With a total of around 700,000 colorful LEDs lighting up the natural setting of the expansive Bihoku Hillside Park in Shobara, these are some of the best known winter illuminations in the area and many people make the 90 minute drive from Hiroshima to enjoy them. Most visitors, as at most illuminations in Japan, are families with young children and couples looking for a romantic setting. This year there were also a good number of Asian tourists in the mix. Although the winter of 2015-16 has so far been largely snowless, the park is often under a blanket of snow during the illuminations, which, I am sure, enhances both the views and the atmosphere.
The Dreamination illuminations in Hiroshima city center are also undoubtedly popular, but they are on the gaudy side so we didn’t have great expectations of the Bihoku lights. I am happy to say, however, that we were pleasantly surprised. It was lovely to see the little forest of “fresh” or real Christmas trees, all decorated by local kindergarten kids and other local groups. The main area did have a some quite cheesy installations but the natural features of the hillside and trees were illuminated to great effect. Best of all, though, was the very tastefully illuminated “Hiba-no-sato” recreation of a traditional rural village, complete with lanterns floating in terraced rice paddies, a gorgeous “winter sakura” cherry tree in bloom and an art installation consisting of colored paper umbrellas among a bamboo grove. Here too you could enjoy bowls of sweet bean zenzai soup either under a kotatsu or outside around a roaring fire. It was this area that made it well worth the trip.
The Fresh Christmas Tree Forest
Lots of Hearts!
Main Area Hillside Illuminations
Inside the farmhouse rest area
Art exhibit on upper floor of farmhouse rest area
Bihoku Hillside Park is about 10 minutes by car from Shobara Interchange on the Chugoku Expressway.