towns and cities celebrating the festive season. And as the days get shorter and colder, they can often brighten the gloomy evenings of a frosty winter.
Even though Japan doesn’t traditionally celebrate Christmas, it is no stranger to elaborate illuminations. Here are a few places where you can enjoy the bright lights in both Tokyo and Kansai areas.
The Marunouchi district aims to offer something similar to the streets of Paris. Visitors can take a romantic stroll along the sparkling tree-lined Naka-dori avenue, which runs between Yurakucho and Otemachi. Trimmed with more than a million LED lights, which consume about 65 percent less energy than conventional light bulbs, around 240 trees will glow in a classy champagne gold. The event will continue through Feb. 16 and the lights are turned on daily from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and until 12 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
Nearby, on the Marunouchi side of the Tokyo Station, The Railway of Light not only celebrates Christmas but also honors the 140th anniversary of Japan Railways, from Dec. 24 through Dec. 29. This display features an LED railway track installation that runs up to Tokyo Station, plus a 20-meter long set of liquid-crystal screens showing various views from JR trains.
Elsewhere, a 5-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station, the Carretta Shiodome shopping complex is currently hosting “White Xmas in the Sea” from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., a projection-mapping project that invites visitors to interact with it by changing its display depending on the level of applause it receives from the audience.
In Osaka, where the tradition of winter illuminations reportedly began 100 years ago, visitors can enjoy a series of events at the Festival of The Light, which runs through Jan. 19.
The main highlights of the festival include 3-D-style illuminations and projection-mapping displays around the Nakanoshima area, with a multicolored display, accompanied by music and other lights, projected on to Central City Hall from around 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Visitors can also enjoy a spectacular LED floral arrangement in the beautifully lit garden of roses at Nakanoshima Park, while lights enhancing the ginkgo trees along Midosuji, the 2 km-long main street in the center of Osaka, also add to the city’s festive atmosphere. If you’re in need of refreshments, stalls offering Osaka-style dishes will be set up at Marche of Light, a food-court area, until Dec. 25.
Festival of The Light: www.hikari-kyoen.com
More than a million lights will illuminate Rurikei Onsen, a hot springs resort in the city of Nantan for Kyoto Illumiere, where visitors this year will be able to view an “aurora,” a new addition to the large display. The event, which features six illuminated scenes, offers visitors an adventure of childhood dreams, featuring various animals and characters. The displays continue through March 9 and can be viewed every day from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
To get there you’ll need to reach Nissei-Chuo Station on the Nose Electric Railway Nissei Line in Inagawa, Hyogo Prefecture. A shuttle bus service is available from the station. Entrance fee for junior high school students, older children and adults is ¥1,000 while younger children can enter for free.
Kyoto Illumiere: www.illumination.co.jp/kyoto-illumiere