There are plenty of winter illumination events in Japan, as decorating cities and gardens in extravagant light displays has become somewhat of a modern Japanese tradition.
One of Japan’s largest illumination displays is at Nabana no Sato flower park in Kuwana. Each year millions of LED bulbs transform the gardens into a twinkling wonderland complete with vibrant light tunnels, an animated light show, and stunning water reflections.
The Nabana no Sato winter illumination was the first light display in Japan I visited, but it won’t be my last. From the festive atmosphere to the dazzling light show, this event kept me smiling all night long!
My Visit to the Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination
I arrived at Nabana no Sato late in the afternoon, which gave me some time to enjoy the flower park and a leisurely meal while excitedly waiting for the winter illumination event to start.
The park got busy just before the lights turned on, with most people heading directly to the first light tunnel in the main illumination area.
I decided to wait until the crowds died down and staked out a nice photo spot at the edge of the main pond.
The light show here was simple, yet beautiful. Lights danced across the water along a curved track, changing colours to match the chapel in the background. The show incorporated music too, so with the variety of light and sound I could sit there for a while and see many different short performances.
Once the crowds thinned out, I made my way to the main event area. Greeting me at the entrance was a very long tunnel of lights, a signature display of the Nabana no Sato winter illumination.
I was mesmerized! The warm golden lights arched above me with such elegance, stretching further down the path than I could have imagined.
As music played around me, I very slowly wandered down the tunnel, stopping to take photos and, more importantly, savour the moment. Even though the light tunnel was busy, it was a nice atmosphere with happy, smiling people all around enjoying a night out.
After the tunnel I came to another main attraction of the Nabana no Sato winter illumination- the animated light show!
An entire field was filled with lights, backed by a wall of LEDs that changed colour to show different moving scenes. Each year the light show at Nabana no Sato has a different theme. This year’s show was putting the spotlight on Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture, located on the island of Kyushu.
The light show depicted scenes of nature and landmarks in Kumamoto, along with a special appearance from Kumamon, the prefecture’s black bear mascot. The show was so impressive that I watched it twice- once at field level, and then again from the observatory building.
As I made my way back into the main area of the park, I got to walk through another gorgeous tunnel of lights. This one paid tribute to Japan’s beloved cherry blossoms, with thousands of sakura-shaped bulbs framing the pathway.
For some extra wow-factor, the lights gradually changed colour from green to bright pink, portraying the different stages of cherry blossom growth.
Just when I thought the cherry blossom light tunnel was the last cool attraction, I came to this small pond with the most magnificent reflections I’d ever seen.
The still water, black under the night sky, was the perfect canvas for a mirror image of leafless trees. The light placement was so impeccable that it made the reflections look three dimensional, like I could reach out and grab hold of the branches. Absolutely stunning!
Even though it wasn’t as showy as the rest of the displays, the beauty and serene mood conveyed by this small pond was my favourite part of Nabana no Sato’s winter illumination.
Final Thoughts About the Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination and Flower Park
My visit to the Nabana no Sato winter illumination was a fantastic side trip from Nagoya.
I had a wonderful time exploring the small flower park before the event began, especially the Plum Garden. I loved wandering among the weeping plum trees, which were nearing full bloom and smelled oh-so sweet.
Since it was the beginning of March, not much else had blossomed yet, but I still had a nice time exploring the “village” area. There was a chapel, tea house, market, onsen, outdoor foot bath, beer garden, street food vendors, and restaurants.
Of course the main attraction was the illumination and it did not disappoint. Everything was unforgettable- the tunnels, light shows, reflections, lit up trees- it all was fabulous. I only wished the park was bigger so there was even more light displays to enjoy!
Tips for Visiting the Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination
Location: Nabana no Sato is located in the Nagashima Resort in Kuwana City (Mie Prefecture). It can easily be visited as a day trip from Nagoya.
When: The Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination usually takes place from mid-October to early May.
Getting There: You can get to Nabana no Sato from Nagoya in about 30 minutes using public transportation. There are a couple different options to get there, but I took and recommend the direct bus.
- The easiest (but more expensive way) is to take the direct highway bus from Nagoya Meitetsu Bus Centre to Nabana no Sato. The Meitetsu Bus Centre is on the 4th floor and was kind of hard to find, so look for signs and don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Here is the English bus schedule on the Mie Kotsu Group website
- You can also take a Kintetsu or JR train from Nagoya to Nagashima Station in Kuwana, then a direct bus from Kintetsu Nagashima Station to Nabana no Sato. The bus operates only during the illumination event. Here is the English bus schedule (double check that it’s current).
- Another option is to take a train to Kuwana Station, then the route bus to Nabana no Sato. Here is the English bus schedule on the Mie Kotsu Group website.
Admission: It costs more to enter the flower park during the winter illumination but your admission includes vouchers worth 1000 yen that can be used at the shops and restaurants. This helps make up for the expensive admission ticket (about $26 CAD). Entrance to the Begonia Garden, onsen, and Mt. Fuji themed observatory ride are charged separately.
Opening Hours: Nabana no Sato is open from 9:00 am- 9:00 pm. The lights for the illumination event turn on once it gets dark.
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