All About Japan

7 Must Visit Winter Illuminations Near Tokyo

Illumination Night Views

There is no brighter sign the holiday season in Japan is upon us than the arrival of Winter Illuminations. Well, besides Colonel Sanders dressed up like Santa Claus, that is. This year's slate of lights is truly bigger, better, and brighter than ever. Take a lovely nighttime stroll with us as we break down the Kanto region's top illumination spots.

Sagamiko Illumillion Pleasure Forest (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Fans of the classic anime rejoice! Sailor Moon is the 2021 theme at Sagamiko Illumillion Winter Illumination. Sailor Moon fans will recognize some familiar names and places as the attractions have been transformed. Even the food is Sailor Moon themed! Nearly six million LED lights brighten up the Kanagawa countryside, earning a place along with Ashikaga Flower Fantasy and Enoshima: The Jewel of Shonan as Kanto’s Big Three. There is plenty to see and plenty to do at this park; kid-friendly (and date-friendly) attractions will keep you occupied if you somehow manage to get bored of the stunning lights. Since you’re getting a bit outside of the big city, why not make a weekend out of it? Sagamiko Resort is wonderfully close to all kinds of cabins, cottages, camping, and onsen to thaw you out after a nighttime of chilly light-watching! If you’ve got a busy December schedule, don’t worry; Sagamiko Illumillion will run well into April 2022.

More information is on their website here:
https://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/illumillion/

Yomiuriland Jewellumination (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Yomiuriland Jewellumination (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Yomiuriland Jewellumination might be the easiest big Winter Illumination to access from Tokyo, (just 25 minutes via Shinjuku Station via the Odakyu Line) and also shares the distinction of best made-up word describing an illumination! Jewellumination is as fun to say as it is to see! Usually, Yomiuriland earns its keep as a thrill ride and kids park, but during Christmas time is transformed into a lighted winter wonderland.

“Melt away in a warm, inspiring glow,” is the official slogan of this year’s program. There are 10 Special Areas based on gemstone colors and Greek Mythology. Hey, it wouldn’t be a Jewellumination without a wacky, themed mash-up. 2021 is the year Yomiuriland is gunning for Sagamiko Illumillion’s LED record, boasting an impressive 6.5 million LED lights. If the two parks would like to get into an annual one-upping each other competition, we’re all for it.

More information is on their website here
https://www.yomiuriland.com/en/jewellumination/

Enoshima Winter Illumination: The Jewel of Shonan (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Enoshima Winter Illumination: The Jewel of Shonan (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Enoshima is a small island just off the coast southwest of Tokyo, a little more than an hour on the train. It's connected to mainland and is a joy to visit any time of the year. Great scenery. An ocean full of surfers. An observation deck. Snacks galore. Throw in one of the Kanto region’s Big Three Winter Illuminations, and you’ve got an excellent spot to get into the holiday spirit. The idea behind this illumination, held at the Samuel Cocking Garden on the highest spot of the island, is to turn the winter scenery into a landscape of jewels. Count us in! Pro tip: arrive early to count down the switching on the lights at 5:30PM with other excited visitors.

More information is on their website here (in Japanese):
https://enoshima-seacandle.com/event/shonannohoseki

Ashikaga Flower Fantasy (Tochigi Prefecture)

Ashikaga Flower Fantasy (Tochigi Prefecture)

Ashikaga is a modest city on the Tochigi-Gunma border, famous for its flower park. Ashikaga Flower Fantasy Illumination has been voted the best in Japan for the last six consecutive years (according to the annual “Illumination AWARD” and pretty much anyone who has visited), clocking in with over five million LED lights. Perhaps the most fun aspect of Ashikaga Flower Fantasy Illumination is the way the designers use the nearby mountain; a streaking Rudolph pulling Santa’s sleigh, a shooting star, or a massive rainbow appear to be floating in the sky.

It’s easy to see how the best illumination award keeps landing in Ashikaga; experience The Water Mirror Effect, the magic of their famous 150 year old Great Wisteria tree dressed in dazzling lights, and a floating mural with the theme of “The Four Seasons.” Go once and can’t get enough? Ashikaga Flower Fantasy offers different themes throughout their winter season, reinventing itself three times. These themes stay true to its flower park roots, and incorporate blossoming flowers. This year will be “Fusion of Light and Amethyst Sage,” “Christmas Fantasy,” and “Co-starring Lights and Winter Peonies.”

More information is on their website here:
https://www.ashikaga.co.jp/flowerfantasy_special2021/en/

Lake Haruna Illumination Festival (Gunma Prefecture)

Lake Haruna Illumination Festival (Gunma Prefecture)

If you are in the Tochigi area, why not make it a long weekend and check out some great illuminations in neighboring Gunma, one of Japan's most awesome prefectures? (Disclaimer: the author of this article is a previous resident of Gunma Prefecture and very obviously biased.)

Lake Haruna Illumination Festival cannot compete with the massive LED count of its rich southern neighbors, but it does bring the heat with Japan’s largest laser show! Yeah! As the name suggests, this Illumination is not just about lights, but a whole festival complete with fireworks. Lake Haruna sits atop of Mt. Haruna, one of Gunma’s three famous mountains, so you’ll be getting a side of fresh mountain air with your lasers. Pack a jacket or three. It will be nippy.

More information is on their website here:
https://www.visit-gunma.jp/en/spots/lake-haruna-illumination-festa/

Hana no Miyako FANTASEUM (Yamanashi Prefecture)

Hana no Miyako FANTASEUM (Yamanashi Prefecture)

How can you make a beautiful winter illumination even more gorgeous? Just add Mount Fuji to the backdrop! At this Yamanashi park, you can see Japan's most famous mountain framed by thousands of stunning lights. If you are early enough (and lucky) you could see "Diamond Fuji," a natural phenomenon where the sun peeks just over the summit of Mount Fuji. This usually happens at 3:30. Why not try your luck and then stay for some wonderful lights?

More information is on their website here (in Japanese, and including a video):
http://www.hananomiyakokouen.jp/contents/event/

Tokyo Midtown, Marunouchi, and Roppongi Hills (Tokyo)

Tokyo Midtown, Marunouchi, and Roppongi Hills (Tokyo)

If you live in Tokyo and don’t have any time to travel, don’t be a Grinch! Tokyo offers a wide range of illuminations big and small. It seems like pretty much every big neighborhood in Tokyo is getting in on the fun these days. Tokyo’s Midtown event this year is titled “Midtown Christmas” and features an ice rink. Lights go on at 5PM and run until just before midnight! Marunouchi, specifically Nakadori, will be awash in lights until mid-February. And of course, one of Japan's most famous holiday views is a glowing Tokyo Tower framed by the beautiful white lights in Roppongi Hills. We would be remiss if we didn't mention these big three, but get out there and explore all the wonderful illuminations in Tokyo! If you have a favorite or recommendation, drop us a comment!

More information is on their websites here:
https://www.tokyo-midtown.com/jp/event/xmas/
https://www.roppongihills.com/en/events/