Japan: Tokyo/ Odaiba (Venus Fort)

It is with some degree of certainty that a visit to Tokyo would more than likely include a stopover in Odaiba, a popular shopping and entertainment district on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay.

Odaiba originated as a set of small man-made fort islands (daiba literally means “fort”), constructed towards the end of the Edo Period. Their purpose was to protect Tokyo from impending naval attacks. More than a century later, the small islands were joined into larger islands by massive landfills, and Tokyo began an optimistic development project aimed to turn the islands into a futuristic residential and business district. But development was critically slowed after the burst of the “bubble economy” in the early 1990s, leaving Odaiba nearly abandoned.

It was not until the second half of the 1990s, when several hotels, shopping malls and the Yurikamome elevated train line were introduced, that Odaiba developed into one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist attractions and date spots with a wide selection of shopping, dining and leisure options.


However, from a tourist’s point of view, the most interesting shopping areas located in Odaiba has to be Venus Fort.


Odaiba - Venus Fort Mall w Changing Sky


Opened in 1999 inside Palette Town, Venus Fort was designed to resemble a 17th century European city and serve as a venerable shopping paradise for younger women. Venus Fort is separated into three floor themes: Venus FAMILY, Venus GRAND, and Venus Outlet! The second floor, Venus GRAND has a painted ceiling that is illuminated throughout the day to reflect day and night. For those of you who have been to Las Vegas, this floor is very reminiscent of the Venetian Hotel with its painted ceiling and canals. On the third floor, Venus FAMILY floor there is an arcade, pet stores, gift shops and best of all, a mini theme park known as Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise. The theme park includes a gift shop, restaurant and play area designed to please the young and the young at heart. Venus Fort has approximately 170 boutiques and restaurants and boasts having Japan’s biggest lavatory with 64 stalls. If that doesn’t please the ladies who hate to wait in line to use the facilities, I don’t know what will!

Venetian Hotel - Las Vegas

Venetian Hotel – Las Vegas

Now in its 15th year and flanked by other trendier shopping areas like Aqua City, Venus Fort still continues to attract locals and tourists throughout the year. But, one of the more enjoyable times to visit is during the holiday illumination event which typically runs from November 1st through mid-March. The holiday lights come on at noon and come on every one hour and 30 minutes until 10:30 PM. The pure white lights above Fountain Square resemble snow descending to the ground. There is also a Christmas tree that appears to float on air!









The mall also hosts a Christmas Market from Dec. 6th – Christmas day offering holiday goods and special holiday food items (tabemono/ nomimono). A live musical performance by various artists is featured on December 24th and 25th at 4:00 PM and again at 6:00 PM.

If you are fortunate enough to be in Tokyo during the holiday season, why not spend a day at Odaiba and make a point of visiting Venus Fort. You will be glad that you did. Happy holidays!


Japan: Tokyo (Tokyo Skytree Dream Christmas)

During the winter holiday season, the Tokyo Skytree and the areas surrounding it are brilliantly decorated with about half a million LED lights transforming it into a magical winter dreamland. The illumination event, known as the Tokyo Skytree Dream Christmas, usually takes place from the beginning of November through the end of January.

The Christmas lights are turned on at 5:00 PM and remain on until 11:00 PM. There is a special projection mapping event, which takes place at the Tokyo Solamachi Sky Arena (4th floor) daily. The show repeats every half hour beginning at 5:30 PM with the last show taking place at 8:00 PM.

Further, the Solamachi shopping complex hosts a German Christmas Market with little wooden stalls selling everything from holiday ornaments to traditional Stollen, warm glühwein, waffles and fudge. The market combines nicely with the winter illuminations creating a holiday atmosphere for all to enjoy.

If you are fortunate enough to visit the Tokyo Skytree during the holiday season, combine a visit to the tower’s observation decks with a stop at the Christmas Market.  The experience will leave you with an unprecedented appreciation of Tokyo during this magical time of the year.

The Tokyo Skytree is a 20-minute walk across the Sumida River from Asakusa. It can also be accessed by train using the Tobu Isesaki Line (Tokyo Skytree Station) or the Asakusa Subway Line (Oshiage Station).






The Solamachi stairs are illuminated with snowflakes



写真 1










1-1-2, Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 131-0045



Japan: Omotesando (Omohara White Christmas)

Omotesando is a popular neighborhood of Tokyo and its main street, Omotesando-dori is a tree lined thoroughfare featuring international brand boutiques, museums, art galleries, small restaurants, bars and quaint cafes. Each year from early November through December 25th, the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando, a luxurious six-level department store, hosts a holiday promotional event known as Omohara White Christmas.

The event is held on the Rooftop Terrace, which is beautifully illuminated in accordance with the selected theme, from sunset until 9:00 PM each day. A brief music and light show is presented in 30-minute intervals where the lights change color creating a different mood each time.

The terrace features a large wooden deck where chairs, couches and swings are spread out throughout the entire space. This affords both public and semi-private seating where couples can cozy up and enjoy the beautiful illumination. After all, in Japan, Christmas is a time of romance!

On the opening day of the event, a musical performance featuring a popular musician/ idol is presented as the skies above Omotesando darken. At the conclusion of the live event, the celebrity flips a switch illuminating the entire rooftop terrace to the delight and admiration of all those present.

The department store is located 4 minutes on foot from the JR Yamanote Line’s Harajuku Station. Shop hours are from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM, if you want to get in early to do some Christmas shopping before settling in to enjoy the holiday lights. The restaurant, Bills, is open from 8:30 AM to 11:00 PM if you want to grab a casual meal before or after the event.

Tokyu Plaza Omotesando

Tokyu Plaza Omotesando










Leo Ieiri

Leo Ieiri




Address:              4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

Web page:

Japan: Tokyo (Shinjuku Terrace City Illumination)

Only one minute on foot from the south exit of Shinjuku Station, you will find the Shinjuku Southern Terrace. Opened in April of 1998, it is the southern portion of Shinjuku Terrace City and home to several shops including Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Eddie Bauer and Franc Franc.  Shinjuku Southern Terrace hosts many different events throughout the year and starting in mid-November, running through mid-February, it plays host to the Shinjuku Terrace City Illumination.

The area stretching from Odakyu Department Store to the Southern Tower is ablaze with blue and white lights during this event, attracting countless visitors. Like other illumination events around town, the LED lights used during this event are all powered by renewable energy resources, placing Japan far ahead of the game in the area of conservation.

The theme for the event changes annually therefore different illuminated structures that are compliant with the theme are utilized in addition to the LED lights. Be sure to check out the night sky ceiling which can be found at the Shinjuku MyLord’s Mosaic Street. This is where you will find many couples walking hand-in-hand under the beautifully illuminated night sky.

Shinjuku Terrace City is easily accessible via the JR Odakyu Shinjuku Station.












Shinjuku MyLord’s Mosaic Street

Shinjuku MyLord’s Mosaic Street

Night Sky

Night Sky


Shinjuku Terrace City webpage:



Holidays in Southern California: Manhattan Beach Holiday Fireworks

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Beach Pier

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Beach Pier

Every year since 1989, Manhattan Beach has hosted its Annual Holiday Fireworks at the Manhattan Beach Pier.  The pier located at the  west end of Manhattan Beach Boulevard is transformed to reflect the spirit of the holidays with music and activities provided before the fireworks show.

This year, the event took place on Sunday, December 8th.  The festivities got underway at 3:30 PM with a concert provided by Hyperion Outfall. Skechers sponsored a Snow Park with five 50-foot sled runs, two snow play areas and snowmen available for family photos.  A donation of canned goods, cash or a new, unwrapped toy was requested for admission to the Snow Park. There was even a Santa float where kids could have their pictures taken with Jolly ‘Ol Saint Nick.  After the concert, spectators were able to take part in a sing-a-long with the fireworks show beginning at 7:00 PM.

The fireworks which lasted about 25-30 minutes was synchronized to holiday music and filled the South Bay skies with bursts of color.

The event is very popular and draws large crowds therefore it is advisable that you arrive early particularly since parking in the area can be problematic even without the street closures which usually accompany the event. The best area from which to view the fireworks is along Manhattan Beach Boulevard or along the strand north and south of the pier. If you do not care about hearing the music, you can even see the fireworks from Hermosa Beach Pier.