Tokyo in Pics


A photography blog about Tokyo, run by Australian photographer Rohan Gillett

Christmas Lights - in Harajuku 2017

The original plan for this article was for me to go to Harajuku and take pictures of the Christmas lights they had up along the main road, Omotesando.  I did go and take pictures but at the end of the night I went home feeling disappointed.  That night out made me think about Christmas and what it meant, especially for me.

Heavy traffic heading into the heart of Harajuku along Omotesando

Omotesando/Harajuku always looks great, especially at night when the crowds are out.  After all, it is the shopping and fashion of Tokyo.  The majority of us enjoy going there any time of the year.  It’s got all the shopping, restaurants and bars anyone could want.  And it’s got tons of events and backstreets too.  It is an amazing place, but what do the lights add?

Christmas tree in Harajuku? I don't think so

The zelkova trees that line the road draped with champagne-coloured LEDS, about 900,000 of them and that is pretty much it.  For first-timers it can look amazing, as it is a new experience and I understand that.  I really do.

Harajuku crossing on a business Saturday night

This time though, I found myself expecting something more.  Shinjuku Southern Terrace and the Marunouchi were kind of the same.  Lights, lights and more lights.  Later I spoke to some people who had lived in Japan for a long time like myself and they said they felt like me for these events are quite underwhelming.

A snap of Omotesando while crossing the road

I think it is because the majority of the Christmas light ups/illuminations in Tokyo, for me anyway, lack anything remotely “chrismassy”.  It was just the lights.  While they were beautiful, I just couldn't connect them with any feeling of Christmas.  So, it made me think, what is Christmas?

Zara and Gold's Gym at the top of Harajuku

People pass in front of Omotesando Hills

For me, Christmas decorations, which once upon a time would go up late November or early December and those decorations had a whole range of different images associated with them – Santa, elves, candy sticks, presents, reindeer and in some places even kangaroos (cough, cough Australia).  That is my image of how these events should be, and I believe it is shared by a great many others.

However, Japan is another country, another place, with its own perceptions and beliefs.  It has its own version of Christmas lights and by the looks of things, Japanese people really love them.  There is nothing wrong with that at all.  It’s just a pity that I don’t find this version of Christmas as attractive as I once did.