12 Best Winter Illuminations in Kansai 2022-2023

ROHM illumination Kansai
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Bryce was born in California, and raised near Seattle, Washington! He’s been living in Japan for about 5 years now, the first 3 spent studying at Temple University Japan. His main passion in life is writing and producing music, more specifically EDM if anyone is curious! He is very fond of snowboarding, cooking, traveling, playing video games; all of which he’d ideally enjoy with the company of his great friends. 

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Winter illuminations are one of the most iconic seasonal events during Japan’s cooler months, with plenty of locations and themes to choose from. Many readers may be familiar with the Western tradition of Christmas lights, but in Japan, light displays are called illuminations, and they sometimes light up the night long after the holiday season has ended. Kansai is home to an array of magical light displays, so read on to learn where to catch some of the most amazing illumination experiences this winter!

1. Osaka Hikari-Renaissance

Witness impressive projection mapping at Osaka City Hall

First on the list is the Osaka Hikari-Renaissance, which is a renowned, sound-accompanied light show held at the Osaka City Hall from mid to late December. Elaborate light shows are projected on the building walls as well as some of the nearby trees, and it’s quite a popular experience with 3-4 million spectators attending the event every year. Due to its popularity you might have to wait in line to enjoy the show, but the wait is usually not more than one hour.

Price: Free
Dates: December 14 – 25, 2022

2. Midosuji Illumination

Due to its proximity, the Midosuji Illumination can easily be combined with the Osaka Hikari-Renaissance show. Midosuji is one of Osaka’s main streets, and the many trees lining it are decorated with tons of lights for the yearly illuminations. It’s perfect for a stroll in the evening, and there’s plenty of things to do in the vicinity.

Price: Free
Dates: November 3 – December 31, 2022

3. Universal Studios Japan

Christmas tree with baubles
An elaborately decorated tree is a Universal Studios Japan tradition

Universal Studios Japan, and other theme parks in Japan, is a great place to see winter illuminations. The park features a huge, 30-meter Christmas tree decked out in lights, as well as a bunch of minions running around, all dressed for the season. Maybe elves were too expensive to hire? Well, there is definitely a lot more to experience here besides the illuminations, so if you want a full day of exhilarating fun, head to USJ!

Price: Varies depending on the pass
Dates: November 11, 2022 – January 9, 2023

4. Kobe Luminarie

Kobe Luminarie
The Kobe Luminarie is a sight to behold

Originally made in collaboration with Italy, the Kobe Luminarie is an impressive structure that shines bright with hundreds of thousands of lights. This incredible feat of architecture and illumination engineering draws millions of visitors to its location at Motomachi Station each year. The magnificent display is one of the oldest in Japan, and also serves as a memorial for the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. If you find yourself in Kobe in early to mid December, the Kobe Luminarie is a must see. 

Price: ~
Dates: First few week sof December

5. Osaka Castle Illuminage

The castle and surrounding grounds are decorated with thousands of lights themed around the Taisho era

The Osaka Castle is lit up at night, and the courtyards are filled with unique illuminations inspired by the Taisho period, featuring lots of animals, trees and traditional Japanese elements. It’s a great chance for a peaceful and romantic stroll through the castle grounds.

Price: 1300 yen
Dates: November 22, 2022 – February 26, 2023

6. NESTA Illumina

NESTA Illumina
The captivating NESTA Illumina are located in Hyogo Prefecture

The NESTA Illumina attraction is quite an extravagant one, and like Osaka Castle, this place is great for a relaxing stroll surrounded by an astounding amount of lights. Trees, grass, bushes, and even ponds are brimming with lights, evoking a feeling of walking across a starry sky. A truly stellar experience.

Price: 4544 yen (Adults), 3104 yen (children 4 years old to
Dates: Yet to be announced

7. Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro Illumination

Arashiyama Togetsukyo illumination
The elegant Togetsu Bridge is decked out in lights for the illuminations

How is it possible that such a beautiful place could become even more stunning?! Arashiyama Park is already known for its excellent display of fall colors, but in the winter, some areas get embellished with illuminations. Namely, the bamboo grove and Togetsu Bridge are taken to another level with tasteful light decorations, and the Hanatouro Illumination is not to be missed if you find yourself in Kyoto!

Price: Free
Dates: Yet to be announced (Usually mid-December)

8. Rosa Illumi

English garden illuminations Shiga
The English-style garden Rosa & Berry Tawada Park is celebrating their 10-year anniversary

Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the Rosa & Berry Tawada Park is gracing Shiga Prefecture with a huge, rainbow-themed illumination event. This is for sure going to be an event to remember! Be sure to go and celebrate with them and enjoy this vast, colorful experience, which is actually the biggest illumination event in all of Kansai.

Price: 1600 yen (adults), 1000 yen (Children 4 years and older)
Dates: October 8, 2022 – February 12, 2023

9. Hanabun Thanksgiving Illumination

White rabbit
Find all the rabbits and collect messages of thanks at this Thanksgiving-themed illumination event

Americans rejoice: there’s a Thanksgiving illumination here! It may not be exactly the type of Thanksgiving event you’re used to, but it’s an uplifting, adventurous experience that takes place from mid-October to mid-February. Explore the 8 different areas while searching for the rabbit brothers who carry messages of thanks. Supposedly, you can collect all of them to give something to your loved ones! 

Price: 1800 yen (adults), 1000 yen (children 4 and older)
Dates: October 15, 2022 – February 12, 2023

10. Kyoto Station Illumination

Kyoto Station staircase illumination
The animated LED lights show different scenes depending on the season

Kyoto Station has a huge staircase with no less than 171 steps, and for the winter illuminations it’s adorned with more than 15,000 animated LED lights displaying major seasonal events. If you find yourself in Kyoto, or even just passing through the station on your way somewhere else, make sure to make a stop to admire this impressive light display.

Price: Free
Dates: All year round (Winter from November 11 – December 31)

11. Osaka Aquarium Illuminations

Kentaro Ohno, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

When reading about Kyoto Station above, did you think that a staircase is an odd thing to decorate with an illumination display? Well, maybe it’s not all that strange…but what about an aquarium? Yes, in Osaka you can find that too! The Kaiyukan Illuminations at Osaka Aquarium are unique, absolutely beautiful and wonderfully entertaining. Osaka Aquarium is the world’s largest aquariums, and you will surely enjoy spending a day here during your time in Osaka.

Price: Free
Dates: November – March

12. ROHM Illumination

ROHM Illumination
We cannot wait for one of Kansai’s most iconic illuminations to be back

Typically one of Kansai’s largest illumination events, the ROHM Illumination lights up 86 trees with 860,000 lights. This is quite the number, and it’s certainly a magnificent display to witness. Unfortunately, the event is currently on hiatus due to covid-19, however, it is such an iconic show that we’re sure it will be back – and that you’ll want to be prepared for when it returns to Gojo Street in Kyoto.

Price: ~
Dates: Canceled this year

Osaka winter illuminations

The illuminations of Kansai await you! Be sure to immerse yourself in this wonderful Japanese winter tradition, which will surely make for a vibrant memory of your Kansai winter adventures.

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