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Every year, in every season: These lovely Tokyo sites light up at night

Senso-ji pagoda and Skytree lit up at night

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 free!

TIMELESS BEAUTIES

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

Kanda Myojin shrine lit up at night
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

Hanazono shrine lit up at night
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

LANDMARKS

Tokyo Tower in Kamiya-cho

Tokyo Tower lit up at twilight
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.
Tokyo Tower lit up in pink and blue at night
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 lit up at night in the rain
Tokyo Tower is even pretty awsome in the rain

Skytree near Asakusa

The Sumida River at night with skytree and a pleasure boat
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

Odaiba skyline lit up at night with pleasure boats
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
View of the Tokyo skyline at night from the Rainbow Bridge
And from the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, the city skyline, with our old friend Tokyo Tower

Sumida River bridges

Sumida River bridge lit up at night with a pleasure boat
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

Giant Gundam Unicorn lit up at night
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

NEON NEIGHBORHOODS

Just walking the streets through some of Tokyo’s neighborhoods at night is an entertaining experience.

Kabuki-chō, Shinjuku’s red light district

Kabukicho crossing lit up at night in the rain
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?)
Author Jonelle Patrick at the Robot Restaurant
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

Akihabara street lit up at night
The busy backstreets of Akihabara attract a different crowd, with gaming and maid cafes lighting up the night
Blue neon lines art piece in Akihabara sidewalk and fountain
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

Odaiba

View of the Rainbow Bridge from Odaiba with many lit up pleasure boats
If you head over the Rainbow Bridge to see Odaiba lit up at night, be sure to stop by the Giant Gundam, check out the view from the huge ferris wheel near Borderless, and stroll along the boardwalk at the Decks mall or down along the beach to see the pleasure boats setting out around 19:00

Asakusa

Old fashioned street in Asakusa lit up at night
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 these.

Winter: DEC-FEB

Tokyo Midtown winter illuminations Skylight Garden
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
Plum trees lit up at night at Yushima Tenjin shrine
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

Spring: MAR-MAY

Cherry blossom illuminations Mt. Fuji at Tokyo Midtown
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)
Cherry trees in full bloom at Imperial Palace Moat Chidorigafuchi lit up at night with boats
Not to mention the real deal – here are the best places to see REAL cherry blossoms lit up at night
Wisteria lit up at night at Kameido Tenjin shrine with purple Skytree
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
Giant blooming wisteria lit up at night at Ashikaga Flower Park
Here’s where to see the best wisteria in Tokyo, including the Ashikaga Flower Park, which lights them up most gloriously
Lighted dome art piece at Roppongi Art Night
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: JUN-AUG

Fog and rock garden summer illumination at Tokyo Midtown
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
Lanterns and bonfire at toro nagashi event, Shinobazu Pond, Asakusa
On one warm night every JULY, flickering lanterns are launched in Asakusa’s Shinobazu Pond for the toro nagashi ceremony, but if you’re not there on that exact day, there are other places to see this lovely summertime event in Tokyo too, stretching into AUGUST
Summer fireworks in Kita-senju
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.

Autumn: SEP-NOV

Oeshiki Ikegami parade of ten thousand lanterns in Tokyo
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
Ichou namiki ginkgo trees with autumn leaves lit up at night at Showa Kinen Park
Not to be outdone, the autumn leaves get their turn lit up at night at several gardens around Tokyo
Tea house lit up at night with autumn leaves reflecting in pond at Showa Kinen Park
Nice way to spend an evening, don’t you think?
Egg art piece at Yokohama Smart Illumination
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

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Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, the monthly Japanagram newsletter, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

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!

4 thoughts on “Every year, in every season: These lovely Tokyo sites light up at night Leave a comment

  1. 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!

    • 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!

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