Kyoto manages to make even the most garish of things classy, and they even managed it with winter illuminations, so look no further for the fanciest festive feels in Kansai.
As a famously beautiful place, it might be hard to imagine Kyoto looking any better than it already does, but if you sprinkle a few thousand LEDs and wrap some fairy-lights around a tree or two you’d be surprised. With some generous local companies putting on spectacular displays, the local train station joining in and some truly magical bamboo options up in Arashiyama, you’ll start to feel festive no matter how grinch-inclined you may usually be at these top Kyoto winter illuminations.
1. ROHM Illuminations | November 22-December 25, 2018
The biggest illumination event in the city, the ROHM Illuminations are held by a local company around its headquarters in Nagura Park. With over 800,000 lights the event features brightly lit tree-lined avenues, a screen display, musical performances and more. The two round Yamamo trees are the opening sight and welcome visitors to walk between the bright redwood trees to the Ensemble of Light area.
2. Arashiyama Hanatouro | Dec 8-17, 2018
Since you’ll no doubt have the famous bamboo forest on your list anyway, sticking around for an evening illumination will be an extra bonus. The Arashiyama Hanatouro is an illumination event held in May and December each year and means ‘path of flowers and light’. Both events last only 10 days and transform the already-beautiful area into something truly special. Highlights include the swaying bamboo and Togetsukyo Bridge as well as Tenryu-ji and Horin-ji. Keep in mind that some areas are only lit on weekends so do check the schedule and map in advance.
3. Twinkle Joyo | December 1-25
A little out of the way but still in Kyoto Prefecture, Joyo City is fast becoming a top illumination destination in Kansai, but it’s certainly not your standard light show. Twinkly Joyo, a community project that uses displays donated by local groups as well as companies and organisations, is a pretty impressive collection desgined to boost visitors to the area. The event has food stalls and entertainment and a serious amount of selfie-worthy spots. Head to the Joyo City Comprehensive Athletic Park “Recreation Zone” (or just follow the people from Joyo Station). The park will be illuminated from December 1st to the 25th.
4. Kyoto Station | November 17-December 25, 2018
An easy way to tick off some winter illumination viewing, Kyoto Station has one of the most popular displays in the city. Using almost 130,000 lights, the already-impressive station becomes a beacon of festive fun, with shooting stars, a giant Christmas tree and music too. The stairs become a musical and light show while twinkling lights transform a simple train change into a festive treat.
5. Kyoto Botanical Garden | December 15-25, 2018
A short but special illumination, this event takes place at the Kyoto Botanical Garden and runs alongside the annual poinsettia exhibition from December 15th to 25th. Filling the garden grounds with bright lights and making the most of the green surroundings. The greenhouse, paths and trees are all used to create dramatic scenery, with lights starting at 5:30pm and ending at 8pm (last entry 7:30pm). An entry fee of ¥200 is required for the gardens. The closest stop is Kitayama Station on the Karasuma Line.