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 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, just make sure you time it right for the light projection shows!
1. Midosuji Illumination
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 stretched for 4km between the Ooebashi-Kitazune and Hanshin-mae intersections. Making the most of the now-bare Gingko trees, the display runs from 5pm to 11pm until December 31st. The theme this year is the river of light, with a special Frog promenade set up on the pavement from Central odori to Kita-mido.
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.
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 be a Roman-themed food court to keep you warm and fed and plenty of photo spots too. Entry costs ¥1,500 for adults and ¥800 for children.
4. German Christmas Market
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 Crystal Christmas (and some Wintery wizard goodness)
Going all out on the crystals this year, Universal Studios Japan is offering a blinding evening of entertainement for the season. Featuring a Crystal Promise night show, a 30m tall Crystal Tree and Crystal Shining Illuminations from sunset onwards, you’ll have more crystals than even the most basic of us can handle. There will be an enchanting evening show promising a moving story in a shimmering world – with a very varied selection of start times depending on your visit dates. For kids (or adults, no judgement here) the Minions will be decked out and dancing – be sure to check out their decorations in Minion Park too. Get your special winter passes early and skip the queues (or opt for a pre-booked seat for the Crystal Show)!
If you’re more into charms than crystals, however, skip the above to live out all of your wintery Harry Potter dreams as the Wizarding World of Harry himself gets a festive makeover. Called the ‘Magical Night’ the winter event is back for its third year, complete with a projection mapping show which sees four students conjure a collection of christmassy characters and scenes on the castle walls. Already decked out in snow throughout the year, now it gets the full works – a tree, lights, hot butterbeer, a Holiday frog Choir more. 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. Sticking to the theme, the displays are formed of the aquarium’s inhabitants—from whales to manta rays and more. This is one of the longest running displays, lasting from Nov 2nd to March 1st, so no rush. Along with lights there will be a Santa-diver appearing in the Pacific Ocean (1.15pm and 3.30pm) and Tasman Sea exhibitions (4.30pm) between November 30th to December 25th.
This post was originally published in November 2018 and was last updated on November 11th 2019.