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Instabae

That’s what you call this in Japan. It’s an experience that looks way better shared on social media than in real life. But I gotta say, Japan is genius at it.

Even this unfiltered photo looks more like the “Candles & Amber” promised by the publicity than the real life lights. The Roppongi Hills illuminations marketing team did their best, but in real life, the lights were…orange. (Bet they got managerial bonus points for repurposing those Halloween lights for Xmas, though.)

But even though they did a pretty decent job of selling orange as the new amber, this team gets a certain number of #instabae demerit points because every half hour, when the lights switch from “Snow & Blue” to ten minutes of “Candle & Amber,” everybody collects eagerly at the photo spot with phones set to “Video,” hoping to catch the transition, but all that happens is that they turn off the blue ones, leave it dark for a few seconds, then turn on the orange ones. Hashtag #disappointment, trending.

(Here’s how everyone wishes it happened)

Other places are far more experienced at instabae. In fact, they were totally designed to be instabae, even back when all people could do was inflict their holiday photos on their friends face to face. Take Ashikaga Flower Park, for example. The actual experience is less like strolling through a garden than elbowing your way through a crowded plant theme park – it’s a small area utterly crammed with as many plantings (and people) as it can hold. It is, however totally designed for amazing photos.

Lights, camera, upload! (And even though there are tons of people standing around the other side of the photo-worthy wisteria, you don’t see them because of the way the lights are set up.)
Reflecting pool to make it look even more amazing? Check.
How to attract tens of thousands of phone-toting visitors to your middle-of-nowhere park? Plant a few flowers on a spare hill and let the instabae roll in

I’ve got to admit, even though I know these places are pure uploading honey traps, I still go. Because Japan is really really really good at making the schlep worthwhile. And how did they get to be so good? By being snag-that-moment-and-save-it fanatics since the days before there were photos, of course. Back when you had to pen a haiku to capture a shareable travel moment.

How wild the sea is,
and over Sado Island,
the River of Heaven

                       –Matsuo Bashō

Didn’t even need to master the “starry night” setting on his camera for that one, did he?

How long has this been going on? Well, right behind me as I took this photo of completely natural wonders: massive tourist rest top and souvenir store, dating back to two centuries ago.

If you’re in Tokyo and you’d like to capture your own instabae moments, here are the best places to see autumn leaves, the most fab holiday illuminations, and amazing flower extravaganzas in every season.

When not dashing around to capture all the instabae sights of Japan, Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo

“A genuinely gripping crime thriller which wrong-foots and perplexes the reader throughout, drawing us in emotionally . . . Highly recommended.” Raven Crime Reads

Nine Years. Nine death anniversaries. Tomorrow will be the tenth. He always comes early to avoid crossing paths with her family. He always comes on the day he actually killed her…read more

Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

4 thoughts on “Instabae Leave a comment

    • The falls are definitely worth the schlep (plus, they’re near Nikko, so you’re probably there periodically showing some visitor around anyway) but despite the fact that my Google map (http://bit.ly/2B5B9Cy) helpfully tells me that Ryuzu Falls will deliver “twin wateralls and an eatery” I thought the latter was, hmm, not exactly five star. They do have a nice balcony from which to snap the instabae, though.

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