Osaka’s winter illumination goes to new heights.

November 11 is a special day in Japan for many reasons. For some it’s Pocky Day and for others it’s Good Sales Day or even National Cheese Day. But for Christmas fans in Osaka it’s the day that Umeda’s annual winter illumination kicked off.

Winter illuminations are common events all over Japan, and in Osaka one of the larger light displays is set up around the vicinity of Osaka Station and its neighboring shopping complex Grand Front. In keeping with Japanese Christmas tradition, its romantic array of lights makes it prime real-estate for dates to stroll along before or after dinner and a movie.

However, with COVID-19 ruining most things this year, illuminations were largely in question. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that Grand Front decided to defiantly make their Christmas display bigger than ever for Grand Wish Christmas 2020.

Fittingly, this year’s theme is “Winter Voyage: A Journey of Hope to Connect the World” which alludes to the travel restrictions that kept everyone locked inside their respective corners of the globe during most of 2020. 

In the spirit of a wish to return to free movement, this year’s Christmas tree is actually a Christmas hot-air balloon surrounded by several other balloons carrying trees high into the air. The balloons and trees are all decorated with buildings, plants and animals from around the world both as part of the display, and projected onto it.

Four trees hang around a gigantic balloon shaped centerpiece, and each tree represents one of four locations: Europe, New York, Africa, and Bangkok. I’m not sure why two continents and two cities were selected, but it still looks nice.

The entire display was so huge that nobody got too close to it. The only way to get a good picture of it was to stand back at least 10 meters or so. I’m not sure if it was intentional in the design, but it was a good way to naturally discourage people from crowding together too closely.

Good views could also be had from at least the first four floors of the complex, allowing people to spread out even more and enjoy the view.

Also, about every 15 minutes there’s a mini projection mapping light show. Considering the travel restrictions this display is lamenting, most of our readers probably can’t come to Osaka to see it. So as a little early Christmas present, we will bring it to you right now.

And as always, the road itself is brightly lit up with about 400,000 LEDs strung up on 126 trees in the area. Osaka doesn’t normally get a lot of snow, if any, but the lights really help to give a pleasant winter atmosphere to the streets.

Other little touches can also be found, like the famous giant green bear art installation, called Ted Hyber, in Umekita Plaza all dressed up in an “Ugly Christmas Sweater.”

And with just the right bokeh, you can make it look like a little toy.

The downtown streets can get especially chilly at night, so to escape the elements there’s also a photography exhibition titled “It’s a Beautiful Planet.” Featured artists include Yukie Yasuhiko, Yayoi Aimoto, Kenji Sato, Isao Nishiyama, and Takeshi Miyamoto.

The displays are scattered around the same building as the balloon trees, and although they look small, they have QR codes attached so you can learn more about the works on your phones.

With such an early start and running until Christmas Day, there’s plenty of time for everyone to see these displays without it getting too crowded at once. So, be sure to check out this area of Osaka if possible, but remember to do it safely. The only way this Christmas wish will come true is if we all overcome our current situation.

Event Information
Grand Wish Christmas 2020 / グラン ウィッシュ クリスマス 2020
11 November – 25 December

Winter Voyage Tree / ウィンター ボヤージュ ツリー
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Kita-ku, Ofukacho 3-3, Knowledge Plaza
大阪府大阪市北区大深町3−3 ナレッジプラザ
Illumination Hours: 5 p.m. – Midnight (Weekdays), 4 p.m. – Midnight (Weekends, Holidays)

Ted Hyber: Ugly Christmas Sweater / テッドイベール -アグリークリスマスセーター-
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Kita-Ku, Ofukacho 4-1, Grand Front Osaka, South Bldg. Fountain
大阪府大阪市北区大深町4−1 グランフロント大阪 南館 水景

It’s a Beautiful Planet / やっぱり世界は美しい!~It’s a beautiful planet~
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Kita-Ku, Ofukacho 4-1, Grand Front Osaka, North Building 3F – 6F Event Spaces
大阪府大阪市北区大深町4−1 グランフロント大阪 北館 3階・4階・5階 イベントスペース、6階 ウメキタフロア

Photos ©SoraNews24
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