Osaka has enough neon to be seen from space (nearly), but around Christmas and New Year, the city’s winter illuminations steal the show.
Nothing says Christmas in Japan like some impressive winter illuminations. Osaka really pushes the boat out for the festive season and has a series of different shows to view. Whether you want a full-on date night or just a quick stroll of an evening, there are plenty of great spots. Just make sure you time it right for the light projection shows!
Umeda Sky Building Christmas
While the German Christmas Market is unfortunately canceled again this year, there will still be some Christmas cheer at the Umeda Sky Building from November 23 until December 25. They’ll have a 7-meter-tall Christmas tree, lights in the “forest,” a colorful fountain show, and the opportunity to design your own Christmas bauble.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyūkan Illuminations
Now this may not be worth the trip just for the lights, but if you’re heading over to see the sea life at Osaka’s Kaiyukan Aquarium anyway, it’s a very festive addition to your day. This is one of the longest running displays, lasting from November 18 to March 5, 2023, but make sure to catch Santa diving amongst the sharks from Nov. 26 to Dec. 25.
The Illuminage festival has grown over the years, and in 2022 there will be four venues boasting extravagant light displays throughout Osaka and Kobe — and even one in Fukuoka. The most famous of these is the Sakai Illuminage — Japan’s first drive-through illumination (it costs ¥6,000 per car). The Osaka Castle display (¥1,500) is also very popular.
Universal Studios Japan No Limit! Christmas
From November 11 until January 9, Universal Studios Japan is hosting a “Red Hot Christmas” — an energetic party with everyone’s favorite characters: Hello Kitty, the Sesame Street gang, Minions, Snoopy, and more all dressed up in Christmas costumes and dancing along to Christmas songs. Shows are held a few times a day (check the official site for times on the day you’re visiting). They even held the record (until 2019) for the most lights on a Christmas tree. Here are some good ideas on getting tickets with the best prices.
Joined with the Hikari Renaissance (below) to form the Festival of Lights, the Midōsuji Illumination is one of the most popular in Japan. It is now officially the street with the most illuminated trees, stretching for 4 km between the intersections of Ooebashi-Kitazune and Hanshin-mae. Making the most of the bare gingko trees, the display runs from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. until December 31.
Osaka Hikari Renaissance
The second and slightly shorter arm of the Festival of Lights is the Hikari Renaissance — an impressive show of projection mapping on the waterside in Nakanoshima Park. It takes place from December 14 to December 25. There are many more events happening during the Festival of Lights — including a giant rubber duck! — so make sure to check out our full event listing below.
Festival of Lights Osaka
Harry Potter Grand Wish Christmas
There is something, well, magical about Harry Potter. It’s no surprise that many of us re-watch the films or re-read the books at this time of year. In collaboration with Harry Potter Wizarding World, Grand Front Osaka will put on a very special illuminations complete with a 13-meter-tall, floating Harry Potter-themed Christmas tree. There will also be around 330,000 LED lights and other themed things to do from November 10 to December 25.
The Namba area of Osaka will be lit up with 650,000 LED lights, as well as holding a whole host of fantastic activities and illuminations. Illuminations start on November 11 and most go on until February 2023. In Namba Parks, there will be a waterfall of light and the amphitheater will be glowing. Namba Carnival Mall will display neon artwork designed by students from Osaka Mode Gakuen.
This post was originally published in November 2018 and was last updated in December 2022.
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