Imagine this, one of Japans’ finest and most famed winter illuminations, over 5.8 million little Light Emitting Diodes, LEDs, lighting up the darkness of a chilly winter’s night, creating romantic images of mountains, oceans, flowers, shapes and figures, set amongst immense flower gardens, open-air hot spring foot baths and spas, fine restaurants and shops.
That’s the scene at Kuwana’s Nabana No Sato, an adult and family oriented theme park abundant in facilities and rich in nature on the island of Nagashima in the middle of the Kiso River. The dazzling display happens every winter!
It’s one of Mie Prefectures best known tourist attractions, with visitors flocking to the gardens all year round. Nabana No Sato has some relaxing outdoor hot spring foot baths free for visitors to enjoy, as well as French, Italian, Chinese and Japanese restaurants and traditional shops set up around the picturesque central lake.
Nabana No Sato could be perceived as being a little expensive at 1,500 yen per person and 2000 yen during the popular winter months. However, the entry fee includes 1,000 yen worth of vouchers which can be used at the restaurants and most of the other facilities, effectively lowering admission by 1,000 yen.
Despite the fine facilities, including the large onsen public baths providing a fine flowery view, it’s the flowers that are the main draw card. The grounds are divided into various sections dedicated to many different flowers and trees. The large Begoinia Garden alone boasts over 12,000 varieties of flowers in bloom year round. The giant greenhouse features potted Andes Flower Garden and Begonia Garden flowers, and the traditional Japanese garden is another popular spot.
Weekends are popular with young couples, old couples and families too. Weekends, particularly in winter, can become very crowded, and so weekday visits are recommended.
The spring provides flower fans with cherry blossom and spring flowers, and a walk around the 8,000 square meters of gardens helps to shake off the remaining winter blues. Summer draws visitors for the hydrangea displays in particular, but also tulips and dalias. Naturally the Beer Garden and Beer Hall has it’s fair share of fans too, with a special locally brewed Nagashima Beer Garden and two other types on sale. At the end of the warmer months, the scenery changes yet again as the surrounding trees take on the hues of autumn, and late blooming flowers simply add to the color.
Without doubt, one of the main attractions is the Winter Illumination, staged between mid November and mid March. Each year there’s a different theme to look forward to, and opening night is always much anticipated with any number of celebrities called in to help count down to the flicking of the switch that makes it all come alive.
Regular illuminated attractions include the walk-through tunnel of light, very popular with romantically linked couples, the cloud of lights, and every year one of the major flower garden areas is transferred into a fairyland-like dazzling display.
Winter visitors will want to rug up well, as Nagashima can become very cold, with the occasional snow fall not out of the ordinary. In fact, snowfall could well be a welcome bonus, as the illuminations light up the falling snow adding to the beauty.
On a chilly winter’s night, it won’t be the cold that gives you goosebumps, but the amazing illuminated spectacle before you. With the flick of a switch, the night becomes an oasis of light.
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Chris Glenn is an Australian born radio DJ, TV presenter, helicopter pilot, and advertising copywriter. A follower of samurai culture , he is a member of the Japan Armor and Weapons Research and Preservation Society, has black-belt in Kendo, 2nd black-belt in Chanbara sword fighting disciplines, and currently studies Shinkage and Enmei Ryu techniques. A long term resident of Japan, he is extremely passionate about preserving and promoting Japanese history and culture.