As the end of 2016 approaches, there is a wide array of winter illumination events taking place all over Japan. Due to time constraints, it is impossible to visit every single event. However, here is an event that you should not miss this winter as it’s reputed to be the world’s largest flower field of lights. Read on to find out more about this unique event and immerse yourself in a dazzling display of sparkles!
Gran Illumi i.e. Grand Illumination is a winter illumination event which was first organized in 2015 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Izu Granpal Kouen (伊豆ぐらんぱる公園), an amusement theme park in Ito City, Shizuoka (静岡) Prefecture on the Izu (伊豆) Peninsula. The debut edition which was held between 13 November 2015 and 31 March 2016 won the New Illumination Award in the 3rd Illumination Awards with its beautiful display of about 2 million beautiful LED lights showcased in 12 theme sections encompassing a total area of 80,000 square meters which is approximately the size of two Tokyo Domes!
The second edition this 2016 to 2017 entitled “2nd Season” has been scaled up with double the number of LED lights i.e. 4 million light bulbs and a longer event period all the way from winter to summer! From 11 November 2016 to August 2017, you can visit the event’s designated area within Izu Granpal Kouen which will be filled with so many light bulbs of various colors that it will feel as if you are in a flower field of lights.
The 2016 version won two titles in the 4th Illumination Awards (Japanese only) as announced on 28 October where it placed No. 7 in the main illumination category and No. 5 in the summer illumination category. In case you are not aware, the Illumination Awards organized by General incorporated association YAKEI Convention & Visitors Bureau (Japanese only) is given annually based on the ranking of illumination events within Japan as decided by 4,800 night scene appreciation specialists.
The event also claims to be one where visitors not only get to admire the light display but also interact with it or take part in activities involving the display. As such, this added feature to engage the visitors actively sets Gran Illumi apart from its competition.
The event consists of 14 display areas focusing on the three themes of the universe, fantasy, and Jurassic World. Here is the list of display areas and a brief write-up on what they have to offer:
1. Choucho no Oyako Gate (ちょうちょの親子ゲート)
The butterfly parent-and-child light display is located at the entrance where you will see two flying butterflies welcoming you into the world of lights.
2. Uchuu Area (宇宙 area)
As the name suggests, the Uchuu Area which can be accessed by heading straight up from the entrance showcases various objects related to outer space such as aliens and spaceships.
3. Yume no Tunnel (夢のトンネル)
This rainbow-colored dream tunnel located at the northern end of the Uchuu Area is a popular photo-taking spot and serves as a prelude for visitors before they enter the fantasy area. After you walk through the tunnel, don’t be in a hurry to leave the area because there is a light and sound show lasting several minutes where up-tempo and happy music is played with pictures of confectionery, animals, dinosaurs, and flowers dancing and jumping out to greet you. Apparently, the view differs if you are viewing the show from here and other places such as the observatory platform and the suspension bridge.
4. Uki Uki e no Kakehashi (ウキウキへの架橋)
This display named “Very Colorful Suspension Bridge to Cheerfulness” was introduced to the event halfway during the run last season and provides a great view of the surroundings from an elevated point.
5. Yume no Okashi (夢のお菓子)
Here at the display entitled “Confectionery of Dreams”, your favorite sweet snacks such as the lollipop, candy cane, and cupcakes appear on the sloping ground as if they are about to pop up in front of you.
6. Jurassic Area (ジュラシック area)
For lovers of Jurassic Park and dinosaurs, this is a must-see as various species of dinosaurs come to life in a variety of colors.
7. Hikaru Panda (光るパンダ)
If you are interested in pandas, check out this display which is said to be the largest illuminated panda in the world standing at 8 meters tall!
8. Rantan Hanabatake (ランタン花畑)
This light display is produced by the same team that made Hikaru Panda and is said to be the largest field of flowers in the world.
9. Ryuuboku de Tsukutta Jura Obje (流木で作ったジュラオブジェ)
The Jurassic Park objects displayed here are made from drifting wood so when lit up, they project a different feel compared to what you see in the Chou Karafuru Jurassic Area.
10. Kaizokusen to Mizu no Hiroba (海賊船と水の広場)
This pirate ship and water square offer a number of rides for visitors to experience the water and lights on a huge ship model.
11. Illumi Joukuu ni Kakaru Zipline ~Julie~ (イルミ上空に架かるジップライン ~Julie~)
Have you ever “flown” above an illumination field? Here, you can experience the refreshing feeling of doing so at the attraction called Julie which is a zipline stretching across the Uchuu Area and Rantan Hanabatake.
12. Night Rainbow (ナイトレインボー)
The Night Rainbow is actually a signature item of Gran Illumi where visitors can go down a long slider for an unlimited number of times. Besides children, adults are sure to enjoy this fun installation too!
13. Koibito Jinja (恋人神社)
For those who are planning to visit the event with your partners, do remember to swing by the Lovers’ Shrine which was first introduced in the midst of last season’s event. It is said to be probably the first shrine for couples in an illumination event.
14. Dog Run (ドッグラン)
This 2016-2017 season is the first time that pets are allowed to be brought into the event venue. However, they are supposed to be kept in a carrier bag or carts for pets at all times due to the high density of lights and wiring at the venue which is potentially dangerous to these animals that may run around. The only area where they can be taken out of their bags or carts is here where you can let your pet enjoy the lights with you and take pictures with them.
Before seeing the illumination displays, how about grabbing a bite at some of the restaurants and cafes in the venue so that you’ll have the energy to walk around?
1. Restaurant Gurantei (レストラン ぐらん亭)
For a hearty meal of Genghis Khan barbecue, go to Gurantei which boasts of having a homemade sauce and accommodates groups as well. Although it may be quite cold to sit on the terrace during this season, being able to enjoy your sizzling food while surrounded by the beautiful lights may make it worthwhile to brave the chill. The opening hours are from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Note that this is the only restaurant among them all that requires admission to the theme park.
2. Restaurant Martis (レストラン マーチス)
If you would like to have curry, ramen, pasta, and honey toast with ice cream, head to Martis which is known for its substantial portions bound to fill you up. It is usually closed on Thursdays but during peak periods, it is open every day from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm.
3. Fukuroutei (ふくろう亭)
For a Japanese cafe experience in a kominka (古民家) i.e. Japanese old-style house, Fukuroutei offers mains like udon, soba, donburi, curry, desserts, and tea. It is closed on Wednesdays but might be open every day during the busy season from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
4. Kimukatsusha Sharigin (きむかつ舎 しゃり銀)
Sharigin is probably your best bet if you want to have dinner during the illumination event period after nightfall. Besides its lunch hours from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, dinner is served from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm except on Tuesdays. It mainly serves deep-fried dishes like karaage and tonkatsu as well as kids’ meals. As the restaurant is quite big, it has enough space for families with prams/strollers which is sure to be good news for parents!
When planning to visit Gran Illumi, here are some useful information for you to keep in mind:
Event Period: 11 November 2016 to August 2017 (last day to be confirmed at a later date)
Opening Hours: 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm (The operation hours will change during the spring and summer months due to the later timing of the sunset so it will start and end later than what’s mentioned here.)
How to get there by public transport:
Take the train to Atami Station (熱海駅) and transfer to Ito Line (伊東線) to get to Ito Station (伊東駅). From there, take the Izu Kyuko Line (伊豆急行線) to Izu Kogen Station (伊豆高原駅). After alighting, you can reach the theme park via a 10-minute taxi ride.
If you wish to take a bus instead from the train stations, you can either alight at Ito Station or Izu Kogen Station and take the local buses based on this schedule (Japanese only). Note that this schedule is currently for the winter season only so do check the official website again if you are planning to visit in spring and summer.
Admission Fees: 1,200 yen each for those in junior high school and above, 600 yen for primary school students, free for children below primary school
Parking: There are 1,000 car park slots including the temporary car parks and usage is free of charge at night.
- Operation hours of the event may change due to weather conditions.
- Because of possible congestion due to large crowds, it is recommended that you go to the rides first as the operation hours may be altered without prior notice in the event of massive queues, especially on peak period days.
- As the venue area is very big and there are changes in the elevation at various locations, it is best not to choose footwear such as sandals or high heels in order to prevent injury.
- Usage of tripods and selfie sticks are prohibited as this will cause inconveniences to other visitors.
- There is a smoking area within the venue but you will have to bring your portable ashtray.
- Pets which haven’t been vaccinated against diseases such as rabies are not allowed in the event venue. All pets must be kept inside carrier bags or carts at all times while in the event space unless at the Dog Run area.
Although winter illuminations are aplenty in Japan now, an event like Gran Illumi which extends until the summer is rare. As such, even if you can’t make it here during winter, do keep this event in mind and enjoy the illuminations in the warmer seasons which is sure to be a unique and interesting experience as well!
Gran Illumi Website *Japanese only