November 24

Where To See The Best Holiday Illuminations In Tokyo 2019!

The frenzy of building bigger, newer, better illuminations with which to charm shoppers during the holiday season has died back a bit in Tokyo, but there are still plenty of amazing free displays, if you know where to look! Here are my must-sees for 2019:

New for 2019!

HIBIYA MIDTOWN

This is the first time I’ve seen Hibiya Midtown’s illuminations in action, and although I was a bit afraid that I was about to witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle tree…

…when I came back at night, it totally won me over.

At first it glitters and glows with blue-white criss-crossing ribbons…

then colors begin to kindle within…

until soon it’s pulsing with rainbow disco goodness

And yes, you can go inside! Mysteriously space-themed planet videos move across suspended disks, and even though this isn’t part of the questionable Star Wars Xmas-themed weirdness in Marunouchi, it’s as close to going to lightspeed in the Millennium Falcon as you’re likely to get

The bare trees lining the surrounding walkways are decked out in sparkled finery too, and they change colors in time with the music and main tree show

Dates: November 14 – December 25

Hours: 17:00 – 24:00 (special shows every :15)

Admission: Free

And here are the ones that have been updated and are still worth a special trip to see:

TOKYO DOME CITY

Tokyo Dome City’s odd summer-themed winter illuminations continue, with all-new light-up attractions.

At the far end of the park, on the upper level, a color-changing Mt. Fuji and torii gates…

make a popular backdrop for holiday photos

Festival lanterns line the walkways this year

And the bon-odori pavilion lights blink and flash when the taiko drum inside is played by passers-by

The Tanabata trees in the long reflecting pond are a bit of a disappointment after last year’s spectacular fireworks-themed installation, but they’re still pretty

And the brightest new piece is a color-changing cherry tree in full bloom, over near the carousel

November 13 – February 26

16:00 – 24:00

Admission: Free

MAP

SHIODOME CARETTA

Even though Shiodome Caretta is still in thrall to the Disney machine, its “Arabian Nights” themed holiday show this year is more delightful than usual, setting the flashing and sparkling to tunes from “Aladdin”

It starts with the usual blue candelabra and tree-shaped tent, but already the colors are way beyond insipid

Before the show starts, you can sneak in and try to make a wish on The Lamp

And once the music gets going, and the genie is conjured with smoke and lights, it’s non-stop eye candy

Crazy colors…

and lots of different light-up elements…

dance around individually…

in time to the music…

so the show feels like it’s going somewhere, not just blinking and flashing

I loved how they really mixed and matched the colors this time…

and got way more sophisticated with using the color-changing LEDs to good advantage

Dates: November 14 – February 14 (closed January 1-2)

Hours: 17:00 – 23:00 (18:00 – 23:00 after January 1)

Admission: Free

MAP

TOKYO MIDTOWN

This year’s Starlight Garden is, basically, Last Year 2.0, with the addition of a light-up tower. The same lollipop glow balls, bubbles and synchronized light show fill the big lawn near DesignSight 21/21

Even the second time around, not a disappointment

Dates: November 26 – December 25

Hours: 17:00 – 23:00

Admission: Free

MAP

EBISU GARDEN PLACE

They finally updated this classic date stroll with colored lights on the main tree

And added some festive blue glow that splashes onto other bits and pieces around Ebisu Garden Place

I’m also happy to report that the elegant (but, let’s face it, kinda boring) jumbo Baccarat chandelier is now lit up in colors…

that change in a pleasingly mesmerizing way

Dates: November 3 – February 13

Hours: 16:00 – 24:00

Admission: Free

MAP

Same as last year, but still delightful

SHIBUYA “BLUE CAVERN”

This is actually far better than I thought it would be – they cover the street with some sort of shiny surface, so the effect of the blue lights is doubled in the reflection. And the tunnel of blue trees is surprisingly long, so even if there are mobs of people there, it’s still spectacular

Where: Shibuya Koen Dori Street  to Yoyogi Park Keyaki Namiki (about 800 m)

Dates: November 29 – December 31 (although the lights on Shibuya Koen Dori stay up until January 16)

Hours: 17:00 – 22:00

Admission: Free

MAP

MEGURO RIVER “MINNA NO ILLUMINATION”

There are a lot of “streets lined with trees lit up with fairy lights” around Tokyo, but this one is the best, because the lights are doubled by the reflection in the Meguro River

Plus, there are a lot of little bridges that criss-cross it, making for nice pix

As a bonus, there is this stretch of walkway near the Osaki end of the illuminations, where it turns into a tunnel of pink stars

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.

Dates: November 8 – January 5

Hours: 17:00-22:00

Admission: Free

ROPPONGI HILLS

Here’s what Keyakizaka Street by Roppongi Hills looks like most of the time: a mix of “Snow & Blue”

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

Over at Roppongi Hills, the display of lights on Keyakizaka-dori hasn’t changed (still 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

Dates: November 10 – December 25

Hours: 17:00 – 23:00

Admission: Free

MAP

SHINJUKU SOUTHERN TERRACE

Shinjuku Southern Terrace hasn’t changed their display for a while – it’s a pleasantly festive walk, but none too exciting

Same with Mosaic Street, except the lights are pink

Dates: November 5 – February 14

Hours: 17:00 – 24:00

Admission: Free

MAP

And these are the extravaganzas worth a trip outside the Tokyo Metro area

If you really want to see acres of lights, get out of town to these two:

YOMIURILAND

The Yomiuriland illuminations have a new theme this year: Jewelry Olympus, and it looks like they’ve kept the basic Jewellumination foundation and reprogrammed the lights to reflect “courts” of the twelve main Olympic gods. This place is especially worth seeing, because they use an array of LED colors not found anywhere else.

This is the “Artemis’s Court” area

As you can see, everything in the park is lit to the eyeballs

The tunnel o’ lights is more dramatic than ever – you feel like you’re in the midst of a spinning galaxy as you walk through

Zeus’s court is a landscape of color-changing LEDs that pulse and change all around…

…the Matterhorn-like mountain

And the latest dancing fountain shows are spectacular

Getting to Yomiuriland is a bit of a pain, but it’s really worth it! It takes hours to see all the twinkly bits, and the quality does not disappoint. No surface or growing thing is left un-sparkled, and it’s fun to see it all, even if you don’t go on a single ride.

Dates: October 11 – February 17

Open: Every day except for these holidays: Nov 26, Jan 20-23, Feb 4-6

Hours: 16:00 – 20:30*

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) ¥1500; Middle and high school students ¥800; Children ¥500 (under 3 are free); Senior(65+) ¥500

*Check Yomiuriland’s English web page for other prices and hours, because sometimes they’re open later

MAP

ILLUMILLIONS THEME PARK

This park seems like it’s gotten less thrilling over time, but if you haven’t been, it’s still a fun place to walk around and get your fill of LED goodness

The undersea-themed parts of the park are unchanged, but still worth seeing if you haven’t been before

And you can climb a gentle hill between rows of “cherry trees” all decked out in pink and white lights…

…to a pavilion where the Grand Pooh-bah of all cherry trees cycles through pink and white and gold

I haven’t seen the newest additions for 2019 yet (so this photo is from their website) but it looks like they’ve “planted” a new garden of electric floral delights…

…and refreshed the animal area (photo also from the Sagamiko Illumillions website)

They always have some incidental lit-up pieces, like this Xmas tree, which are great for taking snaps

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). Tips & tricks for getting there are here, and be sure to dress warmly because it gets hella cold up on the side of the hill.

Dates: November 2 – April 5 (open every day until January 8, closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays from Jan 8 – Mar 12)

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

Admission: ¥1000

MAP

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