Category Archives: lights

Tokyo German Village – Winter Illumination

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Tokyo German Village is a park in Chiba, located about two hours from central Tokyo. The park offers facilities for families, flower events, a souvenir shop and German food. It’s not an educational place meant to teach you German – in many ways it’s very much a Japanese park.

Winter is time for the illumination festival when the whole park turns into an LED wonderland. Illumination festivals at parks like Tokyo German Village (Tokyo Doitsu Mura 東京ドイツ村) are usually more impressive than the festivals in central Tokyo. The festival lights and motives also change every year, encouraging people to visit the park at least once a year.

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This year’s Winter Illumination Shangri-La started on November 8 and will continue until March 31. The lights are switched on from 4 to 8 pm, last entrance is at 7.30 pm. Until early January, a shuttle bus will run from Sodegaura Station (Uchibo Line) to Tokyo German Village. The whole trip took me about two hours, but it was well worth it! Read the rest of this entry

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Art Aquarium in Fukuoka

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Over 2.5 million visitors across Japan have seen the special exhibition Art Aquarium which features goldfishes in small and big tanks illuminated with changing lights. I have been to the exhibition two years ago when it started in Tokyo. The exhibition is now in Fukuoka and in Osaka. The Osaka exhibition’s tanks vary from the ones shown here.

Japanese people love good illumination shows as can be seen every year in December. The Art Aquarium features both video projections and lighting, with the latter changing color after a few seconds. Thus you can see every tank in different colors.

The tanks itself are also impressive. The exhibition starts with a few smaller tanks which can only be enjoyed if you knee down. Different breeds of goldfish swim in the tanks and while the smaller ones only house a couple of fishes, the biggest contains almost one thousand! Lighting changes between seven colors.

Art Aquarium

Some of the works combine aquariums with Japanese motives such as the four distinctive seasons.

More photos: Read the rest of this entry

Floating lit lanterns – Chidorigafuchi Toro-nagashi

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If you are in Tokyo now, the biggest festival to see is the Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine held until July 16. Chidorigafuchi Toro-nagashi (灯籠流し) was a one-day festival on a much smaller scale and even though it was held just across the street from Yasukuni Shrine, it didn’t get much attention.

Toro (とうろう、灯籠) means lantern and they were set out on the water in the palace moat of Chidorigafuchi Park. It was just a very small part where you could see the lanterns and most were near the bank anyway. The organizers didn’t rely on the lanterns alone, however, and added some illumination.

Toro-nagashi was possibly most enjoyable for the couples and families who rented a boat. They were kind of limited in their movements though because they were only in that very small section of the moat that was used for the floating lanterns and was illuminated.

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Illumination of Hakodate’s historic Motomachi district

Motomachi Park
Hakodate was the first port to be opened to foreign trade after Japan was forced to give up its isolation. Just like Yokohama, Hakodate has a Motomachi district where foreign traders or diplomats settled. Therefore this district has many foreign-looking houses and churches. I’ve been to the former foreign residential areas of Kobe and Yokohama before, so I was curious to compare them to Hakodate’s.

This city is amazingly convenient for travellers, because of the close proximity of Motomachi district, Mount Hakodate and the Red Brick Warehouses. Originally I wanted to go to Mount Hakodate, however with heavy snow fall sight wasn’t good enough. Even at Motomachi I had to wait for the short periods when there was a bit less snow.

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Interestingly, there are a various places of worship almost next to each other such as the Higashi Honganji Temple and the Russian Orthodox Church. All buildings were closed however and few people were outside at that time (8pm). I guess most who were outside were at the Red Brick Warehouses.

Hokkaido Prefectural Government's Old Branch Office

The building above is the Hokkaido Prefectural Government’s Old Branch Office. It was first built in 1909 and then renovated in 1982, when the park around it was also constructed. Today, the first floor serves as the Motomachi Tourist Information while the second floor is a museum about Hakodate City.

Parts of this park were nicely illuminated. Read the rest of this entry

Fort Goryokaku in Hakodate during Winter

Fort Goryokaku during Winter
Originally, my next stop after Sapporo was supposed to be Aomori, but I switched to Hakodate instead. Hakodate is Hokkaido’s third biggest city and its port was the first to be opened to foreign trade. One of the main sights is Goryokaku, a star-shaped fort that was the site of the last battle of the Boshin War, a civil war in Japan between the imperial forces and forces of the old shogunate.

The star shape of the fort allowed more cannons to be placed while reducing the number of blind spots where cannons couldn’t fire. The fort is a public park today and one of Hakodate’s cherry blossom spots. The nearby Goryokaku Tower offers an excellent view over the fort even though the angled windows of the tower make it hard to get a good shot of the entire fort.

Observation deck Goryokaku Tower

Upon buying the ticket for the observatory deck (840 Yen), I was told that there’s going to be a light-up event starting at 5pm. Of course everybody up there waited for this event! Read the rest of this entry

Sendai Pageant of Starlight Illumination festival

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Sendai was the biggest Japanese city hit by the tsunami and earthquake, although if you walk in the city centre you will not notice it. Some roads are still blocked, however. What was lost in the tsunami were the lights for the illumination festival because they were stored near the sea. Fortunately, the organizers of the Omotesando light display offered Sendai 60000 lights. Sendai also bought new lights.

Nowadays LED lights are common which consume less energy while still allowing impressive illumination displays.

The Sendai illumination festival is one of the few which is also advertised in other Japanese cities and is used to promote tourism to the region. Sendai is the biggest city in the Tohoku region and can be reached in under two hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo.

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Sendai is also known as the “city of trees” and while decorating trees with lights is done in all cities, the Sendai illumination is impressive due to its scale. The lights just don’t seem to end! There was also a santa driving around and waving to the people. Read the rest of this entry

Nagoya Akari Night Illumination Festival

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The last time I’ve been to Nagoya was in 2005 during the Expo in Aiichi. I didn’t stay much longer this time though, since I went to Shizuoka before and the last Hikari Shinkansen was leaving Nagoya at about 9pm. Obviously a city the size of Nagoya has a proper illumination festival, which is called the “Akari Night”.

The Nagoya Akari Night is held around the iconic Nagoya TV Tower, the oldest tv tower in Japan. The tower is illuminated of course, but they also added some additional lights at the bottom for christmas.

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The small park in front of the tower was full of electric lamps, mostly in the shape of a cone. This was one of the more interesting illuminations I’ve seen so far as it used diverse designs and shapes. There was no topic, these lamps were just made to look pretty.

P1180590 Read the rest of this entry

Lightopia Illumination Festival in Tokyo

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Unlike most of the other illumination festivals, Lightopia has a very limited run, starting on the 22nd and finishing on the 29th of December. It’s an annual festival and is spread around various places near Tokyo Station.

Like the previous years, Lightopia features paper cups drawn by elementary school children who express their hopes and worries. It’s mainly about environmental issues, peace and Japan obviously. These candles are located in the area between Maru and the New Maru Building and can be seen from 5pm to 9.30pm. The organizers call the place the “Ambient Candle Park”.

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The next zone, the “Flower Fantasia” has a topic too, although with no obvious images it is hard to guess just by looking at it: Hope for Tomorrow. While it was still pretty I had the impression that those flower pots were just put into their places without giving a thought about style. I liked the use of water however, giving some nice reflections.

Those were just two parts of Lightopia, there was still more. Read the rest of this entry

Shinjuku Southern Lights 2011-12

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This illumination festival is a must see if you happen to run a blog that has both “tokyo” and “penguin” in the title. It’s the only festival I know of that features the JR Suica penguin. There’s also a light cathedral for couples.

Shinjuku Southern Lights is held each year on the the Shinjuku Southern Terrace. There is still some construction work going on as part of a further development of Shinjuku station. The illumination festival and the businesses on the Southern Terrace are unaffected by it.

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The tree illumination is pretty much standard although this year only the trees right next to the exit were decorated. In 2008 I wrote about the illumination festival and they had more lights in the trees back then. Read the rest of this entry

Yurakucho Winter Illumination 2011-12

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Time for new christmas illumination, this time around Yurakucho Station in Tokyo. This is one of the smaller ones, advertised in a pamphlet by Japan Rail. Plus: I revisited the Godzilla statue!

Yurakuchu is within walking distance of Tokyo Station and is a stop on the Yamanote Line. It is in a huge commercial area which provides a neon light illumination “festival” of its own every night. It’s a challenge to stand out in such a sea of light, but the Yurakucho Winter Illumination (until January 15) has a famous sponsor. Can you guess which?

Yurakucho Illumination  02 Read the rest of this entry