Winter Illumination Wonders of Japan

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We hope you all (in the USA at least) had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend — we sure did!

Today, let’s step halfway across the world to welcome winter, with enchanting illuminations!

(Did you miss our earlier post on Kyoto? Click here!)

Here in Portland every year the city rolls out its annual light parade, complete with floats, installations, sculptures, performances—even lectures on Light itself at the science museum! But did you know that, across the Pacific ocean, Japan also goes all out with the wintry lights? And we’re not talking a couple of small towns, or even just Tokyo—dozens of cities all over the nation have gotten caught up with the illuminations craze. So if you’re in Japan this winter, be sure to catch the closest one near you! 

Kobe is just 1.5 hours by train from Kyoto, and each year the town lights up its streets in memory. This Italian-designed festival has its origins in 1995, after the devastating Kobe earthquake shook the region. To commemorate the memories of those fallen, the city put up small lights as emblems of hope. The Festival, which takes place in December, is one of the biggest and brightest in Japan, with over 200,000 hand-painted lights!

How to get there: A shuttle bus connects Okaba Station and Kobe Fruit And Flower Park, the site for the festival.

Nabana No Sato

This gorgeous light installation is located in Mie Prefecture, 3 hours by bullet train from Tokyo. The Winter Lights come to life in Nabana No Sato, a flower-themed park in Kuwana City. If you’re visiting Japan anytime from mid-November to mid-March, stop by town to view one of the most spectacular views this summer. It makes a great stop on the way to Kyoto on the shinkansen. Eight million LED lights illuminate the park, with a theme that changes from year to year. There are light sculptures of Mt. Fuji or Niagara Falls, a foot bath, hot springs, and the famous Kawazu Sakura light tunnel spanning 100 meters long with around 700,000 pink LED lights!

How to get there: Take the Kintetsu line from Nagoya to Nagashima and get off at Nabana no Sato station.

Toki No Sumika

The Toki No Sumika hotel, in Shizuoka Prefecture, throws a light party with decorations and bright sculptures. Don’t miss the 450-meter twinkling tunnel and spectacular dancing water fountain.

How to Get There: The hotel operates a 30-min shuttle bus from JR Gotemba Station. 

Tokyo German Village Winter Illumination

Just a short train ride from Tokyo Central is the German Village, with European-style buildings. If you want a bit of Bavaria in Asia, there’s no better place than this little town. The dazzling lights bring magic to the air, with fun rides to cheer the heart and German food to warm the belly.

How to get there: A shuttle bus service runs between Tokyo’s Sodeguara Station and Tokyo German Village.

light kyoto illumination

Kyoto Illumière

Kyoto dresses up in its glittering kimono in March and December. The series of light fetes, called Hanatoro, illuminate the streets with thousands of lanterns and flower and light displays.

How to get there: Shinkansen from Tokyo

Abeno Tennoji Illuminate

Osaka’s Tennoji Zoo opens up its gates at night for the “illumination zoo,” with light sculptures of various animals: pandas, giraffes, and more, and a rainbow tunnel.

How to get there: Osaka Subway’s Midosuji or Sakaisuji lines will take you to Dobutsuen-mae Station, the stop for the zoo.

Huis Ten Bosch

Nagasaki’s crazy Huis Ten Bosch theme park wraps its buildings and gardens all up in lights, and impressive 3-D projection mapping performances. There’s even a neon boat over Technicolor water!

How to get there: Take Nagasaki’s subway to Huis Ten Bosch station on the Omura Line.

For more gorgeous displays (with photos!) click here.  Photos courtesy of

Thinking about Asia for 2017? Let us help realize your dream vacation! Call to chat with one of our expert agents: 503-224-0180 or email

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