Japan calls its Christmas lights Illumination. Illumination happens throughout Japan and usually from 1 to 2 months. Some cities end Illumination on December 25, but others end their light show after the new year.
I’ve been to a few Illuminations throughout the years I’ve lived here, and Japan goes all out with lights. My first experience was at the Tokyo station, and it was a sight to behold. There were so many lights that it seemed like Santa was going to land any minute and give the thousands of people attending gifts. The grand Tokyo station lit up with several different lights, and the feeling that Yokai (Apparition) was about seemed real. I forgot my salt and mask.
This year I’m visiting Roppongi Hills in Minato, Tokyo. They started Illumination first this year.
Traveling to Roppongi
I opened Google maps and typed in Roppongi Station. The program plotted the entire route. Transfers are usually less than five minutes, so knowing the right platform is essential. Google maps list this data, and much more.
Roppongi is an hour away for me by taking the JR Joban line, which turns into the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line (without transfer) to Hibiya station and then a quick transfer to the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line. In six minutes, I arrived at Roppongi station.
I arrived at Roppongi station and departed the train. I took exit 1A, opened up Google maps, and typed in Roppongi Illumination. The app brought up Roppongi Hills, which is where Illumination is.
In 2 minutes, I started to see the lights from my vantage point. I was at the top of a long flight of stairs, but the view was amazing. I walked down the steps, and in less than a minute, I was in the middle of Roppongi illumination.
Taking in the Sights
This trip was my first time to Roppongi Hills. I have been to other parts of Roppongi several times, including the Philippines Embassy. So I not only was taking in Illumination but the area also.
Roppongi Hills is on a hill. As I walked and looked at Illumination, I went up a steady and noticeable incline. There are several skyscrapers, shops, and places to dine. It seemed very upscale.
Trees line each side of the road, and these trees have thousands of lights strung on them. I’m not sure who does this each year, but they are professionals. The trees covered with Christmas lights lit up the night. It was a sight to behold.
Romance in the Crisp Air
One very unusual thing to see in Japan is outward displays of affection. Doing so is considered rude and an Invasion of another’s privacy zone. People don’t want to see you holding hands, kissing, or even touching. So why are several Japanese couples doing this at Roppongi Illumination?
I did a little research.
Roppongi is well known for its nightlife and clubs. It has a vast red-light district, which is legal in Japan. So many know it as the city of sex or love. Outward affection during Illumination has a long history in the town.
I viewed Japanese couples getting close to take a picture together, holding hands, and even kissing. When you only see this once a year, it’s a bit of a shock. It’s not normal behavior in Japan.
When the architects were planning Roppongi Hills, they took into account the scenic view of Tokyo Tower. Tokyo Tower is in sight while viewing Illumination and makes for some fantastic photographs. People all over Japan come to take photos of this display.
I have seen pictures of this before, but you need to visit Roppongi for the full effect. I’m confident that many people visit during Illumination just for that one particular photograph.
Christmas is Special in Japan
While other countries are scaling back on Christmas decorations and Christmas altogether, Japan is still lighting up the night this time of year. While the Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas the same way Christian nations do, it’s still a special time of the year for them.
Christmas is a time to give gifts to someone special. Even in Japan.
Have you visited Illumination in Japan? Let us know what city and your experience in the comment section below
Recommend an Illumination for me to visit. Leave your story in the comment section below.
Do you have questions about Illumination or Christmas in Japan? Please leave comments below.