Lighting Up The Winter Night

Because I’m helplessly drawn to things that glow in the dark (gee, ya think?), I recently returned to two of my favorite lit-up-for-winter amusement parks, because I’d heard that they’d updated their gazillion-fairy-twinkle extravaganzas. (And you can check them out too, if you’re anywhere near Tokyo, until Valentines Day!)


This year there’s a much-improved “Deep Sea” quadrant

I’d have been rooted to this spot for hours, surrounded on all sides by the field o’ color-changing beach balls, if it hadn’t been so freakin’ cold (Note: Bring gloves. And Russian cossack hat with ear flaps. And a bonsai’d polar bear parka lined with living polar bears.)

A promenade of golden trees lines the path to…

…the “cherry blossom” stage, where the trees cycle through a dance of seasons that turn them pink and white and gold

From the top (as you freeze your meat flaps off) there’s a grand view of the beach balls again

And on the other side of this tunnel…

…is a “zoo” themed quadrant which is not so riveting, except for this peacock

To be honest, like most of this park, these butterflies look a lot better in photos than in real life

Blessedly out of the coriolis wind blowing straight from Antarctica, this indoor attraction is an entertainingly flashy stage set you can stand inside of, with a (how did you guess?) “diamond” theme

From the top of the mountain (cold on the way up and even colder on the way back down) you can see the Paddington-themed play area for kids, lit up by “balloons” and featuring a baby roller coaster and lit-up play structures. I didn’t include any photos of the lights at the top of the hill, because they were so not worth the sub-arctic chair-lift-of-death to get there, I didn’t take any.

Fair warning: the Sagamiko “Illumillions” park is instabae heaven, but while it’s fun to walk around and look at all the lights, it does look better in pictures than in real life, and it’s HELLA COLD AT NIGHT because it’s on the side of a mountain out in the country.

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 is fun to see once. Tips & tricks for getting there are here.

Open:Until April 7, closed Wednesdays and Thursdays

Hours: 16:00 – 21:30 (last admission 30 minutes before closing time)

Admission: Adults ¥1000, Children ¥700, Pets ¥700



Yomiuriland is my favorite light-up destination because they cover everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) with colored lights, and they employ reflecting pools to double the instabae experience

Especially excellent is the long, twisting tunnel made completely of lights that pulse and ripple…

…making you feel like you’re strolling through a galaxy of stars

Not a single object remains unadorned with lights at this vast amusement park…

…whether it’s the old-fashioned carousel…

…a Matterhorn-ish mountain surrounded by mysterious polygons that occasionally flash…

…an avenue of trees planted with color-shifting “flowers”…

…or lawns and trees of every size and shape

Resistance is futile

And I dare you to walk away mid-spurt during the dancing fountain shows. That wheel o’ vortex thing in the middle also becomes a shimmering screen of mist, onto which they project bubbles, snowflakes, (and, more mysteriously) herds of reindeer.

And usually I scamper past concession stands like a tanuki on a hot tin roof, but how could I pass up this soda served in a lit-up lightbulb?

Getting to Yomiuriland takes a little time, but it’s worth it! The best public transportation option is to take the Keio Line to Yomiuriland Station, then either hike up and over the hill to the park (takes about 20 minutes, but it’s free) or hitch a ride on the gondola (which isn’t).

Open: Until February 17, every day except Jan 21-24

Hours: 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


Of course, some of the Tokyo Illuminations stay up until mid-February, and they’re free. Check their end dates and photos and maps here.

Despite her frozen appendages, Jonelle Patrick still 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

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