Holiday Illuminations: Where to check them out on Okinawa

Photo courtesy of Southeast Botanical Gardens
Photo courtesy of Southeast Botanical Gardens

Holiday Illuminations: Where to check them out on Okinawa

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

Although a white Christmas seems unlikely, every year a season of lights surely comes to Okinawa.

Starting late November, illuminations light up many locations, setting the mood for the holiday season.

It may still be warm on the island, but the colorful lights announce the arrival of “the sub-tropical paradise of Japan.”

Illuminations at Okinawa Zoo & Museum

Photo courtesy of Christmas Fantasy Planning Committee

From Christmas through New Year, the Okinawa Zoo & Museum gives off an exceptional radiance with 1.4 million bulbs. Not only that, the location becomes a stage for many festivities to pump up the excitement. With “Super Aurora Attraction” a laser light and firework show as a main feature, illuminations of various themes will be displayed to include “Heart Land (heart-shaped illuminations”, “Niagara (waterfall-simulating illumination).”

Santa Claus is also coming to join the crowd, and there will even be a snowfall for a “White Christmas” in Okinawa. Plus, zombies and dinosaurs are going to bring some chill to the warm winter on the sub-tropical island.

This event will start Dec. 10 and conclude Jan. 9. Please note that several days where there will be no illuminations.

When the illuminations take place, the park will stay open until 9:30 p.m., except Dec. 31 where the hours will be extended until 1 a.m.

Illuminations at Okinawa Zoo & Museum near Kadena Air Base
Date: Dec. 10 – Jan. 9
*There will be no illumination event Dec. 12 – 16, Dec. 19 - 23, 27, Jan. 1, 5, 6.
Time: 4:30 – 9:30 p.m. (6 p.m. – 1 a.m. for Dec. 31)
GPS Coordinates: N 26.327100, E 127.804266
Admission (walk-up): 2,400 yen (approx. $17.27, high schoolers and above); 1,400 yen (between 4 years of age and middle schoolers); free admission for 3 years and below.
* Advance tickets are available at MCCS Tours+ and KADENA ITT. They are priced at 2,100 yen for high schoolers and above, 1,200 yen for between 4 years of age and middle schoolers.

Ryukyu Lantern Festival
In Okinawa, some illuminations have a historical touch to them. Murasaki Mura Ryukyu Kingdom Theme Park will once again be host to the Ryukyu Lantern Festival starting Dec. 2. Enjoy the view as lanterns of various, sizes, and styles light up the park’s Ryukyu-style buildings. Under the lights, buildings and streets in a traditional style will set a mood much different from other illuminations. Memorable scenes such as a stone-paved road lit with a line of Chinese red lanterns, and traditional Okinawan houses adorned with decorations of various shapes and lights.  

Ryukyu Lantern Festival at Murasaki Mura

Photo courtesy of Murasaki Mura

Date: Dec. 2 – Mar. 26  
Time: 5:30 – 10 p.m. (last admission at 9:30 p.m.) 
GPS Coordinates: N 26.407128, E 127.719856
Admission: 1,500 yen for adults; 700 yen for high school and middle school students; 600 yen for elementary school students; free admission for younger children.

Okinawa Nangoku Illumination
Tounan Shokubutsu Rakuen, or Southeast Botanical Gardens, is home to 1,300 different plants. People go there to see unique plants such as baobab trees, dragon’s blood trees, and Alexandra palms. However, when winter rolls around, shining lights add more reasons to visit the place.

Until May 28, Okinawa Nangoku Illumination will add special splendor and colors to the garden’s lush green. Unique illuminations modeled after lotus, waterfall, hibiscus, and more will create fantastical scenes.

Ranked third in a nation-wide illumination award, this garden’s illuminations are now a winter highlight.

Nangoku Illumination at Southeast Botanical Garden

Photo courtesy of Southeast Botanical Gardens

Date: – May 28 
Time: 5 – 10 p.m. (last admission at 9:30 p.m.) 
GPS Coordinates: N 26.375447, E 127.806597
Admission: 1,980 yen for adults (18 and older); 1,200 yen for ages 13-17; 680 yen for ages 4-12; free admission for 3 years old and below.
*From Dec. 23-Jan. 9, the above fees will be 2,450 yen (18 and above), 1,350 yen (Ages 13-17), 750 yen (Ages 4-12) .

Other Illuminations On Okinawa

Star Dust Fantasia
Until Feb. 14: 6 – 11 p.m. (subject to change, admission between 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.); This event is open to only hotel guests on Dec. 24, 25, and 31; at Kanucha Resort  (N 26.548740, E 128.076245); Admission: 3,000 yen per vehicle; Tickets can be purchased through the hotel’s website

Only credit card payment is accepted; This resort hotel near Camp Schwab hosts a large-scale illumination event. Its pool and beach will a stage for various illuminations. Its main feature will be “STELLA PARK AVENU” where a chape will be lit in many colors. A live music performance will take place every Saturday until Dec. 24 at the plaza near the entrance. There will also be a projection mapping presentation at the chapel.

Mihama American Village Illumination    
Until Mar. 10; 6:30 p.m. - ; Mihama American village near Camp Foster and Kadena Air Base; free admission; This annual illumination returns to the popular shopping area. Buildings, palm trees, banisters, and more will don colorful illuminations. 

Winter Elegance 2022-23
Until Feb.14; 5 – 8:30 p.m.; Okinawa Outlet Mall Ashibinaa (N 26.159139, E 127.657608) near Naha Airport; free admission; This popular outlet shopping mall houses luxury brands such as Gucci, Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, and more. This colorful illumination will provide more fun to your shopping experience. 

Kariyushi Dream Fantasy

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