My faves: Japan's festive lights illuminate the season

My faves: Japan's festive lights illuminate the season

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

As Japan starts to enter the holiday season, you’ll notice many of the country’s parks buildings and gardens are set ablaze with brilliant and elaborate illumination displays to help ring in the holiday spirit.

I love the beauty of this winter tradition, and the warm lights feel like an appropriate way to end another year. While strolling in the bright streets at night, I can’t help but reminisce about the people and places I encountered over the last 12 months.

Here are some of my favorite places to check out the winter fun. Not only are these spots home to some dazzling light displays, but the locations are also worth a stroll year-round.

Most of these sites are free, so visit one near you and enjoy the happiest season in Japan with the millions of bright lights!

Photo courtesy of Yoshihito Morita

- Misawa Phantasia Winter Illumination (in Misawa)
Get into the holiday spirit at Phantasia Winter Illumination near Misawa Air Base. This vibrant project at the Misawa Nakayoshi Park runs through January 9. Visitors will be treated to the “Forest of Illumination” featuring over 70,000 LED lights, an illuminated reindeer and, at the center, a 16-meter-tall Christmas tree.

During the event, the park opens from 4 p.m. to midnight for the sparkling lights, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy this holiday treat.

On Dec. 2 and 3, the park will also host “Misawa Nakayoshi Sauna,” an event where visitors can enjoy a sauna soak free of charge. Free T-shirt, half pants and towel rentals will also be available.

- Location: 2-1-1 Chuo-cho, Misawa City, Aomori Pref. (a 6-minute drive from Misawa AB Main Gate)
- Hours: Through Jan. 9, 2023, 4 p.m. – midnight
- Nakayoshi Sauna: Dec. 2, 6 – 8 p.m., Dec. 3, noon – 8 p.m. 
- Admission: Free
- Tel: 0176-53-2175 (Misawa Chamber of Commerce)

Photo courtesy of Tokyo Midtown

- Tokyo Midtown Christmas Illumination (Near Hardy Barracks)
Tokyo Midtown is one of the most popular stops for holiday lights, great food, and great shopping.

This year’s “Midtown Christmas 2022,” features golden-hued LED lights and special performances in the garden area.

The elaborate display in the building’s green space elicits the nostalgia of Christmas morning with music and ambiance, while incorporating modern technology for brilliant displays that are a treat for the eyes. At the center of the display, visitors can enjoy a magnificent illumination dome (3-meter high and 4.5 meter in diameter) projecting brilliant multicolor LED lights, according to the event provider.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Up the holiday fun by hitting the ice-skating rink constructed on the premises every winter season (starting from 1600 yen). This display definitely features fun for the whole family!

- Location: 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 
- Period: Through Dec. 25 (Promenade are illuminated until Feb. 26)
- Hours: 5 – 11 p.m.
- Tel: 03-3475-3100

Photo courtesy of Tokinosumika

- Tokinosumika Royal Road Winter Illumination (Near Fuji)
Hotel and Resort Tokinosumika in Gotemba is just a 30-minute drive from Camp Fuji and offers a large illumination display called “Hikari-no-Sumika” (home of lights) every year.

With its proximity to Mount Fuji, you’ll be getting two great views for the price of one! If you want to make a daytrip out of it, add area attractions like the Fuji Five Lakes, Fuji Safari Park, or the Sengen Shrine to your itinerary. Ending the day at the light display will be the cherry on top of a fun day!

During my family’s last visit to Tokinosumika’s illuminations, we enjoyed the tunnel of lights which spans a quarter mile long. The lights will wow you and you’ll get many great pics to share with friends and family back home. My daughter remembers our visit fondly and I’m you’re your kiddos will love it, too!

The display follows the theme of “Royal Road for Winter 2022-23” and includes the tunnel plus other lights with elaborate sequences, figures, and ornaments, according to the resort. The grounds also feature a couple of 120-year-old fir Christmas trees dressed up in lights for the season.

For an admission fee, check out “Castle Hill,” an impressive multimedia show featuring 3D mapping, music, and a 150-meter-tall water fountain.

- Location: 719 Kamiyama, Gotemba City, Shizuoka Pref. 
- Period: Through Mar. 12
- Hours: Through Jan. 9, 4:30 – 10 p.m., Jan. 10 – Mar. 12, 5 – 9:30 p.m.
- Admission:Tunnel of Light, Twin Trees are free; 1,500 yen (500 yen for elementary schoolers) for Castle Hill
- Tel: 0550-87-3700

Photo courtesy of Minatomirai 21
Grand Mall Park Illumination Office

- Yokohama Milight (near bases in Kanto)
Head to Yokohama for the Yokohama Milight Illumination project spanning a one-mile-long stretch from JR Yokohama Station to Minatomirai Station. The illuminations light up this popular hangout with the backdrop of majestic Landmark Tower, Bay Bridge and Marine Tower.

While strolling through the lights you may want to drop by Dockyard Garden behind the Landmark Tower. On the bottom of the dry dock, you can see a large ship-shaped blue illumination made up of 100,000 LEDs while cheerful Christmas music is played.

The walk-through of Yokohama Bay this time of year is truly gorgeous, and an easy trip for those on Yokosuka, Zama and Atsugi.
nLocation: From JR Yokohama Station (East Exit) to Dockyard Garden (Landmark Tower) 

- Period: Through Feb. 12
- Hours: 4 - 11 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Hiroshima Lightup

- Hiroshima Dreamination (Near Iwakuni)
The Hiroshima Dreamination draws over 600,000 visitors each year and is only a one-hour drive from MCAS Iwakuni.

This year, the large-scale illumination project presents a “Fairyland” with 1.4 million lights. Colorful lights fill Peace Boulevard, a major road running from east to west through downtown, along with Namiki Street and Alice Garden. The squares made up of blue-based illuminations around the streets create the “Sky Island” where light shows are offered every 15 minutes from 5:30 – 10:30 p.m. through Jan. 3.

- Location: Center streets of Hiroshima
- Period: Through Jan. 3
- Hours: 5:30 – 10:30 p.m.
- Tel: 082-554-1813 

Photo courtesy of Sasebo Kirakira 
Festival Executive Committee

- Kirakira Festival (in Sasebo)
Every year, Sasebo City’s Shimanose Park and Saruku City 403 shopping arcade get the razzle dazzle treatment with over 1 million lights! Visitors are also treated to the brilliant lights, gigantic, illuminated artworks, live music and dance performances on the weekends.
If you’re stationed at Sasebo Naval Base, you’ll want to make plans to see this beautiful sight for yourself!

- Period: Through Dec. 25
- Hours: 5 – 11 p.m.
- Location: Shimanose Park and Saruku City 403 Shopping Arcade in Sasebo City
- Tel: 095-822-8223

Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Pacific
Flipboard: Stars and Stripes Community Sites

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Okinawa
Stripes Korea
Stripes Guam

Related Content

Recommended Content

Around the Web