Five Essential Night Views in Japan

Travel

Some of the best night views in Japan, which combine city lights and natural beauty for a romantic mood.

Marumaru Motoo, a connoisseur and producer of yakei (night scenery), chooses his five favorite night views in Japan. The changing seasons and weather bring different charms through the year.

Yokohama Panorama

(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)
(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)

Ōsanbashi International Passenger Terminal (Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture)

The rooftop observation deck on the passenger terminal—open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—offers a 360-degree view of Port of Yokohama that includes such distinctive sights as the Bay Bridge, the Red Brick Warehouse, and the Cosmo World amusement park.

“Yokohama really goes all out with its night view, particularly in the winter season, when there are many special features like searchlights on the ground that light up the sky and projection mapping. All of this can be enjoyed from the observation-deck view.” (Marumaru Moroo)

Tip from Marumaru:

“From twilight to the ‘blue moment,’ when the ocean becomes tinged with blue, the lights from the Ferris wheel and Red Brick Warehouse begin to stand out. The color transitions are really marvelous.”

Port of Yokohama Photogenic Illumination, a delightful illumination experience produced by Marumaru, is being held at the observation deck until Tuesday March 31, 2020. The nighttime installations include a lit-up gift box that frames Minato Mirai in the distance as well as a picture frame that captures the sparkling Yokohama Bay Bridge in the background.

Nagasaki’s “10-Million-Dollar Night View”

(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)
(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)

Mount Inasa (Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture)

The view overlooking Nagasaki at night, with the unique beauty of the city’s topology, was chosen as one of Japan’s three great new nighttime views in 2018, along with Sapporo and Kitakyūshū. The view from Mount Inasa is known as the “10-million-dollar night view.” A glass-sided observation deck sits atop the 333-meter mountain, accessible by ropeway. A panoramic view opens up ahead, including the lit-up Megami Bridge and the city streets and buildings below.

“A characteristic of the night view of Nagasaki is the rising land. When you look out from a high vantage point, some of the points you are viewing in the distance are also elevated, so the night view in front of you is around your eye level. This creates a truly unique spectacle.

“Currently a unique project is underway related to the night view of Nagasaki. The city has added special ‘night-view lights’ for the view from Mount Inasa. By attaching these to the top of streetlights, light can be shone in the direction of the observation deck. Programs are used to change the colors so people looking down can see hearts, constellations, and various other shapes. The system is set to go into operation from March 2020.”

Tip from Marumaru:

“A night view is like a canvas of light, but the canvas is not entirely filled with light. The bright spots are interspersed with areas of darkness from such places as graveyards or parks, and those spaces might look like hearts or animals. Mount Inasa is a spot where visitors can fully savor the enjoyment of viewing those dark spaces within a night view.”

Light Spreads Across Sapporo

(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)
(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)

Mount Moiwa (Sapporo, Hokkaidō)

Another of the three great new night views in Japan is Sapporo. An observation deck on the 531-meter peak of Mount Moiwa, accessible by ropeway, offers a sweeping view of the city of Sapporo. Stretching out far and wide below is the spacious land of Japan’s great northern frontier.

“The beauty of this night view comes from the expansive landscape of Hokkaidō. The population of Sapporo is rising steadily, so the lights in the city seem to increase every day. One might expect that the city of Sapporo would be extremely bright, as Hokkaidō’s great urban center of 1.9 million residents, but the silhouette offered by the nearby mountains is also magnificent.”

Tip from Marumaru:

“This time of year, you can expect snow. One delight of the night view in Sapporo is that it combines the lights of the city with the beauty of the surrounding nature, so be sure to experience the beauty of the snow-covered landscape.”

Mount Fuji in the Night Sky

(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)
(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)

Nihondaira Plateau (Shizuoka, Shizuoka Prefecture)

Nihondaira is a 307-meter hill near the coast of Suruga Bay that offers a panoramic view taking in Mount Fuji far in the distance and Shimuzu Port down below, as well as the Izu Peninsula and Southern Alps. Visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view atop the hill at the stylish Nihondaira Dream Terrace observation facility, which opened in November 2018.

“This spot is certified as Night View Heritage of Japan. The top attraction is the winter view of Mount Fuji at night, especially during a full moon. The view of the snow-covered mountain, bathed in moonlight and rising up in the night sky, is a marvel to behold.”

Tip from Marumaru:

“In front of Mount Fuji are the orange lights of the wharf, the lights of the city, and a Ferris wheel, making the night scene look like a picture postcard that conveys the spirit of Japan.”

Savor the Night Lights in a Hot Spring

(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)
(Courtesy Yakei-Isan Secretariat)

Mitama Hot Spring (Ichikawamisato, Yamanashi Prefecture)

This natural hot-spring facility run by the local town sits atop a 370-meter hill and offers an uninterrupted view of the Kōfu Basin, Southern Alps, and Yatsugatake Mountain Range. The splendid natural scenery changes with the seasons, offering verdant green in spring, bright foliage in autumn, and a snowy landscape in winter.

“This is another site that was certified as Night View Heritage of Japan. Visitors can view the magnificent panorama while soaking in a hot spring. Deeply absorbing the wonderful night view into the cells of your body while soaking naked in the soothing water is the ultimate in relaxation and freedom.”

Tip from Marumaru:

“It’s marvelous to watch the orange-tinged sun setting on the horizon. Along with the hot spring, there are dining options, so you can comfortably spend a lot time at the facility.”

Getting the Most Out of Night Views

Here are some points to keep in mind to appreciate night views to the fullest and take great photos for Instagram.

Tips for Appreciation

“I think night views look most beautiful when you think in terms of the view being one-third light and two-thirds sky. If there is too much light, it can be overwhelming to the senses and fatigue your eyes. It’s best to relax and maintain the right balance while enjoying a night view.”

Tips for Photos

“I recommend using a timer for photographing night views. The shutter speed slows down when a camera takes a photo of a dark place, so the timer function can prevent blurriness from the camera shaking when pressing the shutter. A tripod is another way to prevent blurry photos, but if you don’t have one you can rest the camera on something or even use someone’s shoulder.

“One thing to definitely avoid is the strobe function. Be sure to turn it off, because extra light will enter that will not suit the exposure. Recently cameras are being equipped with a ‘night-view mode,’ so you can use that to easily take great photos.”

Marumaru Motoo

Japan’s preeminent yakei (night scenery) critic. Also a producer of yakei and illumination. Holds three Guinness World Records. Has served as Night View Tourism Advisor for cities around Japan. Official website: Marumaru Motoo’s Super Yakei Website

(Orignally written in Japanese by Fushimi Kaori and published on TV Tokyo Plus on January 12, 2020.) 

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