THEY stand in the rolling waves, watching the boat come in on a blue sea of sparkling winter light – but nobody so much as gets their feet wet.
This is Nabana no Sato, where more than eight million LEDs light up the Japanese darkness in one of the world’s most evocatively eye-catching winter lightshows.
Visitors stroll through the lights as the incoming boat visits realms of water, air, earth and fire, the sensational scenes played out on, and around, a 30m high, 150m wide sculpture.
It’s the fantastic finale of a visit to the flower park in Kuwana City, next to Nagoya which, each winter, becomes a wonderland through which flows a river of light, between gardens and hot spring baths.
We’re in the company of Brit ex-pat Kendal James, who is opening up her adopted country’s attractions to a wider audience via live-streamed, free-to-join, tours on the heygo platform.
And each time we round a corner, Kendal informs us: “This is good but you haven’t seen anything yet…” You usually take such claims with a pinch of salt but this time she’s on the button.
After a stroll from the restaurant, which looks at first glance like a chapel, we follow the 120m river of lights. From time to time, the lights shift and change colour, and LED waterfalls flow.
Steam rises from hot spring footbaths along the route, adding to a winter scene that at times looks like something from the Frozen movie. We pass a 1,000 year-old tree bathed in green light.
And then there’s the first of the showstoppers – two linked 100m- long tunnels of lights which feature some 1.2 million LED lights, each representing small cherry flower petals.
It’s an apt attraction given that, for the rest of the year, the park is famed for its floral finery, particularly during the Sakura cherry blossom season which starts in spring.
But we’re here for the lights, particularly the spectacle toward the end of the tour, which can be appreciated from a distance, from above (thanks to a viewing platform) or from within.
Visitors walk through the strings of lights as the action plays out above them, and the boat makes its way through crashing waves, fiery flames, and to the mountain as turtles swim below.
At one point a huge, and very happy-looking, whale pops up to takes a look round before diving deep into the ocean again with a final farewell flick of its flukes.
It’s enough to warm the cockles of your heart on a winter’s night – and, be warned, it can get pretty chilly so wrap up warm. The occasional snowfall can add even extra magic to the proceedings.
Lest you be concerned all the electricity being used in these tough times of energy crisis, the good news is that the entire installation runs on solar energy thanks to panels throughout the park.
Nabana no Sato is located at 270 Urushibata, Komae, in Kuwana City. The park is open from Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 9pm, and at weekends and public holidays from 9am to 10pm.
The light displays, which started last month, run all the way through to May 31, 2023 and are turned on a few minutes after dark.
To catch more of Kendal James’ Japan tours online, head to her heygo channel. They’re free to join, although tipping is encouraged, and offer a ‘postcard’ snapshot facility (all images here were captured that way) and live chat with the guide and fellow travellers.
Read more: For reviews of more Heygo tours, see my heygo archive.