Christmas may not be as big in Japan as it is in the Western world, but locals still love to celebrate the last month of the year with illuminations, drinks and, in recent years, vibrant holiday displays.
Warm your soul with these remarkable end-of-year events going on around Tokyo this December.
Tokyo Christmas Market
There a few holiday markets that have popped up recently around the capital, but the most authentic (and largest) is the Tokyo Christmas Market held in Hibiya Park from December 14 through 25. This particular event has the backing of the German Tourism Association and the German Embassy.
The glee-filled gathering resembles traditional European Christmas markets in every way: German food, drinks, the smell of nutmeg, the Yuletide atmosphere — an imported wooden Christmas tower from Dresden even serves as the show-stopping centerpiece.
Stay warm with gluhwein (mulled wine) and hot chocolate while you watch live entertainment and shop for handmade ornaments, snow globes and gingerbread delicacies.
One thing Japan does well is lights, with venues competing to create the best illuminations, especially during December. This year, Tokyo Dome City hosts a remarkable Winter Lights Garden of Japanese-themed radiance through February 17.
Wander through kaleidoscope-like tunnels and displays made of more than 2 million LED lights, and be sure to marvel at the gloriously lit, hand-stitched Gifu Prefecture umbrellas.
With free admission, this particular showcase is a great pick, offering nearly endless Instagram opportunities. Between snaps, grab a hot drink and go on a romantic ride on the lit-up Ferris wheel to take in the view of Tokyo by night.
Festive Afternoon Tea
The Peninsula Tokyo gets into the spirit of the season with a Christmas-themed afternoon tea held in its richly adorned lobby through December 26.
Stop by the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel for a pot of organic tea served alongside a holiday-inspired platter of the most exquisitely crafted sweets. The festive bites include tiny edible snowmen, snowflake-topped chocolate mousse, miniature Santa hats and Christmas trees — they are almost a shame to devour, but they taste as good as they look.
As a gesture of goodwill, proceeds from each Festive Afternoon Tea are donated to a local charity.
Countdown to the New Year
After events surrounding December 25 come to a close, ring in the New Year in glamorous style at Four-Star Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s Oak Door Bar.
Don your glitziest attire for an exclusive countdown party, which will be highlighted by free-flowing champagne, caviar and exotic bar bites. DJs and live performers ensure you’ll enter 2019 entertained.
And if you aren’t ready to hang up your hat at when the party ends at 2 a.m., you can continue the revelry in the neighboring Roppongi nightlife district.