December Challenge 10 – Bright


For today’s December Challenge theme of Bright, I return to my favorite – Christmas lights or illumination. When it gets dark early and stays dark late, what better way to brighten up the long night than with Christmas lights? Even if it’s cold outside, walking around with your friends or loved ones brings an excitement that makes it worth bundling up.


If you have been following my challenge so far, you’ll know that lights are one of my favorite parts of the season, although I haven’t been able to get out to see as many this year as I would have liked. But the month is still young! So don’t worry, there are most likely more holiday light photos on the way.

What do you think of when you think of Bright? Let me know what my one-track mind might have missed when coming up with a post for this theme!

December Challenge 08 – Ornaments


What better way to show the theme of Ornaments for the December Challenge than with larger-than-life ornaments? These outdoor Christmas ornaments are about 1.5x as tall as me, and combined with the festive lights they definitely add to the Christmas spirit.

OrnamentsSince I have been moving a lot lately, I haven’t invested in a Christmas tree. But visiting various Christmas displays gives me the opportunity to see a lot of trees, lights, and ornaments in a variety of holiday displays. What kind of Christmas or other holiday displays does your city have? What kind of displays have you seen during your travels? Let me know in the comments!

December Challenge – 07 Best Part of the Season


In response to the theme of Best Part of the Day for the December Challenge, I chose my favorite part of the Season instead. I wanted to celebrate my favorite part of the holidays: illumination. Illumination is the Japanese word for holiday lights. All over Japan you can find special Christmas light displays, projection mapping, and elaborate crafts relating to the season.

In America you can find similar displays, including miles of road that are decorated with lights that you can drive along and view from your car or entire neighborhoods decked with lights. Even the zoos join in with light displays and extended hours.

In Japan, you can view illumination almost anywhere, but I think my favorite place to stroll and check out the Christmas and illumination displays are in Ginza. The first photo below is at Tokyo Station, but the rest are in the high-class shopping area of Ginza. Each store does its own illumination and window display. Many people are out on December nights to stroll down the streets with you.

What is your favorite place to view holiday lights? Tell me about your favorite part of the season in the comments!

Tokyo Station

Ginza - Louis Vuitton

Ginza - Mikimoto

Ginza - Bulgari

Ginza - 4 C Bridal

December Challenge – 05 Green


The December Challenge theme of Green made me think of course of evergreen trees, which are a major symbol of the holiday season. I selected a Christmas wreath to represent Green, with pine cones and Christmas lights to complete the evergreen image.


This wreath hangs at my parents’ house, and for me it represents spending time with family and good memories. Do you have any favorite Christmas or winter holiday symbols? Let me know in the comments!

December Challenge – 02 Tradition


Today is the second day of the December 31-day challenge and the theme is Tradition – so I selected Christmas decorations! There is nothing like Christmas decorations to bring out your Christmas spirit. The photo below is from the Hotel Del Coronado annual Christmas tree decorations, taken in 2012. Lights, Santa Claus, and snowmen all get me in the mood for Christmas, even if the hotel is right next to the sunny beach!


Aside from decorating Christmas trees and looking at Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies and spending time with family are some of my favorite Christmas traditions.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Let me know in the comments!

December Challenge – 01 Lights


I am doing a 31-day December Challenge, and so let’s start today!


Today’s prompt is lights – and this is a photo of Christmas lights in a park that I took last year. The reflection of the multi-colored lights on the water create a colorful and festive scene!

What are your favorite light displays? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Friday: It’s Not This Time of Year Without… Illumination


Landmark Tower Yokohama Illumination

Photo Friday Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without… 

This week’s Photo Friday Challenge is perfect for the season – It’s not this time of year without… Illumination! Yesterday I talked about my Christmas wish list of things that remind me of winter in Japan, and today I have narrowed it down to the one thing that I miss most about Christmas in Japan. Illumination イルミネーション consists of Christmas light displays that range from local characters to famous Disney princesses.

Venetian Glass Museum

Santa’s escapades at the Venetian Glass Museum, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture
– photo by kei

Crowds of people mill around the light displays, taking photos and enjoying the spectacle. Couples on a date, families with children, and spectators of all ages can enjoy the illumination. Despite the cold everyone enjoys the atmosphere of the season. While there are Christmas displays in major American cities too, Japan’s illuminations are a completely different event.

Tokyo Skytree Illumination

Tokyo Skytree Town Illumination – photo by kei

Visiting different illuminations in different cities gives you a small taste of the local culture, show off amazing creativity, and I love to try to visit as many as possible. For example, the Disney princesses are located throughout Tokyo in major shopping centers, etc. So if you visit each of the areas where the princesses are, you can take photos of all of them. I suppose it’s like collecting trading cards or Pokemon!

What completes your holiday season? What about holiday traditions from other countries that you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

My Japanese Christmas List


Happy December!

It’s the first day of December, and that has me in the Christmas mood. I was thinking about what I want for Christmas today, and the top thing on my list is a trip to Japan… However, due to financial constraints and job obligations, it looks like two tickets to the island nation will not be under my Christmas tree this year 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。

So, instead of taking a trip to the land of the rising sun, I made a list of things that would make my Christmas in America a little more like the holidays in Japan.

Japanese University Christmas Trees

Kotatsu 炬燵 – a small square table with a heater underneath, usually accompanied by a futon 布団 or heavy blanket, used to keep warm in the cold winter months


You can also put a PC on a kotatsu for hours of gaming under a warm futon ^^;

Mikan みかん – a small orange, in season in the winter, often eaten while seated at a kotatsu

Christmas cake クリスマスケーキ – a sponge cake with cream and strawberries, not too sweet and in a perfect portion for two people, eaten during Christmas in Japan

Illumination イルミネーション – Christmas lights, big and fancy, done in a style special for each different location – I love strolling through light displays everywhere, from the high fashion streets of Ginza to a rural town at the foot of Mt Fuji

Christmas Illumination in Ginza

Christmas Illumination in Ginza

How does your Christmas list compare to mine? Is there a Japanese Christmas tradition that you would add? What about your favorite Christmas tradition from your own country? Let me know in the comments!

Japan Diaries Day 21 – Christmas in Tokyo


After returning from Fuji-kawaguchiko on Christmas Eve, I spent Christmas day in Tokyo with my fiance.



Christmas in America is a mainly religious holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and often involves some combination of church visits, family visits, turkey or ham and lots of other food. Even if the people celebrating it are not particularly religious, presents are exchanged and extended families gather together.

Christmas (クリスマス) in Japan is not primarily a religious holiday, and although most Japanese understand the Christian origins of the holiday, they celebrate it without a religious underpinning. Christmas presents from parents are common for families with young elementary school students, but after the 4th-6th grade (depending on the family), presents are limited to birthdays. Christmas is not commonly a holiday where extended families gather, and rather than turkey or ham, Kentucky Fried Chicken is a common holiday meal. For dessert, a Christmas cake is common. This is usually a sponge cake, topped with strawberries and whipped cream.

Rather than being a family-oriented holiday, Christmas is instead mainly regarded as a couples holiday. Couples make reservations at restaurants with special Christmas courses, and then may make a trip to a nearby love hotel. Illumination (Christmas light) events, Christmas gifts, and other Christmas-themed events are primarily directed at couples, making Christmas a very commercial holiday.

My favorite part about Christmas in Japan is the illumination イルミネーション, which is usually a very elaborate Christmas light display. The major places throughout Tokyo and other major cities offer huge, elaborate displays of Christmas lights that twinkle, sparkle, morph, and fade with timing to specific music and patterns. These displays usually happen at night, which comes early enough in winter to have a nice enjoyable show. Most illuminations start in early December, where they mostly run on weekends, and run up to Christmas, when the shows become more frequent.

Yokohama Landmark Tower

Disney’s Cinderella Illumination at Yokohama’s Landmark Tower

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