Free displays of holiday illuminations have become a huge attraction in Tokyo – probably because they’re the most instabae invention since selfie sticks – and every year they get bigger and better. Here are this year’s offerings from my favorite places to see them…
• Most Entertaining •
But let’s not mess around with stills – here’s a video that’ll give you a better idea of the brilliant choreography and lightplay
November 13 – December 25
17:00 – 23:00
TOKYO DOME CITY
And the most excellent thing about the Tokyo Dome City illuminations is that you don’t have to fork over the big bucks for any ride tickets to enjoy it – all the illuminations are free!
November 7 – February 17
16:00 – 24:00
And here’s a clip (with the sound blissfully edited out) for your viewing enjoyment:
This year Shiodome Caretta is going Full Disney again, with a “Tangled” and “Frozen” mash-up. Once again it’s a lights and music extravaganza that despite its insipid soundtrack, is well a few minutes of your time. The music from the movies, but can be easily ignored while watching the 250,000 LED light show & getting your snaps in front of the color-changing Xmas tree.
November 15 – February 14 (closed January 1-2)
17:00 – 23:00 (18:00 – 23:00 after January 1)
• Sparkly Strolls •
SHIBUYA “BLUE CAVE”
Shibuya Koen Dori Street to Yoyogi Park Keyaki Namiki (about 800 m)
November 30 – December 31 (although the lights on Shibuya Koen Dori stay up until January 16)
17:00 – 22:00
MEGURO RIVER “MINNA NO ILLUMINATION”
The 2.2 kilometer stretch along the Meguro River between JR Gotanda Station and JR Osaki Station is lit up with 420,000 pink lights for your strolling pleasure. It’s about a 5 minute walk from either station to the river.
November 9 – January 6
17:00 – 22:00
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. It changes from “Snow & Blue” to “Candle & Amber” at 00:00 and 00:30
Here’s a little video of it (although the actual transition from blue to amber is much more abrupt)
November 7 – December 25
17:00 – 23:00
SHINJUKU SOUTHERN TERRACE
November 14 – February 14
17:00 – 24:00
EBISU GARDEN PLACE
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.
November 3 – February 28
16:00 – 24:00
• Destination Illuminations •
If you’re willing to travel to the outskirts of Tokyo for some really spectacular illuminations extravaganzas….
Getting to Yomiuriland is a bit of an undertaking, but trust me, the illuminations are worth it! It takes hours to see 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.
October 11 – February 17
Open every day except for these holidays: Jan 1, Jan 15-17, Jan 21-24
16:00 – 22:00*
Admission: You can go see the illuminations with a special Night Entrance Fee that starts at 16:00 and includes a free pass for all the attractions: Adults(18-64) ¥1400; Middle and high school students ¥600; Children ¥300 (under 3 are free); Senior(65+) ¥600
*Check their English web page here for other prices and hours, because sometimes they’re open later
ILLUMILLIONS THEME PARK
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. Tips & tricks for getting there are here.
November 3 – April 7 (open every day until January 1; after January 1, the park is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays)
16:00 – 21:30 (last admission 30 minutes before closing time)
Admission: Adults ¥1000, Children ¥700, Pets ¥700
And by the way, don’t miss all the amusing stuff that you’ll only see in
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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!