As the cold winds blow and leaves begin to fall it is becoming increasingly apparent winter is slowly creeping its way towards us from the darkness from which it came. One way to cope with this season is to find the light—literally. Illumination is the word, and you may begin to see posters of theme parks or gardens in train stations advertising their vibrant Christmas light designs.
The tradition started in Kobe in 1995 as a way to pay tribute to the victims of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Years following the initial memorial lights other parts of Japan besides Kobe began lighting up and soon it spread to all regions of Japan. Tokyo, Kanagawa, Sendai, Tochi, Nagoya, Osaka, Nagasaki, and of course Kobe are now bringing in visitors by the thousands to see the nightly illuminations.
Last winter I was fortunate enough to visit Nagasaki and thought it would be very fun to visit the Flower and Light Kingdom hosted at Huis Ten Bosch in Kyushu. Many times I had seen the large European style clock towers rise majestically over the water next to it and always wondered what the park would be like. So naturally my next question was: Why not go on Christmas Day to see the largest illumination show in Japan?
Really knowing little to nothing about the park besides that it is an accurately replicated Dutch town (bringing in visitors all throughout the year to observe the windmills, tulips, canals, foreign foods, and other attractions) my group and I bundled up in our winter clothes and hopped on the local train trying to figure out what to expect.
We arrived at Huis Ten Bosch Station and proceeded to cross the large bridge from the station realizing how we were dwarfed by the rising clock towers. It was late in the afternoon, the sun had just begun to approach the horizon, and we already felt the cold of the night beginning to creep in. We passed the towers and headed to the main entrance and noticed a snowy owl in the window of the owl cafe just before reaching the ticket lines.
After buying our tickets and taking pictures with Tuli, the tulip themed character, we entered the park and immediately realized how big the park is and why this place ranks number 1 in illumination viewing.
There are lights everywhere. Everywhere! Even though there was daylight we noticed how overwhelming the amount of fixtures were.
We will fast forward through the last dwindling hours of daylight where we enjoyed mazes, a few slides and obstacle courses and will re-enter our story hours later gazing up at the view of the 66-meter tall virtual LED dynamic light waterfall cascading off the side of a building into the field of lights below. As impressive as this was, it was just a fraction of the 13 million light bulbs the park advertises.
There were light up animals in a zoo themed area. Light up shoes to take pictures in. Light up towers to climb up. Of course the expected lights hung in trees, above the streets and wound around streetlights. There were light parades. It was light overload, and as beautiful as it was, almost too much to comprehend at times.
After exploring about 60 percent of the park, enjoying a light parade and warming up with a large turkey leg and live Hawaiian Christmas music we were ready to end our Christmas outing before the park began closed down. Cheerfully, and with overloaded retinas, we left the park all agreeing that Japan really doesn’t mess around when it comes to Christmas Illuminations. It was a unique Christmas that I will never forget.