The activity of watching beautiful night views has always been a popular one. Amazing cityscapes all lit up and illuminated parks have fascinated both locals and tourists in big cities all around the world.
Even in Malaysia, many have enjoyed viewing the Petronas Twin Towers, and the KLCC Lake Symphony Light and Sound & Water Fountain shows at night.
But did you know that in Japan, there is a special term for this activity? To the Japanese, this favourite pastime is called yakei. Translated into English, yakei means “beautiful night views”.
The Yakei Summit 2018 (Japan Night View Tourism Festival 2018) was held for the first time in Kuala Lumpur recently. It was hosted by the Yakei Convention & Visitors Bureau Japan, and attended by Nagasaki City vice mayor Katou Kunihiko, Tourism Malaysia International Promotion Division (Asia/Africa) senior director Datuk Musa Yusof, and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents deputy president Mohd Akil Mohd Yusof.
The summit introduced guests to what yakei is all about. Reportedly, the culture started with the Sapporo White Illumination in 1981. Since then, yakei has grown to become a top travel trend in Japan, with brilliant light installations transforming cities into a breathtaking visual experience.
“Kuala Lumpur is our chosen location for the event this year as we feel the Malaysian capital’s beautiful night views and cityscape are comparable to that of Japan’s. So, it is only natural that we introduce more Malaysians to our dazzling array of yakei attractions.
“We hope to transform the travel experience of all Malaysians to Japan by sharing the best sensory treasures our country has to offer,” Marumaru Moto-O, director of the Yakei Convention and Visitors Bureau said at the event.
The Yakei Convention and Visitors Bureau was established in 2012, and there are more than 160 yakei facilities registered with the organisation so far.
The summit featured these six key yakei locations in Japan:
Sapporo is Japan’s fifth largest city. Besides being famous for beer, skiing and its annual snow festival, Sapporo is also known for yakei. In fact, this is where the trend began. A good place to enjoy night views of the city is from Mount Moiwa and Sapporo TV Tower.
If you’re visiting during winter, don’t forget to check out the Sapporo Snow Festival. The snow sculptures are illuminated at night too.
Nagasaki is located at a natural harbour and surrounded by hills. Its name means “long cape” and most remember this Japanese city because of a momentous moment during World War II when it suffered a nuclear attack. There is an Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park set up in remembrance of this event.
Its coastal location makes it a good spot for enjoying yakei as the city’s night lights reflect on the waters of the harbour. A good spot to enjoy the night view is from the Nagasaki Ropeway.
Located 80km north of Tokyo is Ashikaga, known for the Ashikaga Flower Park, where you can enjoy the seasonally illuminated gardens. Particularly popular are the park’s wisteria blooms, which are beautiful by day, and dazzling when illuminated at night.
Other tourist spots in the city are Kurita Museum with its porcelain collection; the 12th century Bannaji Temple with its centuries old ginkgo tree, the red lacquered Orihime Shrine at the Orihime Park; and Ashikaga School which dates back to the 1400s.
Fujisawa is another popular yakei spot in Japan. Head to the Shonan Observatory Lighthouse, more popularly known as Enoshima Sea Candle, to see the beautiful lights.
It is located at Enoshima Tropical Plants Garden (also known as Samuel Cocking Garden), a small botanical garden on the island of Enoshima in Fujisawa.
There are observation decks at the tower for you to view the shoreline and sea. The Enoshima Sea Candle also lights up at night.
Tokyo is one of the major places to enjoy yakei. Head to Oi Racecourse (also known as Tokyo City Keiba) to enjoy one of the largest illumination events in the area.
Known as Tokyo Mega Illumi, the festival features splendid illuminations that are exclusive to a racecourse, as well as displays on people and culture. Besides being a racecourse, the place also hosts the largest flea market in Tokyo during weekends.
Katsuyama is a rural city that is surrounded by breathtaking mountains. Due to its unique geological features and the numerous dinosaur fossils discovered here, it became a Japan Geopark in 2009.
Head to Ski Jam, the largest ski resort in Western Japan which offers three mountain parks, and 12 different courses. There are also natural hot springs and an indoor pool at the resort.
This is a good spot for yakei with its GeoIllumination display, featuring several grand dinosaur themed illuminations.
The best seasons to enjoy the yakei experience are spring, autumn, and winter. This is because the weather is ideal for walking around the facilities or admiring the city lights from mountain tops.
Each season features different themes, ranging from historic eras, gardens, and even dinosaurs.