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!
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.
Dates: November 14 – December 25
Hours: 17:00 – 24:00 (special shows every :15)
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.
November 13 – February 26
16:00 – 24:00
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”
Dates: November 14 – February 14 (closed January 1-2)
Hours: 17:00 – 23:00 (18:00 – 23:00 after January 1)
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
Dates: November 26 – December 25
Hours: 17:00 – 23:00
EBISU GARDEN PLACE
Dates: November 3 – February 13
Hours: 16:00 – 24:00
Same as last year, but still delightful
SHIBUYA “BLUE CAVERN”
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
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.
Dates: November 8 – January 5
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
SHINJUKU SOUTHERN TERRACE
Dates: November 5 – February 14
Hours: 17:00 – 24:00
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:
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.
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
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
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)
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
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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!