For the entire month of April 2023, the glorious cherry trees of Shinjuku Gyouen National Garden are lit up in ever-changing colors, turning Tokyo’s grandest park into a springtime wonderland.
I went early in the month, so the crowd was hanami-huge, but it didn’t feel crowded because the area that’s lit up is so massive.
And the projection mapping lights are so intense, even the trees that had finished blooming still looked as beautiful as the ones laden with blossoms.
Its the only place in Tokyo where hanami season lasts all month!
But there’s more to this event than just wandering around ogling the trees. As you enter, you can pick up one of the projection lanterns at the stand near the entrance, and become part of the show yourself.
The lanterns project several different designs, and the bobbing lights carried by guests add to the magical atmosphere as everyone wanders around the garden.
The lighting is utterly dynamic, cycling through an array of spring colors that you can watch from outside…
…, or stand under the trees and feel them pulse all around you.
The dandelion is a recurring theme from the “Naked” group that designed this event, dating back to when they first became known for their “Flowers by Naked” immersive digital floral environments, athough this is the first time I’ve seen it as an 3-D installation. In this incarnation, the sculptural “plants” are connected to a terminal that interacts with visitors’ smartphones to create the ever-expanding projections at their base.
This video gives you a little better idea…
There was also a stand of trees where projections of falling petals created the illusion of the “pink snow” so cherished by hanami lovers.
But amid all the brilliant colors and cutting-edge technology, one of the best parts of this event was being outside under big trees on a pleasant spring evening, enjoying one of my favorite gardens under the light of the moon.
When: Through April 31, 2023
Where: Shinjuku Gyouen National Garden
Hours: 19:00 – 21:00
Admission: Mon-Thur ¥1600, Fri-Sun ¥1800
You need to buy your ticket online in advance, because park entry depends on an attendant scanning the ticket’s QR code on your smartphone. You can buy tickets here, and they are not specific to any particular date. You can use them only once, but they are good on any night in April.
If you could use more fabulous things lit up at night in your life…
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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