The Nakameguro winter illuminations

Tokyo has a suburb with long lazy canals, rows of cherry blossoms, quiet streets and old buildings? Could this be a mini Amsterdam in Tokyo? Hmm…not exactly.

This was still the mighty concrete jungle of Tokyo, so what Nakameguro canals actually looks like are high-walled, concrete stormwater channels stained green from algae. In the summer, the canals burst with blossoming sakuras, and in winter, strings of lights illuminate the area.

Urban sketch of light displays in the trees above Nakameguro canal
Trees decorated with fairy lights above the canal

Visiting Nakameguro in winter

The coveted sakura flowering season is well and truly over by winter. Instead of clusters of dainty pink blossoms, the trees resembled gnarled, skeletal branches leaning over the canals.

But city planners have a trump card to attract people in winter, and make them excited about the canals. Night time illuminations!

Sketch of Japanese police beneath the trees
Japanese police officers direct crowds

The Jewel Dome

Some kind of event was taking place – roads were being closed off with barriers, and cars were redirected by police officers with glow sticks and classy white gloves. Volunteers in yellow jackets were ushering people around. Wondering what was happening, we found a volunteer who spoke a little English, who could tell us what was happening.

Tonight was the Nakameguro Jewel Dome (a name which we initially thought was a lost-in-translation mistake, but it’s really called that) – a Christmastime event where the trees are illuminated by around 30,000 fairy lights. As the sun set and the bars filled with people, the lights flickered on, the trees blossomed with light, and Nakameguro came alive!

Drawing of a building in tokyo with colored lanterns
A bar in tokyo

Winter illuminations across Tokyo

In fact, the illuminations in Nakameguro canals are just a small part of a city-wide light show.There are many other great places to see the lights.


The Shibuya Ao No Dokutsu is one of most spectacular light displays in the whole city. The lights are a kind of flourescent blue that illuminates absolutely everything, from the trees, the ground, and the people around you. Spending a little too much time can make your eyes feel weird!

Translated to ‘the blue cavern’, or ‘blue grotto’, the blue lights stretch 800 metres from Koen-dori all the way to Yoyogi park.

Other sites

  • Shiodome
  • Shinjuku
  • Tokyo Midtown
  • Roppongi Hills
  • Meguro-gawa
  • Odaiba
  • Tokyo Dome City
  • Marunouchi
  • Omotesando
  • Akasaka Sacas
  • Yebisu garden palace
  • Showa memorial park

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