KOFU, YAMANASHI PREF. – Sightseers are flocking to the mountain town of Minobu, Yamanashi Prefecture, to look at elaborately illuminated homes, a practice started by residents of just two of the houses in 2000 to entertain their grandchildren.
The December custom has spread to 38 houses and is drawing visitors from as far away as Tokyo. On Dec. 10 alone, more than 1,500 people showed up to see the houses and gardens in a narrow 500-meter-long alley.
Using colorful LED bulbs, some of the decorations are in the shape of Mount Fuji or cartoon characters.
“This is a typical neighborhood suffering from the falling birthrate and the aging population. We wanted to do something to invigorate our neighborhood,” said 53-year-old Takashi Mochizuki.
Due to the energy crunch, this year the lights are left on for shorter periods each day and are powered by a diesel generator.