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Friday, Nov. 28, 2008

Kansai's many Christmas highlights


By TOMOKO HORI
Contributing Writer

Streets in the Kansai region have already started to sparkle with the cheerful spirit of the season. Yes, the Christmas and New Year's holidays are coming around soon. Here are some ideas on where you can get into a jolly, festive mood.

News Photo
Marunouchi Nakadori Street

The Nakanoshima district has been an up-and-coming neighborhood since the Keihan Electric Railway's Nakanoshima Line started operating in October, and it's gearing up for Osaka Hikari Renaissance.

Some 200,000 multicolored lights illuminating the outdoor arcade from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25 are striking alone, but various events are also planned from Dec. 13 to Dec. 25, including installations of sand castles brought from the Sand Museum in Tottori Prefecture, and booths selling international foods and beverages. The concourse of Nakanoshima Station on the Keihan Line will have a light tunnel to celebrate its first yuletide.

The magnificent "Wall Tapestry" show is definitely worth a look. Large-scale, colorful images will be projected on the face of the Neo-Baroque style Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library. From Dec. 13 to Dec. 25, the 10-minute show will start at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, and every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

The venue is near Yodoyabashi Station on the Keihan or subway Midosuji line, or about 20 minutes on foot from JR Osaka and subway Umeda stations. Admission is free. For more information, call the organizers at (06) 6448-1190 (www.hikari-renaissance.com).

German Christmas Market at Umeda Sky Building in Kita Ward, Osaka, is a convenient one-stop plaza to wine and dine, even shop and see a sparkly view. Re-creating an authentic German holiday atmosphere, "Gluhwein" hot spiced wine, sausages, beer, soups and sandwiches, as well as European-style ornaments are sold in stalls surrounding a 27-meter-tall Christmas tree.

On the building's rooftop, the night view of the city of Osaka is simply spectacular. Couples will find a branch of mistletoe hung in the 40th floor observatory where interior lights are dimmed to increase a romantic mood.

The market, which runs until Dec. 25, is open from noon to 9 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, noon to 10 p.m. on Fridays., and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The venue is about a 10-minute walk from JR Osaka Station and admission is free. Entrance to the observatory is ¥700. For details, call (06) 6440-3901 (www.skybldg.co.jp).

For tourists visiting the ancient capital of Japan, JR Kyoto Station Building is a convenient place for both a nighttime view and festive cheer at the same time.

In the West Zone, long escalators, going one after another, take visitors to the fourth floor where a 22-meter-tall Christmas tree is aglow, and then to the top of the building where they can overlook the ancient city.

For more information, access www.kyoto-station-building.co.jp

A quieter seasonal setting away from the crowds can be found in Arashiyama, an exclusive district in the western part of Kyoto. From Dec. 12 through Dec. 21, around 2,600 lanterns will light up the area near Hankyu Arashiyama Station and the bamboo grove near Nonomiya Shrine from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Temples and shrines in the area will be illuminated and open at night, offering a rare opportunity to enjoy night views in traditional Japanese settings.

Walking tours by English-speaking guides will be held from Dec. 12 to Dec. 21. Participants will meet their guide at 4:30 p.m. in front of Arashiyama Station on the Keifuku Electric Railroad Line, also known as Randen. The tour is from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The fee is ¥1,000 and no advance reservation is required.

For more information, see www.hanatouro.jp.

The lights of the 14th Kobe Luminarie in Chuo Ward, Kobe, will go on starting Dec. 4. This sculptural art of illuminations was begun to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and has attracted millions of people each year.

The festival will run through Dec. 15 at Higashi Yuenchi Park and the Kyu Gaikokujin Kyoryuchi area. The illuminations will be on from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Entrance is free, but the organizers urge visitors to make a donation of ¥100 when entering the lit area. The venue can be accessed from JR Motomachi Station. For more information, call (078) 303-0038 (www.kobe-luminarie.jp).

If you are looking for a warm, romantic night indoors, Billboard Live Osaka is hosting Christmas jazz concerts by American gospel singer Byron Cage on Dec. 22, Dec. 23 and Dec. 25. Tickets for seats in the table service area are ¥11,500, which includes a special Christmas supper, and ¥6,400 for seats in the casual area. For reservations and details, contact the venue at (06) 6342-7722 (www.billboard-live.com).



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