As the glittery lights and decorations of Christmas fade, those dark winter nights in some countries can seem gloomy.
Thankfully, there’s Japan.
Dazzling illuminations of all shapes and designs are set up for gatherings all over the country in December and stay up until spring.
The popularity of winter illuminations has increased significantly in recent years, and now nearly every city across the island boasts at least one such event.
The best light shows have found ways to stand out from the crowd by embracing special themes or incorporating innovative technology.
With the light extravaganza season fully on now, we’ve highlighted the best and brightest from all across Japan during the 2015-16.
Kingdom Of Flowers And Lights in Huis Ten Bosch
The Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki is known for going over the top, and not just because they have Japan’s first robot hotel.
Naturally, their annual illumination is a spectacle to behold, with millions of light bulbs in the mix.
This year, the lit-up revelry extends throughout the entire park, with gardens and buildings wrapped in lights.
They’ve also got a neon boat that rides over Technicolor water.
Projection mapping shows are this year’s hot new illumination trend, and Huis Ten Bosch has multiple 3D ones to choose from.
For old school thrills, there’s the illuminated bungee jump.
How to get there: This one’s easy: There’s an Huis Ten Bosch station on the Omura Line.
Until April 18, 2016
Toki No Sumika Winter Illumination
There are many good reasons to visit the Toki No Sumika hotel in the town of Gotemba.
And then there’s the light display.
The largest in Shizuoka Prefecturem it includes a 450-meter twinkling tunnel and many bright sculptures, wowing visitors from across Japan.
The illumination also boasts a spectacular dancing water fountain, where columns of glowing H2O criss cross each other.
What helps Toki No Sumika stand out from its competitors, though, are extras such as clear views of Mt. Fuji and abundant dozen natural hot springs.
How to get there: The hotel operates a shuttle bus from JR Gotemba Station, which lasts about 25 minutes.
Until March 21, 2016
Tokyo German Village Winter Illumination
One of the finest winter illuminations in Japan’s capital can be found in a place pretending to be another country altogether.
The Tokyo German Village, located a short train ride outside of the metropolis, puts on one of the region’s most stunning displays with thousands of LED lights.
Highlights include intricate, field-sized portraits constructed out of lights and the quaint European-style buildings on site transforming into a lit-up spectacle like none other in Japan.
You can hit up the Village earlier in the day to enjoy rides, flower gardens and German food.
How to get there: A shuttle bus service runs between Sodeguara Station and the Tokyo German Village (¥500 for adult and ¥250 for kids).
Until March 31, 2016
The ancient capital of Kyoto is not only known for its history.
Its largest illumination also shines thanks to cutting-edge technology.
The Kyoto Illumiere, set near a mountain and surrounded by gorgeous nature, features a field of bright lights highlighted by the event’s glowing centerpiece, a towering blue-hued tree.
Folks behind the event have spiced it up further by hosting a projection-mapping show four times a night. The brief-but-beautiful set replicates the the northern lights.
Still not satisfied?
There’s regular firework shows on dates including Valentine’s Day
How to get there: Shuttle buses run from Nisseichuo Station or Sonobe Station to Rurikei Onsen, Kyoto Illumiere’s venue.
Until April 3, 2016
Abeno Tennoji llluminage in Tennoji Park
Osaka’s famous Tennoji Zoo shuts its gates at 5 p.m. during the rest of the year, but extends hours in January to allow visitors to check out a very different collection of animals.
The Abeno Tennoji Illuminage’s theme for this winter is “Illumination Zoo,” a fitting theme for the 100th anniversary of what was only Japan’s third ever zoo.
Visitors to the park can see lights made up to look like all sorts of critters – from panda bears to giraffes.
This glowing animal sanctuary features four “zoo” areas, with each one housing a different set of illuminated creatures.
The Illuminage also has a few more traditional illumination spots, including a rainbow-colored tunnel.
How to get there: Osaka subway system’s Midosuji or Sakaisuji lines will take you to Dobutsuen-mae Station. That’s the zoo stop, and the signs will guide you from there.
Until January 31, 2016
For those seeking a little more fantasy from their winter illuminations, the Kobe Illuminage in the heart of the Kansai region is right for you.
This year’s edition includes four displays centered around beloved fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood and Aladdin among others.
All made out of a dizzying amount of light bulbs.
Visitors can also walk through an illuminated flower garden or a colorful tunnel.
Even the food court features an array of bright lights, so even snacking can be a memorable experience.
How to get there: A shuttle bus connects Okaba Station and Kobe Fruit And Flower Park, where the Illuminage is held.
Until January 31, 2016