One of the most entertaining things you can do in Tokyo is wander around the city after the sun goes down, if you know where to look. The wizards of stagecraft have worked their magic all over town, and all kinds of interesting stuff lights up after dark, in dramatic and technologically inventive ways. And ogling everything from traditional temples to crazy giant robots is something everyone can enjoy, because even if you’re a woman, Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world.
Plus, this gorgeous stuff is all
Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa
At night the crowds have deserted the most-visited temple in Asakusa, and it’s lit up like a diva on stage
Kanda Myojin shrine in Akihabara
This fabulous red and gold shrine is sacred to anime and manga artists by day, but by night it’s the darling of photographers
Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku
This shrine is open all night long, to cater to the Kabuki-cho district entertainers whose day starts at sundown and doesn’t end until dawn
Tokyo Tower in Kamiya-cho
Tokyo Tower is the locally-beloved copy of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (only it’s orange, and slightly taller) and you can catch a glimpse of it from all over Tokyo.
And if it’s cheery orangeness wasn’t enough, on Friday and Saturday nights from 20:00-24:00 it’s lit up in all kinds of other colors, according to the occasion. You can find out what special light-ups are scheduled on the handy Tokyo Tower light-up calendar
Tokyo Tower is even pretty awsome in the rain
Skytree near Asakusa
That big needle-ish thing is Skytree, Tokyo’s latest tall thing, and while I personally abhor the way it photobombs pretty much every Tokyo snapshot, it does light up every night and change colors with the seasons. Here’s the Skytree light-up calendar
The Rainbow Bridge spanning Tokyo Bay between Shibaura and Odaiba
If you walk across the Rainbow Bridge from Tamachi Station to Odaiba at sunset, you’ll get to feast your eyes on this ever-changing lightshow of a view
And from the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, the city skyline, with our old friend Tokyo Tower
Sumida River bridges
The many bridges spanning the Sumida River are lit up in lovely ways, and there are brightly-lit pleasure boats steaming up and down most evenings. You can see them all from the nice pedestrian walkway that borders the river
Giant Gundam robot in Odaiba
The famous five-story Unicorn Gundam robot outside the DiverCity mall in Odaiba lights up at night, and transforms from Unicorn to Destroy mode at the light and sound show that happens every 30 minutes from 19:30 – 21:30
Just walking the streets through some of Tokyo’s neighborhoods at night is an entertaining experience.
Kabuki-chō , Shinjuku’s red light district
You’ll practically need sunglasses at midnight to stroll through the neon alleys of Kabuki-chō, Shinjuku’s adult entertainment district. (See how much more beautiful it is in the rain?)
The bars and clubs are all crazy bright and busy, and even I couldn’t resist going to the Robot Restaurant at least once!
Akihabara , the electronics district
The busy backstreets of Akihabara attract a different crowd, with gaming and maid cafes lighting up the night
And if you don’t have anywhere special to go, follow the Blue Lines as they chart a path up the stairs, through the fountains, and between the skyscrapers
If you head over the Rainbow Bridge to see Odaiba lit up at night, be sure to stop by the Giant Gundam, then stroll along the boardwalk at the Decks mall or down along the beach to see the pleasure boats setting out around 19:00
And a neighborhood doesn’t have to be modern to be lively at night – Asakusa is gorgeous in a more cozy and old-fashioned way when the sun goes down and the lights come on
SEASONAL DELIGHTS & EVENTS, ALL YEAR LONG
Cherry blossom season is when everybody thinks they should come to Japan, but if you come (with all the other hordes) in the spring, you’ll miss
The winter illuminations all over Tokyo are one of the best free attractions all year! Here’s where & when to see the best holiday lights in Tokyo
Before any other flowers bloom in the spring, the plums burst forth for the whole month of February! Yushima Tenjin shrine has begun to light them up at night, and they’re well worth seeing, because the shrine itself is so gorgeous
Not to be outdone, spring brings cherry blossom-themed light-ups all over town in March and April. (This one was at Tokyo Midtown, and you can check check their event schedule as the season draws near)
Not to mention the real deal – here are the best places to see REAL cherry blossoms lit up at night
MAY brings out the wisteria in incredible lavender profusion, and you can get a twofer at the Kameido Tenjin shrine, with the vines all lit up and a purple Skytree all photobombing in the background
Here’s where to see the best wisteria in Tokyo, including the Ashikaga Flower Park, which lights them up most gloriously
In MAY, there’s an all-night art event called Roppongi Art Night that features international artists who specialize in pieces that light up the night
Summer has its own charms, like this installation at Tokyo Midtown, where visitors could dangle their bare feet into cooling mist and watch a fog-and-light show while sipping alcoholic slushies. You can check Tokyo Midtown’s event schedule as the season draws near
On one warm night every JULY, flickering lanterns are launched in Asakusa’s Shinobazu Pond for the , but if you’re not there on that exact day, there are toro nagashi ceremony other places to see this lovely summertime event in Tokyo too, stretching into AUGUST
In Japan, fireworks aren’t just for Fourth of July, Bastille Day or New Year’s! There’s a whole summer season that runs from JULY-AUGUST, and the displays will knock your socks off.
Every OCTOBER, the Ikegami Hongan-ji temple hosts a Parade of 10,000 Lanterns, and meticulously-crafted models of every Nichren temple’s pagodas are paraded through the streets at night, festooned with flowers
Not to be outdone, the autumn leaves get their turn lit up at night at several gardens around Tokyo
Nice way to spend an evening, don’t you think?
At the end of OCTOBER/early NOVEMBER, artists transform Yokohama’s entire waterfront into a fabulous lit-up outdoor museum for the Yokohama Smart Illuminations
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it… read more
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.”
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had
4 thoughts on “These lovely Tokyo sites light up at night”
Very nice pictures! I love night photos of Tokyo as it becomes a completely different place. Your picture of Yushima Tenjin with its plum blossoms is my favourite 🙂
Thank you for such kind words about the night photos! And yeah, those plum blossoms at night at Yushima Tenjin – don’t you think that shrine is the most gorgeous shrine in Tokyo? And it’s never crowded with busloads of foreign tourists, because there’s no parking and it’s not near anything else of guidebook-ish interest. I think this plum light-up will be a choice sight for years to come!
Great Post. Tokyo is one of those cities that was built for night time.
Soooo true! It sounds like you’ve enjoyed these yourownyourself! I love how safe it is to walk around Tokyo at night, and how so many neighborhoods look spectacular, even without seasonal decorations. Hope you get to explore a lot more!