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. Sakai Illuminage

Illuminage has moved from last year’s Osaka Castle to the Sakai district with Japan’s first “drive-through illumination event.” The ticket prices are quite a bit higher than in previous years, but that’s because they’re per car instead of per person. So if you want to get the best value out of the ¥5,000 entry price, drag along up to four of your friends or family. Also, that price rises to ¥6,000 on weekends, Christmas day, and public holidays.

4. German Christmas Market

** This event was canceled in 2020 and we’re yet to confirm if it will happen in 2021 **

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

From November 26th, until January 10th, 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 12, 2021 to February 28, 2022, so no rush to make it before the holidays end. This year’s theme (it’s not an illumination event if it doesn’t have a theme) is “the connection between people”.

This post was originally published in November 2018 and was last updated on November 17, 2021.

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