Christmas Illuminations

Christmas IlluminationsChristmas is celebrated in Japan with pretty decorations and sparkling lights. And lots of them. Large displays of lights, called “Illuminations” are found throughout Japan in small cities as well as the larger ones. The larger cities bring in well-known designers from around the world to create original displays. Don’t pass up these displays if you are traveling Japan during the Christmas holidays.

Local displays

Most small cities have a rather extensive show of lights on the main boulevard. In the Western Japan city of Okayama (population 600,000) for example, the annual “Okayama Fantasy” features light displays up and down Momotaro-dori, the central road leading from Okayama train station to Okayama Castle. And I’m not talking strings of little twinkly lights; these are very large displays reflecting a modern techno-Christmas atmosphere. For example, an abstract “Christmas tree” could also be a candy gum drop, depending on the angle you view it from. Small cities will start their light displays in November and some may leave them up through the end of January.

In December in Hakata (Fukuoka), Kyushu, see the “Dancing Water Show” at Sun Plaza Stage, complete with snow and reindeer (pictured). The Christmas tree display, called “Chandelier of the forest,” is an environmentally friendly display that uses LED Christmas lights.

Sapporo White Illumination Nov 17 – Feb 12th

For 27 years Sapporo has offered this illumination of winter snow in front of Sapporo station and also in Odori Park. (Japanese only)

Tokyo (December, through Christmas Day)

Tokyo offers illuminations in Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi Hills, Marunouchi, Ebisu, and Odaiba. In the Ginza district, Christmas trees line the street and most stores have a Christmas display in their window.

Kobe “Luminarie”, From Dec. 6

This is perhaps the biggest illumination in all of Japan, and is very well-known. Kobe Luminarie was started in commemoration of the Kobe earthquake in 1995. The earthquake was in January, but to get the most out of the Christmas influence, the event is held in December every year.

Amy Chavez is author of Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won’t tell you” She is a columnist for The Japan Times, co-hosts the Planet Japan podcast. Visit her website at