Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan: An illuminating celebration of Japan’s summer festivals

Photos by Sarah B. Hodge
Photos by Sarah B. Hodge

Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan: An illuminating celebration of Japan’s summer festivals

by Sarah B. Hodge
Stripes Japan

Hotel Gajoen’s “Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan” illumination, now in its fifth year, features illuminated arts and crafts by more than 40 individuals and organizations in celebration of Japan’s traditional arts, crafts and colorful summer festivals.  

The centerpiece of “Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan 2019” is an eyepopping display from the Nagasaki Lantern Festival that features a red Chinese-style dragon, larger-than-life koi, and lotus flowers in bloom. Illumination artist NITTAKE from Miyazaki has created a mysterious forest of intricately-drilled bamboo lanterns, while dozens of brightly colored Japanese oilpaper umbrellas create an enchanting scene to a soundtrack of summer rain and lighting effects.

Other featured artworks include goldfish lanterns from Yamaguchi, Nebuta lantern floats from Aomori, wood and ceramic lanterns, blown glass windchimes, dried botanicals, and Edo Kiriko glassware, and visitors are even able to interact with some of the installations.

The illuminations and various artworks are displayed in the hotel’s Hyakudan Kaidan (“100-Step Staircase”), a wooden building dating from the early Showa era. A tangible cultural property of Tokyo, Hyakudan Kaidan features seven ornate rooms originally used as banquet rooms, each lavishly painted or carved by famous artists of the era. Normally the building is closed to the public, but guests are able to photograph and record freely during the “Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan” illumination. An optional audioguide can be rented for 500 yen that gives more background on the Hyakudan Kaidan and its individual rooms (note it does not cover the exhibition / art installations, only the rooms themselves).

Two new options this year are the yukata plan, and the premium ticket offering exclusive after-hours access. During the summer, guests can enjoy wearing a yukata (casual summer kimono), lunch or dinner at one of the hotel’s Chinese, Japanese, or Italian restaurants, and admission to Hyakudan Kaidan (including WA NO AKARI Illumination Exhibition during the exhibition period). This year, yukatas for children are also available for ages 2 to 12 (90 cm to 140 cm), in addition to adult men’s and women’s.  

Photographers will certainly want to take advantage of this year’s limited entrance ticket, which offers one hour after closing to photograph the illuminations at your leisure (up to 20 guests per evening, available on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings). On the evening I visited, I had practically every art installation to myself and could take as much time as I wanted to compose shots and enjoy the artworks.

On your way out, be sure to check out the “Wa no Akari” gift shop featuring crafts and merchandise from featured artworks / regions, including Koginzashi embroidery and Nebuta-themed gifts from Aomori Prefecture, goldfish lanterns, Edo Kiriko glassware, and more.

 “Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan” illumination runs through 01 September at Hotel Gajoen Tokyo; the nearest subway station is Meguro.



Period: from Saturday, 6 July to Sunday, 1 September 2019  (Open daily)
Opening Hours: Sun to Thu: 10:00 - 17:00 (Last entry 16:30)

* Photo shooting is allowed in all areas (no tripod, no flash, no commercial shooting)
Venue: Hotel Gajoen Tokyo (5-minute walk from Meguro Station)

URL: https://www.hotelgajoen-tokyo.com/100event/wanoakari2019/english

Admission: Adult 1,600 yen

                     College/ High school students 1,200 yen

                     Elementary/Junior high school students 600 yen * Student ID required
                     Preschoolers and under: Free
                     ** due to stairs, Hyakudan Kaidan is not stroller or wheelchair-accessible

Premium Ticket:

A special ticket for exclusive-entrance hours, 3,000 yen (limited entrance up to 20 people per time slot)

Date & Time: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 7 July to 29 August, from 17:15 to 18:15

Premium tickets are available for sale at the Official Online Store (https://www.etix.jp/100event/)


Yukata Plan: 1 June to Monday 30 September 2019

Price: Lunch: Adult 13,500 yen/ Child 10,000 yen per person (inclusive of tax & service charge)

           Dinner: Adult 16,000 yen/ Child 10,000 yen per person (inclusive of tax & service charge)

           Restaurant: The guests may choose a restaurant from “SHUNYUKI” (Chinese restaurant)

           “TOFUTEI” (Japanese restaurant), and RISTORANTE “CANOVIANO” (Italian restaurant)



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