The holiday season is underway in Japan meaning the nights are now bright with dazzling nighttime “illuminations” or light displays. Don’t know where to go? Start with our latest travel guide to the best spots in each of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
From Hokkaido to Okinawa, there’s everything from tunnels of lights, gently illuminated rice terraces overlooking the Sea of Japan, and even an entire theme park drenched in lights. Numbered from 1 to 47 based on region, travel with us from north to southwest Japan for our list of the best illumination destinations across the country for 2018-2019.
Hokkaido and Tohoku
1. Hokkaido Prefecture: White Illumination, Sapporo
Now in its 38th year, Sapporo’s White Illumination started the Japanese pastime of braving the cold to enjoy sparkly winter delights. What was once a display of 1,048 lights is now a grandiose spectacle of more than 780,00 bulbs! While you’re there, check out Munich Christmas Village, too.
2. Akita Prefecture: Tsuki no Ki Light Fantasy, Yokote
The symbol of Yokote, a 500-year-old zelkova tree, is transformed into a 40-meter-high Christmas tree wrapped in colorful lights during the winter months. Surrounding the tree, a designated natural monument by Akita Prefecture, are 35,000 LED lights that create a romantic atmosphere.
3. Aomori Prefecture: Arts Towada Winter Illumination, Towada
The art square in front of Towada Art Center is illuminated by soothing blue lights that are sure to make you feel relaxed. Grab a complimentary hot drink or cocktail and walk along a carpet of more than 300,000 LED lights. As Christmas approaches, nearby bars and pubs offer seasonal specialties like ice cream cocktails and festive sandwiches.
4. Fukushima Prefecture: Lovers’ Xmas Happy Tree, Date
Some 150,000 lights decorate the 55 zelkova trees that line the 333-meter-long Jinya Dori (street). Date (pronounced “da-tay”) was one of the cities devastated by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake but has seen a recent uptick in visitors, and residents consider this event as a symbol of recovery and hope.
5. Iwate Prefecture: Koiwai Winter Illumination, Koiwai
The largest display of winter lights in the Tohoku region takes place on Koiwai Farm, a 3,000-hectare property famed for its dairy products. Visit on a Saturday and you’ll be treated to fireworks as well as the display of 1,250,000 lights. Warm up with a cup of hot soup or a drink made with farm-fresh ingredients.
6. Miyagi Prefecture: Sendai Pageant of Starlight, Sendai
This dazzling display in the center of Sendai is a virtual tunnel of light created by the 160 zelkova trees that line Jozen-ji Dori and Aoba Dori. Don’t miss the parade of Santas and reindeer that march through the 600,000 lights on Dec. 23.
7. Yamagata Prefecture: Snow Monster Light Up, Zao
A different take on illuminations, Yamagata’s signature winter event is not a cityscape bathed in lights, but rather trees layered in a thick coating of snow and lit in a soft glow. Known as juhyo, these “snow monsters” form when a precise combination of strong winds and snow cover the trees completely. Enjoy the view from a gondola or a restaurant in this hot spring resort village of Zao.
8. Gunma Prefecture: Lake Haruna Illumination Festival, Lake Haruna
Some 130,000 people flock yearly to this idyllic light up to be dazzled by the brilliant nocturnal displays in Gunma prefecture a few hours from Tokyo. Lake Haruna’s got it all — a tunnel of light and a Christmas tree made from more than 550,00 LED bulbs, Japan’s largest laser light show, plus fireworks.
9. Tochigi Prefecture: Christmas Fantasy, Ashikaga
Ashikaga Flower Park is known for its 150-year-old great wisteria tree, but in the winter LED lights are hung from the garden’s many wisteria lattices. Four million lights decorate the garden and you can even enjoy some displays synchronized to music.
10. Ibaraki Prefecture: Suigo Sakura Art Illumination, Tsuchiura
A brightly lit windmill takes center stage in this vibrant display, which is made up of more than 220,000 LED lights. Further invoking the charm of the Netherlands are rows of its national flower, the tulip, lining the pathways as LED lights.
11. Saitama Prefecture: White Lantasia Night Illumination, Tokorozawa
Approaching its ninth year, the illuminations at Seibuen Amusement Park are a luminescent adventure featuring 3.5 million LED lights. This year’s theme is a “World of Snow and Ice.” PS – If you are up for another adventure in Saitama, go for this spectacular icicle illumination.
12. Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area: Meguro River Minna-no Illumination, Meguro
In spring, Meguro River is colored by cherry blossoms, but in winter, take a stroll along the river for a relaxed illumination experience. Gotanda Fureai Waterside Square and the cherry tree-lined streets along the Meguro River will be decorated with pale pink LED lighting to show fuyu-no-sakura (cherry blossoms in winter). All electricity is recycled from used cooking oil collected from neighboring households and restaurants. How cool is that?
13. Chiba Prefecture: Country Farm Tokyo German Village Winter Illumination, Sodegaura
While you can enjoy traditional German meals and drinks here throughout the year, it’s in winter that this place shines. The village in Chiba is an expansive area that is almost 20 times the size of Tokyo Dome, where nearly everything is decked out in 3 million brilliant lights — including the food. Don’t miss out on the illuminated lollipop!
14. Kanagawa Prefecture: Sagamiko Illumillion, Sagami Lake Resort Pleasure Forest
Head south of Tokyo for a fantastical light display in a forest, including an amusement park, camping and barbecue facilities, a day spa as well as the outdoor Sagami Lake Resort. There are 21 illumination spots in all, and each has its own theme and even lighted rides. Needless to say, it’s worth a day trip or more.
15. Aichi prefecture: Laguna’s Brightest Winter Ever, Gamagori
Laguna Ten Bosch is a resort complex resort boasting a theme park, shopping mall and spas. Once you’ve gotten your fill of amusement and relaxation, stick around for the fireworks, illuminations, water projection mapping show and musical light performance.
16. Gifu Prefecture: Winter Romantic Fantasy, Kaizu
One of Japan’s largest national parks, Kiso Sansen Park spans three prefectures: Aichi, Gifu and Mie. The park’s visitor center, located in Gifu, comes alive with a magnificent display of 500,000 lights. Head to the top of the 65-meter-tall observation tower for the best view of the brightly decorated landscape.
17. Ishikawa Prefecture: Aze no Kirameki, Wajima
Designated as one of Japan’s Top 100 Rice Terraces, Shiroyone Senmaida glows beautifully with 21,000 solar LED lights that change color every 15-30 minutes to represent the seasons of Wajima. Its 1,000 rice paddies seemingly flow into the sea and flicker off the water’s surface when illuminated.
18. Nagano Prefecture: Twin Illumination Forest of Light Pageant, Omachi
Sitting 3,000 meters above sea level, the Alps Azumino Park is decorated with more than 70,000 lights in a fantastic winter display that covers the park’s Hotaka and Omachi area parks. The theme of its winter display changes yearly, but this year’s theme is “1000 Lights of the Alps.”
19. Niigata Prefecture: Echigo Hillside Winter Illumination, Nagaoka
Experience the wonders of both snow and light at this two-week winter celebration in Niigata (a prefecture named GaijinPot’s No. 1 travel destination for 2018.) The highlight of this festive outdoor display is an illuminated Christmas tree standing six meters tall and made entirely of champagne glasses! Visit on Dec. 1 to see the Nagaoka Fireworks Winter Fantasy, an hour-long fireworks display set to the tune of hit Japanese songs.
20. Shizuoka Prefecture: Toki No Sumika Winter Illumination and Light of Versailles, Gotemba
Be mesmerized as you walk through the 450-meter-long Tunnel of Light. However, its Light of Versailles laser and water fountain show takes center stage. During the magnificent 15-minute show, water from the fountain reaches as high as 70 meters, so be sure to bring an umbrella with you!
21. Toyama Prefecture: Toyama Snowpiad White Illumination, Toyama
The one kilometer stretch from Toyama Station to Joushi Odori is transformed into a dazzling work of art created by 130,000 light bulbs. For the perfect photo spot, head to the Snow Crystal located on the canal of Toyama Castle.
22. Yamanashi Prefecture: Pageant of Light, Hokuto
You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Europe as you walk among buildings that tastefully recreate the feeling of Christmas in Switzerland. Six hundred lights softly illuminate a church while the Swiss forest and rose garden glow with the colors of winter.
23. Mie Prefecture: Nabana no Sato Illumination, Kuwana
No winter illumination display is complete without a tunnel of lights, right? Well, at Nabana no Sato you can experience two of Japan’s greatest tunnels, starting with a 200-meter-long tunnel illuminated by 1.2 million light bulbs. The Kawazu Sakura light tunnel, 100 meters long and decked out in 700,000 pink LED lights, is a must-see for couples (and selfie takers). This location is included in GaijinPot Travel’s Top 10 Destinations of 2019!
24. Nara Prefecture: Festival of Light, Tenri
Under the theme of “Light and Music,” Nara Prefecture’s largest illumination display is made up of 260,000 lights that radiate in Tainoshoike Park. Animals and trees make up a large portion of the display and you’ll feel as if you’re on a midnight safari.
25. Wakayama Prefecture: Festa Luce, Wakayama
Italian for “Festival of Light,” Festa Luce promises you a taste of an authentic European Christmas experience. Among the attractions on the entertainment complex are a Christmas market, a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round — all covered in lights, of course!
26. Rohm Illumination, Kyoto
Kyoto’s largest winter illumination display is a spectacular “circus of lights” of 860,000 bulbs twinkling across the spacious headquarters of Rohm Semiconductors.
Starting at the event’s symbolic gateway, twin 10-meter tall wax myrtles made entirely of lights, make your way down the Promenade of Light, a row of 20 trees draped elegantly in lights. Head to the Crystal Garden of Lights to be entertained by live performances and projection shows.
27. Osaka Prefecture: Festival of the Lights, Osaka
Osaka’s winter illuminations are actually two different events — the Midosuji Illumination and Osaka Hikari-Renaissance. A must-see is Osaka City Hall, which becomes the stage for a light and music show of 3D-projected images.
28. Hyogo Prefecture: Kobe Luminarie 2018, Kobe
A memorial held in honor of the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, this winter event welcomes 3-to-4 million visitors each year. The streets leading up to Motomachi Station turn into a pedestrian paradise and street vendors set up stalls selling hot drinks and comforting snacks.
29. Shiga Prefecture: Rose Fantasy Garden of Lights, Lake Biwa Otsukan
The 1.5-acre English garden on the grounds surrounding Lake Biwa becomes the perfect date spot each winter, lit up by 100,000 lights. This year’s theme is the romantic “Rose Fantasy Garden of Lights.”
30. Fukui Prefecture: Tsuruga Bay Illumination Miraie, Tsuruga
The area facing Tsuruga Bay is bright with 450,000 LED lights that shimmer off the water’s surface. This is perhaps Japan’s most environmentally friendly illumination display as it’s all powered by used cooking oil refined into biodiesel fuel.
31. Hiroshima Prefecture: Bihoku Illumination, Shobara
With 700,000 colorful LED lights illuminating the grounds of the expansive Bihoku Hillside Park, this is a sight to see! This display is one of the best-known illuminations in the area, attracting visitors from as far as Hiroshima City.
32. Okayama Prefecture: Kurashiki Kirameki No Michi, Kurashiki
Visit a few spots in the quaint city of Kurashiki to see a span of lights from Kurashiki Mirai Park to JR Kurashiki Station’s northern pedestrian deck. Visitors will see about 150,000 lights and a bamboo display. The unique bamboo lights display is made by citizens and is located at the north entrance of the station.
33. Shimane Prefecture: Autumn and Winter Illumination, Matsue
Nearly 1 million computerized lights create a gorgeous display. At the area known as “Jipangu, the Golden Islands,” you will be greeted by a brightly lit torii (gate), Mt. Fuji and a brilliant tunnel of lights. The Rainbow Reflecting Pool shines in the light of seven colors, each representing a gemstone.
34. Tottori Prefecture: Flower Illumination, Nanbu
More than 1.5 million lights illuminate one of Japan’s largest flower parks in an unforgettable winter display. Practically every inch of the park is covered in brilliant lights that allow for photogenic spots wherever you turn. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the chance to explore the rest of Tottori, which has been named the GaijinPot Travel Top Destination in Japan for 2019.
35. Yamaguchi Prefecture: Tokiwa Fantasia 2018, Ube
The largest illumination display in west Japan takes place at Tokiwa Park where artists compete to create new and dazzling works. The illuminated Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and rollercoaster are crowd favorites. Visit on Christmas to enjoy a wonderful gospel performance and a chance to win prizes in the lottery.
36. Ehime Prefecture: Minetopia Besshi Illumination, Niihama
What was once a copper mine discovered in 1690 and fully operational until 1973 is now an amusement park that takes on a different form come winter. More than 100,000 lights illuminate the mine and its former hydroelectric power station.
37. Kagawa Prefecture: Winter Fantasy, Nakatado
One of the largest scale illuminations in the Shikoku area is here at Sanuki Mannou Park. Each area of the park is decorated in a total of 550,000 light bulbs that create an unforgettable experience. You will be mesmerized by the works of art created on the hills.
38. Kochi Prefecture: Illuminations Festa, Kochi
Standing tall in the center of Kochi Central Park is a 17-meter-tall Christmas tree surrounded by trees draped in 55,000 LED lights. A public group wedding is held on Dec. 1, followed by the light-up ceremony attended by the newlywed couples.
39. Tokushima Prefecture: Orono Art of Light, Tokushima
Tokushima leads the world in LED production, but this winter celebration is decidedly old school. Candlelight softly flickers in rice paddies covering several acres and small boats float downstream during the Orono Art of Light festival. In total, the light of 600 candles creates a mystical aura.
Kyushu And Okinawa
40. Fukuoka Prefecture: Uminaka Christmas Candle Night, Fukuoka City
This park, which juts out into the ocean west of Fukuoka, offers a unique event called Uminaka Christmas Candle Night. The artwork is made by 10,000 candles, creating a warm atmosphere. While you’re there, visit the Christmas workshop or try your hand at candle making.
41. Kumamoto Prefecture: Fantasy of Light, Arao
There are more than 100 scenic spots of illumination within this park. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel or have fun with the magically illuminated trick floor that transforms with each footstep. Not to be missed are the musical fountain light show and the Aurora Christmas Show which are held only on Dec. 23 to Dec. 25.
42. Nagasaki Prefecture: Kingdom of Lights, Sasebo
Arguably Japan’s most famous winter attraction, the Kingdom of Lights at the Dutch theme park Huis Ten Bosch is an incredible display of 13 million lights that cover every inch of the park. Bungee jump from the 20-meter-high platform to see the park in its luminescent glory.
43. Oita Prefecture: Oita Fantasy of Light, Oita
Oita light fantasy is an event to entice your senses: you will be entertained by a musical light show and 33-meter-long rainbow river of light on your way; the scents and tastes of hot drinks and snacks at the Christmas market are not to be missed.
44. Saga Prefecture: Saga Light Fantasy, Saga City
Stretching 1.2 kilometers through the city of Saga, Chuo Odori and its surroundings are decked out in more than 1.8 million LED lights. Its catchphrase is, “Saga in koi shiyou” (“fall in love with Saga”), and you will certainly fall in love with the city after being enchanted by this winter display.
45. Kagoshima Prefecture: Tenmonkan Millionation 2018, Kagoshima City
Kagoshima’s largest downtown area, Tenmonkan, is decorated with one million LED light bulbs during Christmas and New Year’s. The yearly theme for the illumination celebrates the cosmos, and its signature tunnel invokes the feeling of being in space.
46. Miyazaki Prefecture: Illumination Flower Garden —Secret Garden of Lights, Miyazaki City
Florante Miyazaki, a park of flowers and greenery, becomes a brilliant patchwork of lights every December. The rainbow colored tunnel is the perfect photo spot for families and couples. This is Miyazaki prefecture’s largest illumination display, transforming the landscape dotted with palm trees and tropical fruits and flowers into a winter wonderland.
47. Okinawa Prefecture: Itoman Peaceful Illumination, Itoman
Okinawa may not have the cold temperatures that the rest of Japan experiences, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t cuddle up with a loved one and enjoy the illuminations. Itoman, home of one of the most devastating battles of World War II, is beautifully decorated with 1.4 million lights, serving as a beacon of peace and goodwill.
If you visit one of these illuminations, tag us on your social media with #GaijinPotTravel for a chance to get featured in our monthly reader photos! For more illuminations, check out our Top 10 Winter Illuminations to See in Japan on GaijinPot Travel.