Osaka has enough neon to be seen from space (nearly), but during Christmastime it’s the LEDs and projectors that steal the show.

Nothing says Christmas in Japan like some impressive winter illuminations—be it a snowman or an artfully lit sculpture. The city really pushes the boat out for the festive season and has a series of different shows to view, with some even paired up with ramen festivals. Whether you want a full-on date night or just a quick stroll of an evening, there are plenty of great places to choose from in Osaka, just make sure you time it right for the light projection shows!

1. Midosuji Illumination

Winter Festival of the Lights in Osaka
Photo by Feng Chiang

Joined with the Hikari Renaissance (below) to form the Festival of Lights, the Midosuji Illumination is one of the most popular in Japan. It is now officially the street with the most illuminated trees and stretches 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 pm to 11 pm until December 31st. The theme this year is “Light of Hope”.

2. 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.

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3. Osaka Castle Illuminage

Taking their inspiration from the end of Japan’s Taisho era to the Meiji era, this year’s display in the Nishinomaru Gardens will have a historic twist. Using streetscapes, Western appearances and plenty of traditional scenes too, it offers an insight into the changes in Japan many years ago. In addition to the lights, there will food, drinks, and plenty of photo spots too. Entry costs ¥1,500 for adults and ¥800 for children.

4. German Christmas Market – *Canceled*

Head for the Umeda Sky Building for some festive food and plenty of mulled wine with Osaka’s German Christmas Market. Combining stalls with plenty of lights, you’ll have as much to look at as you will to consider buying, as well as an antique merry-go-round and a series of very impressive trees.

5. Universal Studios Japan Happy Christmas Street Party

Universal Studios Japan is hosting a lively street 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). Here are some good ideas on getting tickets with the best prices.

6. Kaiyukan 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 Kaiyukan Aquarium anyway, it’s a very festive addition to your day. This is one of the longest running displays, lasting from November 20, 2020 to February 28, 2021, so no rush to make it before the holidays end. This is the 30th anniversary and this year’s decorations will reflect the “connection and warmth between people”.

This post was originally published in November 2018 and was last updated on November 18, 2020.

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