Lights, Camera, Attraction!

Let there be light!

There's no shortage of holiday blessings in Japan. Not being a Christian nation has never stopped Japan from adopting this holiday as its own. And while Christmas caroling has not yet become a holiday pastime, it has joyously adopted the tradition of celebrating Christ's birthday with a cake, albeit delivered on Christmas Eve. In 2014, for many of Japan's children, Christmas comes with another wonderful present - many schools throughout the nation have its last day of classes for the fall term, with Boxing Day ushering in the two week winter vacation.

Of course, no Christmas holiday season is complete without decorations. On a cake, in the home, and out in the town, the lights and other decorations celebrate the festive spirit of season. There are many kinds of decorations, of course, with trees being a prominent motif, but Japan has a special fascination with Disney, for one, and other American animation. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Among the many special locations to see holiday illuminations is Bright Christmas 2014, with venues in Marunouchi and Minato Mirai. I can only share a bit of the magnificence of the Marunouchi venues, but it was a splendid show.

Disney is King

The crowds gathered in Marunouchi flocked mostly to the attractions from the hit movie of the year, "Frozen." Quite appropriate, since the night I went to see the illumination with the family was quite cold. Typically, the brightly lit castle inside of the Marunouchi Building in front of Tokyo Station, inspired by the ice castles in the movie, was the biggest attraction. Apparently, some people waited more than an hour in line to have their photographs taken in front of the castle! While we didn't wait, preferring to take photos from above, I suppose it is no less surprising than the lines to take photos in malls with Santa himself.


There were crowds, too, in front of the enigmatic Olaf. Curiously, there were crowds in front of some of the trees, looking up at the branches searching for a particular light. Alas, after some searching, culminated by a bit of pain in the neck, I was able to discern the special lights that were a delight to so many of the crooked neck crowd - Mickey Mouse light bulbs. The "hidden Mickey" lights were the unkept secret of the show, spurring a flurry of blurry images brought home by a majority of the digital photographers shooting for a nice pic of Mick.

Some of the Sidekicks

Smaller crowds were gathered in front of decorations commemorating other Disney movies, including Winnie the Pooh, Rapunzel, Toy Story, and Alice in Wonderland. I liked the Little Green Men (well, one of them) and the Christmas tree from Alice in Wonderland. Just as in the movie, the star was the Cheshire Cat. The grin was purrfect for the Disney-inspired illumination, the families vying for a great photo opp, and the Ferraris and Mercedes parked in the boulevard showing the passerby who rules the Financial District of the town.

The final spot we visited was the most interesting of all. Strangely absent of any holiday decorations, The "Space Adventure Story/A Heroic Exciting Story" was a tribute to Star Wars and to a variety of Marvel superheroes, including Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Ironman. Only a few of the Star Wars characters were present, with Yoda, a Stormtrooper, and, my favorite, Darth Vader. The highlight of that display was a series of ten tenugui, each depicting a different Star Wars scene or character.

The Marvel displays were mostly posters, except for the five identical Ironman statues. They may have been life-sized replicas, but they were very close to human sized figures.

These two displays were located in a deserted corridor underneath a part of the Marunouchi District, an important street called Gyoko-dori. The street is so named, because, above ground, the street leads into the Imperial Palace grounds, directly to its main gate. But underneath, between the Marunouchi Building and the Shin-Marunouchi Building, it is merely the cavernous interior passageway that leads to nowhere in particular. This makes it perfectly suited for an art gallery, of sorts, one that is pretty sparsely visited. It looks faintly reminiscent of a space dock from a Star Wars or Avengers movie, making it a highly appropriate space for the exhibit.

Being as deserted as it was, the place proved to be an excellent echo chamber. When the female of the young couple who were also passing through, asked her boyfriend, "Is he Darth Vader?" it prompted me to retort, "No, I am your father."

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