Spend a Sparkling Christmas with Keyakizaka Illuminations

  • As winter approaches, Christmas illuminations are springing up all over Japan. With so much to see yet so little time to fit everything in, here’s a recommendation for a must-see Christmas illumination hotspot if you happen to be in Tokyo this winter!

    Outdoor Christmas tree at Roppongi Hills in December 2014


    Author’s photo

    Roppongi Hills is a well-known spot in Tokyo for its extensive offerings of retail, entertainment, commercial and residential facilities. There’s a TV station here (TV Asahi) which has a section open to the public so you might be able to spot your favourite stars at the lobby if you are lucky. Other unique places include a Japanese-styled garden named Mori Teien just sandwiched between Roppongi Hills and TV Asahi, a rooftop observatory which allows you to see Tokyo in a 360-degree view without the obstruction of glass windows (access dependent on weather conditions though) and of course, the Mori Art Museum on the 53rd floor of the Mori Tower.


    What I would like to introduce you to is the illuminations at Keyakizaka, the 400m-long sloping main street of Roppongi Hills where there are trees planted on both sides of the road. In winter, the leaves of the trees fall off, thus leaving the barren tree trunks and branches where the Christmas lights are wrapped around. When the white lights are lit up, it creates a dreamy and sparkling Christmas atmosphere. As the lights switch to red, the street exudes a warm and fuzzy feel in the cold winter nights. Coupled with the brightly-lit Tokyo Tower framed by the surrounding buildings, taking a photo of the Keyakizaka illuminations here with the Tokyo Tower has become a must-see during the Christmas season.

    View of Keyakizaka (lower part) and the pedestrian crossing people gather at to take pictures as taken from an overhead bridge


    Author’s photo

    There are two vantage points I would recommend to take the best shots of the illuminations. First of all, there is an overhead bridge stretching across the road from Roppongi Hills. From here, you can get an aerial shot of the illuminations with Tokyo Tower in the background. However, be warned that there are many people who are there for the same reason as you are so please wait patiently for someone to move out of the space right in front of the glass barriers of the overhead bridge before moving in for your turn. Alternatively, there is a raised platform which is placed a slight distance away from the glass barriers but offers you an unblocked view to take your photo. Just be mindful of your steps as you navigate up and down the platform and don’t get too carried away while taking your picture in case you lose your balance.

    View of Keyakizaka’s red illuminations as seen from street level


    Author’s photo

    Another vantage point would be the pedestrian crossing where you will see some Japanese police officers on duty there to manage the flow of pedestrians. As soon as the “green man” sign comes on, pedestrians waiting at both sides of the road will be clamouring to get to the centre of the crossing just to take the perfect shot of the illuminations and Tokyo Tower. This is probably the only time when you will be allowed to take a photo in the middle of the street and in a safe way too. Note that you should always follow the instructions of the police officers to get off the pedestrian crossing when the signs are about to change so that you don’t endanger yourself nor hold up the traffic.

    Have fun viewing the Christmas illuminations at Keyakizaka!

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