Odaiba is a manmade island on Tokyo Bay, located just outside of the city. Its year-round lighting, known as Odaiba Illumination YAKEI is a popular tourist draw, and one of the main reasons people make the trek to the outskirts of Tokyo.
Winter Illuminations are popular throughout Tokyo November through December, and there are some exceptional displays throughout the city, with several neighborhoods seemingly trying to one-up each other with more extravagant light displays. The largest is in Tokyo Dome City with two million lights.
By contrast, Odaiba Illumination YAKEI advertises 220,000 lights (it seemed smaller than that to me). That’s the downside. The upside is that Odaiba’s illumination is not exclusive to the Christmas season–it’s year round. So, if you want to get into the Christmas spirits in July or October, Odaiba is a good pick…
Located outside of the Decks Tokyo Beach mall on 3F, Odaiba Illumination YAKEI consists of 40 trees running along a stretch of the waterfront, highlighted by a particularly tall Christmas tree (“Odaiba Memorial Tree”), some archways, and the Illusion Dome.
The Illusion Dome is the first 360° projector system in Japan, which is a space you can step inside filled with various projectors that create an immersive environment. These projectors detect human motion and animates images all around. When we visited, the Illusion Dome kept putting visitors underwater.
The animation was somewhat cheesy, but as a proof of concept technology, it was pretty cool.
The archways and a few strands of lights in other areas around Decks are pretty much the only decor outside of the waterfront. Perhaps the area is more dressed-up at Christmas? I’m not sure.
While the Odaiba Illumination is somewhat underwhelming as compared to what you can see elsewhere, it’s still potentially worth seeing thanks to the incredible view. At night, from this third floor viewing area outside Decks, you can see the Illuminations and Statue of Liberty in the foreground, with Tokyo Bay and the city itself, including Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and the Rainbow Bridge in the background. I’d say this is the best view of Tokyo’s skyline anywhere that I’ve found.
In terms of tips, there’s not much you need to know. We will reiterate that the location of the Odaiba Illumination is outside of the Decks mall on 3F, so Decks is the location to enter into Google Maps. This entertainment complex is massive, and you could find yourself aimlessly wandering for a while, otherwise.
Once you find it, the entire illumination is in a compact area. I was expecting more when we visited, so I wandered around looking to see “the rest” of the lights. There is nothing else, though. It’s all concentrated in the area of the Memorial Tree (the one that looks like a Christmas tree).
Beyond that, Odaiba has a lot to offer…all of which is probably beyond the scope of this post. Suffice to say, it’s a touristy area with a lot of attractions aimed at non-locals. To pique your curiosity, the following are some of Odaiba’s most popular spots: Legoland Discovery Center, Aquacity, Odaiba Seaside Park, Fuji TV Building, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, and much more. If there’s interest, we’ll cover other things we’ve done in Odaiba in a subsequent post.
While Odaiba is located outside of Tokyo, making it a bit of a commute if you’re staying in Shinjuku, Shibuya, or elsewhere downtown, it’s very convenient to Tokyo Disney Resort, since both are on Tokyo Bay. This makes it a good option for an evening outside of the parks. From Maihama Station, it’s only about 20-25 minutes to Odaiba via the rail, which is not too bad.
All things considered, I would not recommend making a trip to Odaiba exclusively for its year-round illumination, unless you’re really big on Christmas lights and are visiting outside of November through February (Tokyo Dome City typically runs the first week in November through just after Valentine’s Day), when the other big winter illuminations are occurring in Tokyo. However, there are some other compelling things to do in Odaiba and coupling those with the illuminations and the stunning views of the Tokyo skyline might be enough to justify a visit.
Does the Odaiba Illumination YAKEI intrigue you? Have you experienced this or any other winter illuminations in Japan? Other thoughts about Odaiba? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!