(Please note: guide at the bottom!)
I’d seen pictures of the light tunnel and gardens at Nabana no Sato on the internet and despite the lack of tourist reviews, online guides or just generally any available information in English, I really wanted to go! Thankfully Sam was up for the adventure and so we made the two hour trek to Nagoya. The Nabano no Sato winter illuminations were created to try and increase visitors to the gardens during the winter, when few flowers are in bloom. We managed to go on the penultimate day of the attraction (open from October 15th – March 31st) and so caught what I imagine must have been one of the few days where the winter illuminations are still open alongside the full sakura bloom. It was breathtaking! The landscape gardens were stunning arrays of peach, pink and white blossoms, all backlit with soft golden lights.
The light tunnel itself was huge – an endless (well, 250m) arc of golden yellow LEDs with soft twinkly music playing and tiny flowers woven into the lights. It felt like we were wandering directly into the sun or straight up into Heaven. The light tunnel opened out onto a blue and purple light garden followed by a life-size (120m wide!) LED replica of the Niagara Falls. It was incredible – my inner geek felt transported into that kissing scene in Final Fantasy X! Changing systematically through every colour of the rainbow, it was unlike anything I’ve witnessed before. I’d urge you to watch my upcoming video for a sense of scale because the pictures don’t really do it justice!
After crossing the smaller Kawaza Sakura tunnel, we spent some time soaking up the festival atmosphere in the park; stalls selling dumplings, crepes and pastries, kids running around the Peter Rabbit LED garden (seriously) and Japanese people catching the sakura blossoms and bunting. It was truly magical. If you find yourself in Japan during the winter months I would really recommend spending a full day there – it’s worth it to appreciate the cotton-candy blooms in the daytime and the unique winter lights at night.
– From Tokyo, take any train towards Nagoya (most of the Southbound shikansen stop at Nagoya). There are JR shinkansen trains with Nagoya as the destination or many headed for further south that stop at Nagoya en route.
– From Nagoya you want any bus that goes to Nagashima Onsen (there’s about 3, we took the 44). Exit the bus at the “Nabano no Sato” stop. it’s about 320 yen for the bus. Nagashima (the large complex where the garden is located) is a pretty big tourist destination for the Japanese so if you ask somebody they’ll likely be able to help and you can spot Nagashima on most maps from Nagoya onwards.
– Note that the Meitetsu bus station is on the 4th floor of the Nagoya shopping Mall..!
– Your other option is to take a JR or Kintetsu train from Nagoya to Kuwana station – we went on a Sunday when apparently these trains don’t run. From Kuwana it is a ten minute shuttle bus, costing 260 yen.
– The queues for the light tunnel begin about 45 minutes before it gets dark – the park is of a medium size so you will be able to see when a crowd starts to form if you keep an eye on the central area.
– Nagoya is a typically Japanese tourist destination and there were no english maps or signs/English speakers when we went. Now’s the time to brush up on your Japanese phrases! Check online what the entrance price is before you go so you know what kind of ticket you want to get rather than trying to figure it out once you’re there.
– Tickets (1500 yen in the winter) include a 1000 yen voucher towards food, redeemable once you get inside. So don’t bring a packed lunch!
– Also note that the trains from Nagoya back to Tokyo end around 9pm a 45 minute journey back – so don’t stay too long after it gets dark or you might get stranded!
Please feel free to ask any further questions if you’re thinking of going!