Sunday, December 18, 2022

Winter Nights Sparkle at the Tokyo Mega Illumination

 -- Susan, every other Sunday

Since this is my final post before Christmas, and New Year's in Japan is a horse of a different color, I'm dedicating my final MIE post of 2022 to one of Tokyo's favorite winter activities: a visit to a winter illumination.

The entrance to the illumination at Oi Racecourse

The moving lighted banner at the entrance

The Tokyo Mega Illumination takes place at Oi Racecourse, in southeast Tokyo, every year from late November through mid-January. I'd known about it for many years, and I'd heard it was one of the best in Japan. 

This year I finally made the time to go. As you'll see, the only thing I regret is not going sooner.

The illumination covers the grounds of Oi Racecourse, with most of the "action" taking place in the infield at the center of the racetrack. Visitors can't get out on the track itself, but there are fog machines set up on the track that add a mystical atmosphere to the evening.

You enter the infield through the "Twinkle Tunnel," which is filled with ever-changing colored lights and projections.

A still shot of the Twinkle Tunnel

Another part of the Twinkle Tunnel

Outside the tunnel (both before and after you enter it), there are different illuminations and special areas to walk through and explore. In one area, you can meet, and pet, a row of miniature horses--dressed up for the holidays in fancy bows and twinkling, lighted blankets.

One of the mini-horse "greeters"

While I'm not always a fan of placing animals in social situations, I was impressed with the way this area was designed to keep the little horses comfortable and prevent them from being overwhelmed.  The horses were under cover in a heated area; each horse had a handler, and there were separate lines (spaced about 5 meters from the horses themselves) where visitors lined up to take a turn meeting one of the horses. You could get back in line, or go to multiple lines, but each horse was meeting only one person (or at most one family of three people) at a time. The horses also got about a minute in between visitors, before the handlers called the next person or family up to say hello.

The horses' attitudes ranged from curious and happy to slightly bored. I watched from a distance for a while and am happy to say that all of the handlers (young women, who seemed very devoted to their little charges) were paying close attention and the horses didn't seem to mind the attention at all. Kudos, Racecourse management!

Not all of the horses at the event were live

There were also several life-sized statues of horses around the park, some of which memorialize famous racehorses.
Merry Illumination Season from Oi Racecourse!

Winter illuminations are very common in Japan. Some have a Christmas theme, while others are dedicated to "winter," or New Year, or simply "Beautiful Lights." The Christmas-themed illuminations either end on December 26 or shift (often with entirely new displays) on the 26th to a New Year or Winter theme.

The Tokyo Mega Illumination is simply that--a giant sea of lights, in areas with different themes.

One of the more popular areas was the "Sakura Tunnel" - a 50-meter long tunnel of pale pink lights designed to remind you of a canopy of blooming cherry trees. 

In the sakura tunnel

One of my other favorite areas was a large "rose garden" filled with LED roses that changed colors in time with the classical music playing through hidden speakers in the area.

LED Roses in bloom

But my favorite area of all was the "Traditional Japanese Landscape" - an enormous field of illuminated rice paddies, complete with a LED river and a traditional farm house. The rice fields slowly changed color to simulate all the seasons of the year.

"Rice fields" in winter with the Sakura Tunnel in the background

LED Fiber Optic strands were used to make the rice plants, and the effect was amazing.

The rice fields and farmhouse at a distance

Beyond the rice fields, a terraced area called the "Flowing River" simulated a river running through terraced rice fields planted on a hillside. Unfortunately, the photos below really don't do it justice - it was magnificent in person, but the lights don't translate well in still photography.

The river and "terraced rice field" area

Like the traditional landscape, the river changed colors and patterns to simulate four different seasons.

The flowing river in autumn. The red lights are leaf-shaped figures that moved through the display.

This was my first visit to the Tokyo Mega Illumination, but it won't be the last. In fact, I have two more trips planned this year alone - I'm a sucker for pretty lights, and the cafe on the grounds (which has large windows that open onto the rose garden display) has several delicious-looking treats I want to sample before they're gone.

Whatever you celebrate (or don't) and wherever you're doing it this year, I wish you peace, hope, joy, and warm, twinkling lights to illuminate your path toward the new year. 


  1. How lucky you are to have this close enough to visit. How fortunate are we that you have shared the experience. Wishing you all of the best over the festive season. Cheers, Stan

  2. That looked a lovely place to visit!

  3. Thank you for the photos! I didn't like the idea of LED displays but they look so lovely now I would love to visit some day! And thank you very very much for writing how well the little horses are cared for. Merry Christmas to you too!