[From Decemberber Issue 2014]

Kobe Luminarie © Kobe Luminarie O.C.

Every year from around November to December, many commercial complexes and municipalities turn on their spectacular illuminations. These brilliant displays get people in the mood for Christmas. The switch-on ceremonies held at large commercial complexes are featured in the news and have become an annual winter attraction.
During this period, 5.6 million people visit the illuminations at Tokyo Midtown. This year is the eighth time the display has been held and its theme is a journey from the earth into space. It’s a yearly tradition for a pool of blue LED light to be created in the 2,000 square meter Grass Square. This year four meter high light sticks are installed there. This creates the feeling of being in a zero gravity environment. Illuminated by a total of 500,000 LED bulbs, until December 25, the commercial complex is transformed into a luminous space.
Founded in 1995, Kobe Luminarie was the first light display to become well known in Japan. The Great Hanshin Earthquake had occurred in January that year. And the Kobe Luminarie was organized to put its victims’ souls to rest and to pray for the restoration and rehabilitation of Kobe.
There was a great demand for it to become a regular event and citizens, business owners and visitors have contributed every year so that it can been held. This year marks the 20th year since the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The event ensures that the quake will never be forgotten by future generations, and this year it will run from December 4 to 15.
There are some cases where light displays have been instrumental in attracting more visitors to a particular locale. Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture is known for its giant 150-year-old wisteria and 80-meter-long wisteria tunnel. Between mid-April and mid-May when the wisteria flowers are in bloom, 50,000 people visit each day. Because the park was well known for its flowers, the management was concerned with the question of how to attract visitors during wintertime.
Because of this, they installed illuminations in 2002, and since then, the number of visitors gradually increased until last year 500,000 came during that period. This year, 2.5 million electric bulbs are being used over a 92,000 square meter area. Images of birds flying across the night sky can be enjoyed on organic electroluminescent panels which change depending on the angle they are viewed from. Special opening hours and admission prices are in effect until February 5 for those who come only for the illuminations.
The illuminations at Decks Tokyo Beach in Odaiba, Tokyo, have been revamped this year. To attract more visitors they will be switched on all year round. One of the new attractions is a tunnel that projects different images onto its walls depending on the motion it detects from people inside it. A large heart-shaped light display has been installed at this spot where it is possible to take photos that include Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Sky Tree and Rainbow Bridge, all in one shot.

Text: ICHIMURA Masayo

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