Seeing traditional celebrations is one of the many things that I enjoyed while living in Japan. A particular curiosity for me was how the Japanese people incorporate foreign celebrations into their lives. Take Saint Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or Christmas, for example. And one of my absolute favourites is the Tokyo winter illuminations that light up the city every year.
Preparations for Christmas in Japan begin on the 1st of November. After Halloween, all the pumpkins and costumes disappear to make room for Christmas decorations, trees and carols. From the beginning of November, one can enjoy the Christmas spirit until the 25th of December. After the 25th, many illuminations remain until the end of winter into the new year.
Here is a guide to the best winter illuminations in Tokyo for your illumination hunt this Christmas!
1. Shinjuku Minami Lumi Illuminations in Tokyo
The Shinjuku Minami Lumi illuminations (新宿ミナミルミ) are located around the enormous Shinjuku Station (新宿駅) near the JR train line’s south exit. If you cross the big pedestrian crossing in front of this exit, there is a street that connects to many different areas of Shinjuku. Typically, there is little foot traffic in this area and is an excellent place to take a quiet break within the city.
From the beginning of November, the ordinarily green space transforms into an illuminated forest of gold. There’s a wooden path with benches where you can take beautiful pictures of the Docomo Tower in the background.
How to Reach Shinjuku Minami Lumi?
The street is close to the south exit of the JR train lines at Shinjuku Station (新宿駅), next to the bus station in an area called Shinjuku Southern Terrace.
2. Roppongi Hills Christmas Illuminations and Tokyo Midtown
Roppongi (六本木) has one of Tokyo’s most iconic illuminations while integrating the city’s icon: Tokyo Tower. Four hundred meters of the Keyakizaka-Dori street (けやき坂通り) in Roppongi Hills (六本木ヒルズ) becomes illuminated with blue and white LEDs. The lights hang from the tree branches and create an incredible and magical illuminated pathway. In addition to all this scenery, we have the Tokyo Tower at the end of the street.
There’s a bridge that crosses over the main street of Keyakizaka-Dori, where you can take a picture of the iconic tower and the Roppongi Hills illuminations. I recommend having a lot of patience, as it is usually full of photographers jostling to get a shoot from this vantage point.
Tokyo Midtown Illuminations
Nearby the Roppongi Hills Illuminations is the “Starlight Garden” of Midtown Christmas (ミッドタウン・クリスマス). This sensational illumination covers over 2,000 square meters of the square around the large building complex. Unfortunately, it was under construction when I visited, so I couldn’t take any pictures!
How to Reach Roppongi Hills Illuminations and Tokyo Midtown?
For the Roppongi Hills illuminations, take the Hibiya line until you reach Roppongi Station (六本木駅).
For Midtown Christmas, take the Chiyoda Subway line until you reach Nogizaka Station (乃木坂駅) or the Odeo Subway Line until you reach Roppongi Station.
3. Winter Illuminations at Yebisu Garden Place
The Yebisu Garden Place illumination (恵比寿ガーデンプレイス) lasts one of the longest in Tokyo. Starting in November to mid-January, this former brewery-site-turned-shopping-complex transforms into a beautiful Christmas lights show. The main square of the complex (known as one of the film locations for the TV drama, “Hana Yori Dango” 花より団子) includes a central illuminated corridor, an elegant crystal chandelier, a side street with blue lights and Christmas decorations such a giant Christmas tree and shops selling Christmas products.
How to Reach Yebisu Garden Place?
You can quickly reach Yebisu Garden on the Yamanote Railway line until you reach Ebisu Station (恵比寿駅), then walk 10 minutes to the Yebisu Garden illuminations.
4. Marunouchi Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
The Marunouchi illuminations (丸の内イルミネーション) last over four months of the year, from late Autumn to mid-February. Beginning near Tokyo Station (東京駅) along Naka-Dori Street (仲通り), this elegant district increases its beauty with the many illuminations covering the trees, as well as the ones inside the shopping centers. In 2019, there were Star Wars decorations!
How to Reach Marunouchi?
There are a variety of options to reach Marunouchi. You can take a train that runs on one of the JR lines that stop at Tokyo Station 東京駅 (such as the Yamanote Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line or Chuo Line.) You can also take the Hanzomon Line or Ginza Line and get off the Mitsukoshi-Mae Station (三越前駅). The third option is to take the Tozai Line until you reach Nihonbashi Station (日本橋駅).
5. The ‘Blue Cave’ Illuminations at Shibuya Ao no Dokutsu
During winter, the trees along the broad avenue connecting Yoyogi Park (代々木公園, Yoyogi Kōen) to Shibuya (渋谷) transforms into a vibrant “blue cave” of lights. Blue LEDs cover the trees along the avenue between Shibuya Station and Yoyogi Park Zelkova Street, and 800-meters of the street becomes the “Blue Cave,” also known as Ao no Dukutsu (青の洞窟). In the middle of the promenade, you will find a bell you can ring with your partner, friends, family or just by yourself.
These lights are the most intense I have ever seen. Be careful if you are photosensitive, as these lights may be uncomfortable for your eyes. Nevertheless, I hope you can still experience this illumination because it is worth it!
How to Reach “Blue Cave” of Shibuya Ao no Dokutsu?
If you travel on the Yamanote Line, I recommend you to get off at Harajuku Station (原宿駅) and walk 20 minutes to Ao no Dokutsu. If you travel on other lines such as the Ginza Line, Hanzomon Line, Den-en-Toshi Line, you can get off at Shibuya Station (渋谷駅) and walk 10 minutes until you reach Ao no Dokutsu.
6. Omotesando Winter Illuminations
From late November to early January, 90,000 warm yellow LEDs decorate over 1km from Jingubashi (神宮橋) to Omotesando (表参道). The rooftop of the Tokyu Plaza Shopping Center is another place I’d recommend to get a view of the winter illuminations in the area.
How to Reach Omotesando?
Reach Omotesando by taking the Yamanote Line until you reach Harajuku Station (原宿駅). You can also take the Fukutoshin Line to Meiji-Jingumae Station (明治神宮前駅), then walk 7 minutes to Omotesando Station (表参道駅), or take the Chiyoda Line, Ginza Line, or Hanzomon Line to Omotesando Station.
7. Caretta Shiodome Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
There is a magical forest of lights within the Caretta Shiodome (カレッタ汐留) that begins from mid-November to mid-February. The Shiodome entertainment and shopping complex is a part of the Dentsu Headquarters Building that borders the open courtyard. Each year, the Dentsu corporation hosts an impressive illumination winter scene for visitors to enjoy during the winter season. The 2019 chosen theme was Aladdin, which featured a lights show with the movie’s songs.
How to Reach Caretta Shiodome Winter Illumination?
Take the Odeo Line until you reach Shiodome Station (汐留駅) or take one of the various lines that stop at Shimbashi Station (新橋駅), such as the Yamanote Line or Ginza Line.
8. Tokyo Dome Winter Illuminations
From mid-November to late February, the large entertainment area of Tokyo Dome City (東京ドームシティ) turns into the Tokyo Dome Winter Illumination. This popular meeting spot features a collection of approximately 2,000,000 LEDs lights dispersed throughout the complex. Visitors can also enjoy the many attractions in the area, such as a karaoke Ferris Wheel, rollercoaster, and 4K theatre displaying the grandeur of the universe.
How to Reach Tokyo Dome City?
To reach Tokyo Dome City, take the Mita Line or Chuo Line until you get to Suidobashi Station (水道橋駅), or take the Marunouchi Line or Namboku Line and stop at Korakuen Station (後楽園駅).
We hope you enjoyed our winter illuminations guide in Tokyo. If you know of another interesting place illuminated this winter season, don’t hesitate to tell us!