It rarely snows in Tokyo and even when it does, there’s hardly any accumulation on the ground for a truly white Christmas. But for every snowflake that Tokyo loses out on, she makes up for it in lightbulbs. Colourful and dazzling lights that form the foundation of the yearly tradition of winter illuminations.
The mood this year is understandably more sombre and some of the annual favourites have unfortunately been cancelled. One prominent casualty being the lightshow at Caretta Shiodome, which we were fortunate enough to catch in 2017.
The static structures and illuminations were beautiful in their own right, but the highlight was definitely the lightshows such as the one below featuring Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Shopping districts and malls throughout Tokyo do their best to out-do one another and focus on different themes. Tokyo Midtown in Akasaka decided to go with a space theme and put on an expansive performance on a large open space.
And of course, everyone puts up beautiful Christmas trees with uncountable number of lights, often with changing colours, like this majestic multi-storey central display at Kitte Marunouchi.
Likewise in Ginza, where most storefronts are dolled up with winter-themed decorations, and, you guessed it, more Christmas trees.
Not all the trees are decorated with flashy lights that change colours every few seconds. Some are more classic, while others opt for a more abstract modern art look.
Some adopt a more minimalistic approach and just hang pink lights on the trees lining pedestrian walkways. Simple, yes, but still very pretty.
Outside of Tokyo, Hokkaido is probably the next best place to get into the festive winter season, especially with the annual German Christmas market in Sapporo’s Odori Park. A tradition that started in 2002 as part of exchange activities with its sister city of Munich.
Snowfall in Hokkaido has been greatly reduced in recent years and timing has been unpredictable. While it may not be full-on snowing in December, there’s a good chance that there will be enough on the ground for winter feels.
Hakodate is also a great place for wonderful views, especially when you take the ropeway up to the top of Mount Hakodate and get to enjoy the panoramic view of the beautiful Hakodate Bay beneath you.
It’s been raining frequently in Singapore, with temperatures staying relatively cool. Travel bubbles are slowing being set up with different regional cities, starting with Hong Kong in November. Tokyo is unlikely to be included in the list anytime soon, though there should be progress before the postponed summer Olympics in 2021.
Vaccines and therapeutics should be fairly advanced and widely available by then, making a winter trip to Japan next year a distinct possibility. But we’ll probably hang tight in Singapore and only make travel plans from 2022 onwards.
In the meantime, we can turn the aircon down really really low and watch videos of the beautiful 2020 winter illuminations that people living in Tokyo will hopefully upload to YouTube. It won’t be same as being there IRL, but I’m sure it’ll still be as pretty.