Christmas is just around the corner and Tokyo exudes the holiday vibe at every corner. It’s not surprising that Japanese have embraced Christmas with the same enthusiasm as any other western holiday.
The interesting fact is that most Japanese families do not decorate their homes with Christmas lights, a tree or ornaments. With shoebox sized apartments, these holiday staples are just not a possibility. Thus the large number of public light displays that are called “illuminations” here. All major cities will typically have at least one big site dedicated solely to illuminations. Tokyo, of course, has many.
Just like previous years, Japan’s capital didn’t disappoint this holiday season and captured the festive soul of holiday cheers with shimmering lights adorning the city scape, roasted chestnuts overflowing in the Christmas markets and glühwein to warm even the coolest of nights. In keeping with the spirit of the season, I am counting down to Christmas by sharing with you some of my top picks for Christmas illuminations as well as festive markets in Tokyo.
Hibiya Park Christmas Market
This cozy German-style Christmas market will not only spoil you with the usual German fare, but also features a 14m-high traditional ‘Christmas Pyramid’ imported straight from Seiffen, Germany’s renowned Christmas craft town with a history of woodcrafts dating back to the late 1800s. You can pick up a wreath, ornaments or even try your hand at making your own, as they hold craft workshops. Location: Hibiya Park, Hibiya | Dates: December 15th-25th, 2017
Roppongi Hills Christmas Market & Illuminations
Set-up within the Roppongi Hills shopping center, this one will make all your German Christmas market dreams come true: bier, sausage, mug of mulled wine and a snow globe will not disappoint. Combine it with a visit to the ‘Artelligent Christmas’ illuminations display within the same complex. The lights along the avenue change from bright blue to red every minutes, so make sure you linger around for those stunning photos. Tokyo Tower in the background doesn’t hurt either. Location: Roppongi Hills, Roppongi | Dates: Until December 25th, 2017
Tokyo Midtown Marché de Noël
While in Roppongi, take a walk to Tokyo Midtown which gets into the seasonal mood with the annual market, held on the first basement floor of the Galleria shopping zone. The wares range from ornaments and tableware to seasonal sweets and gift items. Most importantly, don’t miss the gorgeous Christmas lighting outside – the illumination show around Midtown’s lawn is guaranteed to wow.
Every year the outdoor courtyard of Carreta is transformed into a valley of around 270,000 LED lights. Expect hourly illumination and music shows running every 20 minutes from 17:00 till 23:00. At the end of every show public is allowed to walk through this glittery wonderland and take family photos by the Christmas tree. This illumination display will stay up until Valentine’s Day.
Blue Cavern in Shibuya
Backstreets of Shibuya will be engulfed in a mysterious glow like a blue cavern till New Year’s Eve. Set up along a 750m stretch covering Koen-dori all the way to Yoyogi Park, thousands of blue LEDs reflect off the ground to create an immersive light-up experience.
Marunouchi Naka-dori & Kitte
Marunouchi Naka-dori, is currently lit up with countless champagne-colored bulbs, transforming this major business hub into a magical scene. Just strolling down the glittering street, which is lined with fancy boutiques and cafés, makes for a nice post-dinner date option. Also not to be missed is Kitte shopping center next to the Tokyo station which has a gorgeous Christmas tree illuminated in multiple colors.
With multiple boutiques attracting shoppers with winter sales, Omotesando is turned into not only a great place to shop, but also a quite festive street to stroll along. The Omotesando illumination is back with some 900,000 champagne-colored LED lights shrouding the zelkova trees that run between the Jingumae and Omotesando crossings. And while at it, pop into Omotesando Hills to view their Christmas tree decorated with 30,000 colorful bulbs.
The same street that attracts millions of visitors during Cherry Blossom season, is now transformed into a Christmas wonderland with endless row of orange-gold and snowy white LED lights. You’ll enjoy some food vendors or pop into one of many trendy cafes along the Meguro River.
Shinjuku Terrace City Illuminations
The entire area around JR Shinjuku Station is decorated with gentle, pink lights making you feel warm even in the coldest of nights. Available till Feb 22, 2018, 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
Tokyo Tower Winter Fantasy
A giant 60-year-old natural Christmas tree is awaiting visitors at the foot town of the tower, Tokyo’s number one indisputable symbol. They also have a winter-themed display up on the observation deck.
Tokyo SkyTree Christmas Market
Speaking of towers, the garden on the fourth floor at Tokyo SkyTree is now lit up for winter, as well as a projection mapping show for you to enjoy. The SkyTree itself will be lit up in festive Christmas colors from 4:30 pm till midnight of December 25th. Meanwhile, the market offers German ornaments and decorations, lights, hot wine, stollen, premium beer, and sausage.
Yebisu Garden Place
Check out the beautiful Christmas tree by the stalls of the European-style Christmas market and head into the shopping complex for a look at the illuminations display, including the impressive 5m x 3m Baccarat chandelier. You can also find an ice skating rink on site until February 23rd, 2018 (11am-8pm, last entry 7:30pm). Location: Yebisu Garden Place, Ebisu | Dates: Until December 25th, 2017 (shopping complex illuminations until January 8th, 2018)
Odaiba is always a perfect spot for family getaways, and Christmas time is not an exception. don’t miss on the Yakei Illumination at Decks with the 20-meter-high Daiba Memorial Tree, the heart-shaped statue – which allows you to take a rare triple-shot of Tokyo’s city lights – Rainbow Bridge and the Illusion Dome. Aqua City Odaiba also hosts an ice skating rink with the theme of Tokyo Resort Xmas, where images of snow crystals are beautifully reflected on the rink and visitors can enjoy an entertaining show with shiny lights and music.
Showa Kinen Park Winter Vista Illumination
Another perfect place for the families to spend a magical night at. The Showa Memorial Park, one of the largest and most beautiful Tokyo parks, is displaying a special illumination themed “four seasons.” The entire park is lit up in splendid lights, although a real piece de resistance is the fascinating Christmas tree built from thousands of champagne glasses at the center of the park. You can also enjoy fireworks and candle towers until Dec 25, 2017, 5 p.m.-9 p.m..
Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market
Apart from stalls with good bratwurst and even better Glühwein, there are also a bunch of craft workshops, as well as meet and greets with Santa for the kids every Wednesday and Saturday. It’s a great place to visit for shopping, eating and sightseeing, as well as to experience a true festive feeling under the giant Christmas tree. For even more winter holiday fun, head to the adjacent ‘Art Rink’, an open-air ice skating rink on until February 18th, 2018. Location: Minato Mirai, Yokohama | Dates: Until December 25th, 2017.
Yomiuri Land Jewellumination
This amusement park, located less than an hour away west of Shinjuku Station on the Odakyu Line, is decked out for Christmas with 4-million LED lights by Motoko Ishii – a famous Japanese lighting designer. Display features 8 types of LED lighting in 30 gemstone-inspired shades that you can’t see anywhere else in the world, and you can enjoy these brilliant lights along with expansive views of the Tokyo nightscape all in one place. Dates: Until February 18th, 2018.
I hope this list was helpful and you’ll have a chance to check out some of these stunning spots if you’re in town. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more inspiration and tag me in your photos. Enjoy!