I had heard that Tokyo could put on a heck of a light show for the holidays. A quick internet search brought me directly to the knowledge of the Winter Illumination around Tokyo. So, the Sailor and I hopped on a train (then a subway) and popped over to Roppongi Hills to see what the deal was for that location. We climbed our way from the subterranean level of the subway to find a squeaky clean she-she mall full if Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Cartier.
While window shopping for $10,000 watches and hand bags does have it’s moments, the allure can wear off when you quickly realize that you can’t afford a keychain. Since we had a few hours until sundown we decided to take a nice long stroll over to the Imperial Palace. If our calculations were right, we’d get there just as the sun was setting for a few photo ops, have time to check out the downtown shopping on that side of town then head back to see the lights and catch the same subway back towards home.
It took roughly an hour to walk from Roppongi to where the Imperial Palace is. I couldn’t even recount how many super cars and ultra Luxury vehicles we saw tooling around the streets.
As we drew near to the Palace entrance you first notice the moat surrounding the grounds as well as the high stone wall. We got our first glimpse of the historic site against the modern city line background. It’s such a dramatic 360 view; The historic residence of the Imperial family on one side and the opposite, modern Tokyo.
The residence is on the site of a former Edo Castle. The Castle used to be the seat of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from the early 17th to late 19th centuries. In 1868 the shogunate was overthrown and the capital and Imperial Residence were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. In 1888 construction of a new Imperial Palace was completed. That palace was destroyed during World War Two but, rebuilt in the same style after.
The large open plaza in front of the palace is the Kokyo Gaien. It is from here that we could see the Meganebashi, orEyeglass Bridge, with the Palace behind it. The interior grounds are only open to the public twice a year; on January 2nd for New Year’s Greetings and December 23rd from the Emperor’s Birthday. Apparently there are guided tours during the day that we may have to go back at some point and check out.
Having entertained ourselves with the Palace, we decided to take a short walk around some of the other downtown shopping areas as we meandered back towards Roppongi Hills to take in the lights now that darkness was falling. Billboards and Digital signs were on every street. There was an art gallery with a super car installation that you could go in and walk around (the Sailor was content to take pictures through the window) to see the cars up close. We found the Omega Boutique and got to experience riding the Omega glass elevator up to the boutique and back down again. It was summons by the footman at the entrance to the fancy watch area to take it up and when we rode it back down, the sales associate bowed to us until we were completely below the floor line. Talk about feeling like a a fancy AF lady…
We even happened upon a Patek Philippe store. It’s a watch brand that I had never heard of but, the Sailor was clearly impressed and took pictures. Then I saw the “cheapest” watch in the window (¥8,683,200 which is roughly $76,548) and slowly backed away, afraid of breathing on the window wrong.
After we had our fill of window shopping yet again, we hit up GPS to take us back to Midtown Roppongi. The directions took us through a park that happened to have some sort of food festival going on. We saw A LOT of fish and shellfish. I wish we would have stopped to take a better look and maybe attempt to find something that wouldn’t kill me and that the Sailor wouldn’t mind trying. Alas, we laughed our way through the very crowded tents to emerge to holiday lights being turned on along the sidewalks and paths.
As we made our way around the mall to the back area where the light show was set up, of course there was another supercar exhibit with the lights in the background, because, Tokyo. The Sailor was thrilled.
But, the main attraction; the reason we came. It did not disappoint. Thousands of LED lights and globes set to music. Smoke machines that not only coated the ground at times but also blew smoke filled bubbles that drifted through the display at times and out over the crowd. A pathway led you around the entire set up allowing you to see it from every angle. We slowly walked the entire circumference sneaking a stop here and there to take photos and videos. When we finally had our fill we started the walk back to the subway through even more lighted pathways.
Considering this was just one of several light displays in Tokyo that run through February, I might have to talk the sailor into going back a time or two more to check them out. I mean, who doesn’t love Christmas lights?!