Photo by Mujo

Top Kansai Area Holiday Season Illuminations

Christmas is around the corner and although you would think it’s a national holiday in Japan, it isn’t. Everywhere you go there’s Christmas music playing, convenience store employees are wearing Santa Claus outfits, and Christmas-themed merchandise seems never-ending.

Whether you live in Japan or are just here for a short time, I’m sad to say that the beautiful autumn leaves have all fallen and dried up, forcing us to wait until next spring to enjoy Japan’s other finest natural wonder. Cherry blossoms that is.

But just because mother nature is going into hibernation for the winter, it doesn’t mean you have to. So why not enjoy some seasonal illuminations? If you happen to make your way to the Kansai area during December or January, be sure to check out some of these brilliant light-up displays.


ROHM Illumination 2019

Lighting up 86 sequoias with some 86,000 lights, ROHM’s illumination is by far Kyoto’s biggest light-up event. The semiconductor company headquartered in Kyoto began their illumination in 1995 and has continued ever since, each time trying to outdo the previous.

Photo by Mujo

One company employee estimated it costs his company about $500,000 every year to light up the streets surrounding its headquarters. He also said he’d be happier if the company gave that money out to employees as bonuses instead.

  • When: November 22 - December 25
  • Hours: 16:45 - 22:00
  • Admission: Free
  • Where: Surrounding ROHM headquarters; along Sai-dori Street and Chudojiminami-dori Street 21 Saiin Mizosaki-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 615-8585
  • Directions: From Kyoto Station take the City Bus 32 and get off at Nishioji Gojo. It’s about a five minute walk west from there.
  • Link (Japanese only)


Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro 京都嵐山花灯路

At the northwestern edge of Kyoto City lies Arashiyama, rich in both natural and historical sights to be visited all year round. Tenryuji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for it’s fantastic Zen garden and the Cloud Dragon painting, spread across the meditation hall’s ceiling.

The northern entrance to Tenryuji leads to Arashiyama’s bamboo forest. If you visit during December, you’ll find the towering bamboo forest’s canopy lit up, casting long shadows on the lantern-lit path below.

Photo by karesansui CC 2.1

To the south of Tenryuji, Togetsu-kyo Bridge and Katsura River are bathed in bright LEDs, while the western Arashiyama hills are painted a blueish-purple.

  • When: December 13 - 22
  • Hours: 17 - 20:30
  • Admission: Free
  • Where: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove嵐山 竹林の小径, Togetsu-kyo Bridge 渡月橋
  • Directions: From Kyoto Station, take the JR San-In Line to Arashiyama Station.
  • Map: There is a map of Arashiyama’s lit up area here.
  • Link: (English)

Twinkle Joyo 2019: Pageant of Lights

This illumination is located in Joyo City, halfway between Kyoto and Nara. In its 18th year, Twinkle Joyo is visited by about 140,000 people every year. The theme for 2019 is “JOYO EXPO Explosion of Brilliance” (~バクハツ的なイルミネーションの輝き~). The venue is decorated with about 650,000 LEDs and creates a wonderful Christmas atmosphere.

Photo by Shou 1701 CC 2.1

  • When: December 1 - 25
  • Hours: 17:30 - 21:30
  • Admission: Free; Those coming by car pay a 500 yen parking fee.
  • Where: Logos Land, Joyo City, Kansai Prefecture
  • Directions: From Kyoto Station ride the JR Nara Line and get off at Joyo Station 城陽駅. From there take the Joyo San San Bus 520城陽さんさんバス headed for Logos Land プラムイン城陽. Get off at Fukadani Higashi 深谷東 and its just a three minute walk from there. The trip takes about 45 minutes altogether.


Osaka - Festival of Lights 2019

Photo by Mujo

Osaka’s winter illumination festival is celebrating its seventh year. There are more than 20 different light up events happening all across Osaka City and Prefecture during this winter season.

From Osaka Castle to a lit-up fountain show at Nakanoshima, you’re sure to run across something even if you just randomly walk around Japan’s third biggest city. But just to be safe, let’s check out the two main events happening this December.

Midosuji Illumination

Midosuji Avenue, which runs North-South from Umeda Station to Namba Station, stretches for 4 km and is the equivalent of Paris’ Champs-Elysee. It’s basically your one-stop shopping strip in Osaka. And at this time of year the tree-lined boulevard all hung with multi-colored lights will without a doubt get you into the Christmas spirit.

Photo by Mujo

  • When: November 4 - December 31
  • Hours: 17:00 - 23:00
  • Admission: Free
  • Where: Along Midosuji Avenue 御堂筋 from Umeda Station (north) to Namba Station (south).

Osaka Hikari-Renaissance

This event borrows the forms of Osaka’s historical buildings to create an event more than just a simple illumination. Last year, Osaka City Central Public Hall celebrated its 100th anniversary, and projection mapping succeeded in transforming the building into something otherworldly.

Photo by Mujo

Don’t miss the 3rd annual Lights Exchange Program with Tainan City, Taiwan, where hundreds of Tainan-style lanterns create a plaza of light.

Photo by Mujo

In addition, be sure to take a stroll down Nakanoshima Illumination Street, a 150m long zelkova row of trees, where music and light are synchronized harmoniously.

Photo by Mujo

  • When: December 14 - December 25
  • Hours: 17:00 - 22:00
  • Admission: Free
  • Where: Osaka City Hall - Nakanoshima Park
  • Link: (English)


It’s fair to say that the Christmas spirit is alive in Japan. In fact, if you’re lucky you may even run into Santa Claus.

Photo by Mujo

By - grape Japan editorial staff.