Don’t let the sub-tropical island temperatures fool you. Okinawa can get into the holiday spirit despite the lack of snow and wintery weather. Illuminations are a big deal on the island, and here are three of the top locations where you can get in holiday mood.
With the temperature hanging around 70 degrees, December in Okinawa may not necessarily put people in the mood for winter traditions. However, with the help of technology and creativity, people on the subtropical island can get into that wintry spirit.
Christmas Fantasy Okinawa is a 23-year-old event and thought to be one of the biggest illuminations displays on the island. A total of 1.4 million bulbs will to light up the night at the Okinawa Zoo & Museum. This is a portion of a three-part event which kicks off Dec. 22 and continues until Jan. 6.
From Dec. 22 through 30, Santa Claus will be at the zoo every day. Plus, a snow theme park will have snow tube riding, snowman making and more. This will literally be “White Christmas come true” in Okinawa. To bring more chills to the sub-tropical winter in Okinawa, a herd of zombies will even join the party.
On Dec. 31, “Nenmatsu (year-end) Countdown” will take place to celebrate the New Year with fireworks and live music.
From Jan. 2 through 6, the illuminations continue under the title “Yuki to Hikari no Fuyu Monogatari” (winter tale of snow and light) where powered snow will fall, mochi pounding will be held, and Japanese lion dancing will be performed.
Throughout the period, “Super Aurora Attraction” will recreate the Northern Lights.
The romantic mood that the lights bring to the venue are expected to once again make the nights in Okinawa memorable.
Date: Dec. 22 – 30 (Christmas Fantasy); Dec. 31 (Nenmatsu/Year-end countdown); Jan. 2 -6 (Yuki to Hikari no Fuyumonogatari / winter tale of snow and light)
*Closed on Dec. 26 and Jan. 1
Venue: Okinawa Zoo & Museum
Address: 5-7-1 Goya, Okinawa city, Okinawa
Hours: 4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (9 p.m. – 1 a.m. for the year-end countdown)
Admission: 2,200 yen for adults and high school students; 1,200 yen for middle school students and below (ages 4 and above)
*Advance tickets cost 1,800 yen and 1,000 yen respectively
Ryukyu Lantern Festival
While many illuminations are dedicated to Christmas and fantasies, some of them spotlight local culture and history. Ryukyu Lantern Festival will feature just that when it returns to Yomitan Village starting Dec. 1.
Lanterns of various colors, sizes, and styles will light up several locations of the host municipality of Torii Station.
At Murasaki Mura, the main venue, the lights will bring back 15th century Ryukyu Kingdom. Originally built for the television show titled “Ryukyu no Kaze” (Wind of Ryukyu), the buildings and streets of the theme park will light up and create a romantic mood from the past.
Scenes like a stone-paved road lit with a line of Chinese red lanterns, or a huge statuesque lantern in the shape of a king let visitors feel like they are traveling back in time. Projection mapping will produce a spectacle where advanced technologies meet traditions.
Stage performance such as Eisa and Hula dancing, or live music will add excitement. Plus, festival foods will be available on site.
Date: Dec.1 – Mar. 3
Venue: Murasaki Mura (main venue)
Address: 1020-1 Takashiho, Yomitan village, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa
Hours: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. (Lanterns light up at 6 p.m.) Admission: 600 yen for adults, 500 yen for high school and middle school students, 400 yen for elementary students (free admission for younger)
Tounan Shokubutsu Rakuen, or Southeast Botanical Gardens, is meant to be a utopia.
Home to 1,300 different plants, the place well deserves to be called a rakuen (utopia) for shokubutsu (plants). But when winter rolls around, it also becomes a paradise of light.
Hikarino Sanpo Michi (Promenade of Light), with the subtitle “Nostalgia Illumination”, will announce the the arrival of the season of romantic lights on the island.
The garden’s iconic spots will be lit up to present a different unique look from what the sub-tropical garden has to offer under sunlight.
This year, the number of bulbs will double from last year. And a new attraction will allow visitors to get a hands-on experience with some illuminations.
Those looking for a romantic night can eat dinner as they enjoy the view of the illuminations. If you are looking for a casual night, comfort food such as ramen and curry rice will also be available.
Date: Nov. 23 – Mar. 31
Venue: Southeast Botanical Gardens
Address: 2146 Chibana, Okinawa city, Okinawa
Hours (Illumination): 5 – 10 p.m.
Admission: 1,800 yen for adults, 1,000 yen for high school students, 500 yen for middle and elementary school students, free admission under 6. (Dec. 22 - 25, 2,000 yen for adult)
KANUCHA RESORT STARDUST FANTASIA 2018:
Through Feb. 14, 6-11 p.m. until Dec. 30, 7-11 p.m. on Jan. 1 -Feb. 14; featuring illumination of 1,000,000 LED lights decorated with the theme of “Reflection” collaborated with music will bring you into fantasy world; 1,000 yen per person (advanced ticket), 1,500 yen at doors, free ages 12 & younger, 3,000 yen group pass for four people, additional 1,000 yen on Dec. 22-25; free for a stay or a dinner; 80 minute ride from Naha Airport; 0980-55-8880; www.kanucha.jp/en/
TOMAN PEACEFUL ILLUMINATION: Dec. 15-Jan. 3, 6-10 p.m., until 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 31; 350,000 LED lights featuring the illumination, praying for Okinawa 1.3 million-people’s peace” at Itoman Kanko Noen, includes concerts and live performances on Christmas days and year-end, and a countdown and fireworks on Dec. 31; 500 yen adults 300 yen senior high school students, free for children; Heiwa-no Hikari Committee; 098-840-8135.
CHRISTMAS ILLUMINATION AT HOTEL NIKKO ALIVIA:
Through Feb. 28, sunset-midnight, enjoy illumination decorated with 80,000 LED lights by green power, featuring the fantasy world with the theme of “Las Luces Feliz” throughout in the facilities of Hotel Nikko Alivia, also 30-minute candlelight illumination at 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. daily at patio; 60-minute ride from Naha Airport; 098-982-9111; www.alivila.co.jp/