The Best Tokyo Illuminations 2017

It’s time again for the best free holiday light show ever! Here are this year’s Tokyo Illuminations offerings, some of them even better than before:

TOKYO MIDTOWN

This one is from the “Venus” themed show, which is the Friday offering

This year’s “Starlight Garden” extravaganza is super lavish, with different shows for each night of the week. There’s a four-minute blue and white spin around the galaxy, then each day of the week features a visit to a different planet in our solar system (except Uranus  and Neptune, which are skipped in favor of our nearer and more instabae neighbors, the sun and the moon.) Note: this day of the week thing sort of confuses me, because that’s what they say on their website, but I went to see it on the first Wednesday, and it seems like they cycled through all of the planets, so go figure. Anyway, here’s the line-up:

Monday: The Moon • Tuesday: Mars • Wednesday: Mercury • Thursday: Jupiter • Friday: Venus • Saturday: Saturn • Sunday: The Sun

For Mondays, the LED animation of the moon depicts the moment it covers the sun during a solar eclipse

On Tuesdays, lots of red zinging things and ‘candles’ equal Red Planet Mars

Wednesdays bring a feeling of ice (the planet Mercury) being quite close to fire (the sun)

Jupiter is the planet of Thursday, with a “typhoons & aurora” gas planet-ish theme

I don’t seem to have any photos of the Saturn piece (dang!) but the Sunday one was pretty great, with a bunch of rays flashing out from a burning red Sun

Once again, this mesmerizing field of lights is set to a spacey soundtrack and features fog as well as super-choreographed animation

Until December 25

17:00 – 23:00

Admission: Free

MAP

ROPPONGI HILLS

Here’s what it looks like most of the time, a mix of “Snow & Blue”

But for ten minutes of each half hour, it switches to “Candle & Amber”

Over at Roppongi Hills, the display of lights on Keyakizaka-dori is always festive (and definitely instabae). The best place to see the promenade (and get a view of Tokyo Tower) is from the bridge over the street by the Louis Vuitton store.

Here’s the schedule for when it changes colors:

00:00 – 00:10 “Candle & Amber”

00:10 – 00:30 “Snow & Blue”

00:30 – 00:40″Candle & Amber”

00:40 – 01:00 “Snow & Blue”

Here’s a little video of it (although the actual transition from blue to amber is much more abrupt)

Until December 25

17:00 – 23:00

Admission: Free

MAP

YOMIURILAND

Colored lights and lots of ’em make it worth the admission price to the old Yomiuriland theme park, even if you never go on a single ride.

The ginormous reflecting pool stage offered three different shows (rotating every fifteen minutes at :00, :15, :30 & :45) and the one I saw not only had colored dancing fountains (I’m a sucker for dancing fountains) but also dancers performing in silhouette (ditto for suckerhood).

Tunnels like this pulse with an every-changing light show

Getting to Yomiuriland is always a bit of an undertaking, but trust me, the illuminations are worth it! It takes hours to walk around and inside them all, and the quality does not disappoint. They definitely did not stint on the electrical outlay, and it’s seldom crowded. Even if you don’t go on any of the rides, it’s worth it.

Until February 18

16:00 – 22:00*

Open every day except for these holidays: Jan 1, Jan 16-18, Jan 22-25

*Admission: Check their English web page here for prices and hours, because sometimes they’re open later

MAP

TOKYO DOME CITY

This dome puts on an everchanging light show

This dome puts on an everchanging light show

You can see it from up above...

You can see it from up above…

...or sit beneath it for the full psychedelic effect

…or sit beneath it for the full psychedelic effect

These color-changing light spheres are bobbing around in all the fountains this year

These color-changing light spheres are bobbing around in all the fountains this year

And DUH it's an amusement park, so if you dare to risk freezing your patootie off, you can ride the splashy one through the illuminations at night

And DUH it’s an amusement park, so if you dare to risk freezing your patootie off, you can ride the splashy one through the illuminations at night

And don't forget to walk through the Wonka-esque rainbow tunnel of luv

And don’t forget to walk through the Wonka-esque rainbow tunnel of luv

The Tokyo Dome City amusement park puts on a lights and fountains extravaganza every year, and you don’t even have to pay for any rides to enjoy it!

Until February 18

17:00 – 25:00

Admission: Free

MAP

SHIODOME

Once again, this Shiodome courtyard is transformed into a fantasy landscape of starry blue lights

Every year, the Shiodome courtyard is transformed into a fantasy landscape of starry blue lights that periodically burst into dancing colored lights synced to music

One snap from the ten-minute light & music show

This color-changing tree always makes an appearance

This is the artists’ rendition of what this year’s theme will look like (although from experience, I expect the candelabra elements to be less, er, prominent)

This year’s illumination at Shiodome Caretta has a “Beauty and the Beast” theme, and if you can get past the blatant Disneyfication, the candelabra/banquet hall motif will be projected around the usual entertaining landscape of animated LEDs and music. In between shows, you can line up to get your picture taken in front of that central tree.

Until February 14 (closed 1/1-1/2)

17:00 – 23:00

Admission: Free

MAP

SHINJUKU SOUTHERN TERRACE

Photo courtesy of JapanToday

The trees lining the promenade between Shinjuku South-East Exit and Times Square are strung with lights, and Mosaic Street (the walk that goes through MyLord) is decked out in pink “sakura” lights this year.

Until February 22

17:00 – 24:00

Admission: Free

MAP

VENUSFORT

Photo thanks to SagasWhatTokyo

While you’re out ogling the new Gundam robot in Odaiba, stop by the VenusFort mall (that eerie Caesar’s Palace lookalike!) to see the holiday snow crystals and stained glass-themed projection mapping show.

Until March 11

Noon – Close (projection mapping shows start every half hour at :00 and :30)

Admission: Free

MAP

EBISU GARDEN PLACE

EbisuIllumin

This display doesn’t change from year to year, but if you haven’t been there, the view from the red carpet that leads from the Christmas tree to the gigantic Baccarat chandelier is worth seeing once.

Until January 8

17:00 – 24:00

Admission: Free

MAP

ILLUMILLIONS THEME PARK

Hillsides covered with lights, as far as the eye can see

Giant illuminated flower gardens and a billowing undersea landscape are only a few of the walk-through attracations

They got tunnels too. Ever-changing light-up tunnels

And shows, with lights & music & dancing fountains

This place is a bit of a trek from Tokyo (it takes about an hour by train from Shinjuku Station, then a short bus ride), but if you love whole hillsides carpeted with lights, Sagamiko Illumillions is hard to beat. It’s pretty reasonable, too. Tips & tricks for getting there are here.

Until April 8

16:00 – 21:30

Admission: Adults ¥800, Children ¥500, Dogs ¥500

MAP

MINNA NO ILLUMI

Photo thanks to @miracle_photos

This year, the cherry trees are lit up with 423,980 pink lights (hey, it’s Japan, so of course they know exactly how many!) all along the Meguro River from Osaki Station to Gotanda Station, in an event they’re calling “Minna no Illumi.”

Until January 8

17:00 – 22:00

Admission: Free

Between oohing and aahing over holiday lights, Jonelle Patrick occasionally has time to write novels set in Tokyo

When Detective Kenji Nakamura’s phone rings with the news that his mother’s death wasn’t an accident, his life begins to unravel…read more