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What to Do in Osaka & Kyoto in December 2023: Christmas, New Year's, Seasonal Festivities & More

What to Do in Osaka & Kyoto in December 2023: Christmas, New Year's, Seasonal Festivities & More

Date published: 22 November 2023

December is a month full of exciting events such as Christmas and New Year's Eve in Japan. People enjoy the festive atmosphere brought by the dazzling illuminations, Christmas markets, and New Year's Eve celebrations that illuminate the country. In this article, we will provide you with a list of fun things to do in Osaka, Kyoto, and other areas around the Kansai region during December.

Table of Contents
  1. December events held at theme parks and sightseeing areas
  2. Exhibitions & Events in Osaka
  3. December Illumination Events in Kansai
  4. Christmas Events in Osaka and Kobe
  5. New Years Eve Events

December events held at theme parks and sightseeing areas

NO LIMIT! Christmas 2023 (USJ, Osaka)

NO LIMIT! Christmas 2023 (USJ, Osaka)

Universal Studio Japan's Christmas event, 'NO LIMIT! Christmas 2023,' features a Christmas tree standing over 30 meters tall adorned with energetic ornaments and illuminations.

In the popular 'Super Nintendo World,' you'll find winter decorations, including snowmen inspired by Mario & Luigi and trees adorned with Super Stars from the games, welcoming guests at the entrance.

Furthermore, you can enjoy Christmas-themed greetings and photo opportunities with beloved characters such as Minions, Hello Kitty, Peanuts, Sesame Street characters, and more. Interactions with characters dressed in Christmas costumes are sure to create unforgettable memories.

The Christmas live show, 'Frosty's Electric Snow Party,' is making a comeback after a four-year hiatus since its last performance. The show features Minions, Elmo, Snoopy, and more. Additionally, the park's new original character, 'DJ Frosty,' joins in with music and dance to energize the show.

Event Overview
Event Dates: November 21, 2023 - January 8, 2024
*Please note that event dates may be subject to change.
*For information on limited-time tickets during each period, please check the official website.

NO LIMIT! Countdown 2024 (USJ, Osaka)

NO LIMIT! Countdown 2024 (USJ, Osaka)

The annual countdown special event, 'NO LIMIT! Countdown 2024,' is also being held.

In the park's plaza, 'Gramacy Park,' the 'Countdown Special Stage' starts at 7:15 PM. It features a special stage condensed with events representing the year, such as the 'One Piece Premier Show' and 'Halloween Horror Night.'

Furthermore, from 11:50 PM onwards, approximately 4,000 fireworks will light up the park as a grand celebration to welcome the new year. During the 'Countdown Moment,' attendees can enjoy the moment of crossing into the new year with elaborate lighting and music that envelop the entire venue.

In line with the countdown, various ticket options are available, including 'Special Viewing Area Tickets,' 'Universal Express Passes,' tickets with dinners at park restaurants, and even an ultra-luxurious VIP tour, the 'Universal VIP Experience Private Tour.' There are 25 different plans to choose from, allowing you to fully enjoy special experiences during the New Year's Eve event.

Event Overview
・Event Dates and Times: December 31, 2023, 7:00 PM - January 1, 2024, 9:00 PM
*Please note that event dates and times may be subject to change.
・Ticket Prices: Starting from 14,900 yen
*Prices may vary depending on the type of ticket.

WIZARDING WORLD and all related trademarks, characters, names, and indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s23)
Minions and all related elements and indicia TM & © 2023 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
TM & © 2023 Sesame Workshop
©2023 Peanuts Worldwide LLC
©TM & © Universal Studios & Amblin Entertainment
©TM & © Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

  • Universal Studios Japan
    • Address 2-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana-ku, Osaka City, Osaka 554-0031
    • Phone Number 0570-20-0606
    • ・Hours: Posted on the official Web site
      ・Closed: Open daily

Light Amusement Park: Flowering Illumination (Osaka, Hirakata Park)

Light Amusement Park: Flowering Illumination (Osaka, Hirakata Park)

Hirakata Park is a theme park that proudly hosts an annual illumination event. It's conveniently located just a few minutes' walk away from the Keihan Electric Railway's Hirakata Koen Station. The park is home to a variety of classic attractions, including a Ferris wheel and roller coasters, as well as a small zoo, making it the perfect destination for families seeking a fun and exciting day out.

The illumination event, which takes place from November to April the following year, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023. Titled 'Flowering Illumination' for 2023, the event will focus on floral-themed illuminations. Additionally, marking the milestone year, the event will undergo its first renovation in five years.

For the first time in the history of the illumination event, seven distinct areas will be introduced, featuring their original LED called 'Ensemble LED'. Among the highlights is the debut of the 'Tree of Flowers and Fairies' (tentative title), standing at a record height of approximately 13 meters. This year's array of firsts ensures the illumination event is not to be missed.

Moreover, over 20 nighttime attractions will be spotlighted. The popular Sky Walker allows visitors to gaze down from its peak at approximately 80 meters, offering a panoramic view of the brilliantly lit Hirakata Park.

Event Details:
・Dates: Specific days from November 3, 2023 to April 7, 2024
・Time: 5 PM until closing
・Admission (Online Purchase): Adults 1,600 yen, Children 900 yen

  • Hirakata Park
    • Address 1-1 Hirakata Koen-cho, Hirakata City, Osaka, 573-0054
    • Phone Number 0570-016-855
    • ・Hours: From 10 AM (*Subject to change)
      ・Closed: Same as the days the park is closed

Sparkling Christmas (Ise-Shima, Mie)

Sparkling Christmas (Ise-Shima, Mie)

Shima Spain Village, located in Shima City, Mie Prefecture, is accessible in around two and a half hours from Osaka's Namba area. The resort area replicates the streets of Spain, providing a charming backdrop for its Christmas event. The site includes the Parque Espana theme park and hot springs, set amidst the natural beauty of the Ise-Shima region.

The "Sparkling Christmas" event, which runs from November to Christmas, features a massive 7-meter Christmas tree in the area around Parque Espana. As evening falls, the area is transformed with illuminations and light-ups, creating a romantic atmosphere that can be enjoyed by adults as well. The restaurants offer limited-time Christmas-themed dishes and desserts, allowing you to indulge in the festive mood while dining.

Event Details:
Shima Spain Village Christmas Event
・Duration: November 2 to December 25
・Ticket Price: One Day Passport - 5,500 yen for adults, 4,400 yen for ages 12-17, 3,600 yen for ages 3-11

Exhibitions & Events in Osaka

The 12th Osaka Motor Show (Sakishima, Osaka)

(Photo from past event)
(Photo from past event)

Celebrating its status as one of Western Japan's premier automotive events, the 'Osaka Motor Show' returns for another exciting four-day run. This year's venue is none other than 'Intex Osaka,' a well-known hotspot for various events and exhibitions in the Kansai region, conveniently situated within walking distance from 'Nakafuto Station' on the Osaka Metro.

Expect a diverse array of vehicles at the venue, ranging from domestic and imported cars to motorcycles. You'll have the chance to get up close and personal with the designs and functionalities of a whopping 39 different car brands, surpassing the numbers seen in the 2019 edition of the show.

But it's not just about cars at this event; there's also a delectable culinary dimension to explore. Around 60 vendors from all corners of Japan, including Hokkaido, Sendai, and Wakayama, will converge to tantalize your taste buds. From bowls brimming with crab, salmon roe, and sea urchin to succulent beef tongue and juicy hamburgers, the food offerings are so diverse that you won't be able to sample everything in a single day. Don't miss the captivating live tuna cutting show, a sensory treat held right at the venue.

Event Overview
・Event Dates: December 8 - 11
・Hours: December 8th: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM, December 9th & 10th: 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM, December 11th: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
・Venue: Intex Osaka, Building 1 & Sky Plaza
・Admission: Adults: 1,700 yen, College/Technical School Students: 1,500 yen, Late Entry Ticket: 1,300 yen

  • Intex Osaka
    • Address 1-5-102 Nanko-Kita, Suminoe-ku, Osaka, 559-0034
    • Phone Number 06-6612-8800

December Illumination Events in Kansai

Festival of the Lights in Osaka 2023 (Midosuji & Nakanoshima, Osaka)

Festival of the Lights in Osaka 2023 (Midosuji & Nakanoshima, Osaka)

Festival of the Lights in Osaka encompasses illumination events throughout Osaka Prefecture, primarily featuring the Midosuji Illumination on Midosuji Street and the "OSAKA Light Renaissance" in Nakanoshima.

The Midosuji Illumination, known for its world record set in January 2015 for the most street trees illuminated, will be even more vibrant in 2023 with the addition of landmark lasers and projection mapping.

Conversely, the "OSAKA Light Renaissance" captures the essence of Osaka, often referred to as the "city of water," by showcasing light displays that utilize the city's waterscapes.

Additionally, the digital art specialists, teamLab, participate in the Festival of Lights. At their permanent location in Osaka's Nagai Botanical Garden, visitors can experience art illuminations that harness the beauty of wind and light, featuring the Poaceae plant, Capillaris.

Event Details: Midosuji Illumination 2023
・Date: November 3 to December 31
・Time: Around 5 PM to 11 PM, only on December 31 till 1 AM
・Location: Midosuji (from Hanshin Mae intersection to Namba Nishiguchi intersection)

Event Details: OSAKA Light Renaissance 2023
・Date: December 14-December 25
・Time: Varies by area
・Location: Around Osaka City Hall to Nakanoshima Park

Wonder Night Hill 2023 (Minami Osaka area)

Wonder Night Hill 2023 (Minami Osaka area)

In Minami Osaka, a large-scale illumination event takes place a bit away from the city center. The venue is 'Sakai Green Museum Harvest Hill,' an interactive agricultural park accessible by bus from Nankai's Izumigaoka Station.

Normally, Harvest Hill offers activities like interacting with animals, athletics, cycling, go-karting, and more for physical fun. However, during the event period, it transforms into a delightful illuminated wonderland at night.

The illuminations include unique features such as a 20-meter-tall sequoia tree as a tree, glowing seesaws, chairs, and colorful candy-shaped lights. Additionally, there are cute animal-shaped illuminations like moving penguins, polar bears, and mammoths, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a zoo.

Event Overview
・Event Dates: Specific dates from October 28th to January 28th, 2024
・Hours: 5:45 PM - 9:00 PM (Last admission at 8:30 PM)
・Venue: Harvest Hill 'Town Area'
・Admission: Adults (Junior high school and above): 1,500 yen, Children (4 years and older): 800 yen

  • Sakai Green Museum, Harvest Hill
    堺・緑のミュージアム ハーベストの丘
    • Address 2405-1 Hachigemineji, Minami-ku, Sakai City, Osaka

Osaka Castle Illuminage: Tracing Osaka's History with Lights (Osaka Castle Park)

Osaka Castle Illuminage: Tracing Osaka's History with Lights (Osaka Castle Park)

The 'Osaka Castle Illuminage' is a must-visit event at Osaka Castle Park. The event takes place in the 'Nishi-no-Maru Garden,' which is located just a short walk away from the park's entrance and can be accessed from both Osaka Metro's 'Tanimachi Yonchome Station' and 'Morinomiya Station.'

The theme for the 2023 edition of the event is 'Osaka Historical Illumination - Come See All of OSAKA.' This year's theme portrays the history of Osaka, starting from the turbulent Sengoku period and spanning all the way to the present day. With approximately 3.5 million illuminations, visitors can witness the city's rich history come to life.

The illuminations, which are spread across the spacious garden, offer a great opportunity for photography enthusiasts to capture stunning photos with the iconic 'Tenshukaku' (main keep) of the castle as a backdrop. Additionally, there are moving illuminations featuring seesaws, allowing visitors to play with these glowing playground equipment. In the past, illuminations inspired by Osaka's retro gourmet dishes, cityscapes, and historical figures who made an impact in Osaka's history have been installed, offering unique photo opportunities.

Event Overview
・Event Dates: November 22, 2023 - February 25, 2024
・Hours: 5:30 PM - 10:00 PM (Open at 5:00 PM, Last admission at 9:30 PM)
・Venue: Osaka Castle, 'Nishi-no-Maru Garden'
・Admission: Adults (13 years and older): 1,500 yen, Children (1 year and older): 800 yen

UMEDA MEETS HEART 2023 (Umeda, Osaka)

UMEDA MEETS HEART 2023 (Umeda, Osaka)

Taking place across the entire Umeda area in Osaka is the event 'UMEDA MEETS HEART.' The concept is to create a winter spectacle of Umeda, allowing everyone to enjoy the entire city.

In its fourth edition in 2023, the theme is 'Meet in Umeda. Connect Hearts.' The inaugural event, 'HEART MARCHE,' features a market where you can shop around the city, along with 'HEART COLLECT,' displaying messages from children, and 'HEART SPOT,' which decorates the city with heart-shaped decorations and illuminations, creating a charming, heart-filled atmosphere.

Furthermore, exclusive drinks and Christmas food will be available at the venue, and there will also be Christmas concerts. So, you can enjoy the Christmas spirit while strolling through the city.

Event Overview
・Event Dates: December 1 - December 25
・Venue: Umeda Area
・Admission Fee: None
*Please note that the times and locations may vary by venue.

NAKED YORUMOUDE 2023 Heian Jingu Shrine (Kyoto)

NAKED YORUMOUDE 2023 Heian Jingu Shrine (Kyoto)

From December 1 - 25, Kyoto's nationally designated important cultural property, Heian Shrine, will be illuminated with projection mapping and lantern lights in the event "NAKED Yorumode 2023 Heian Shrine."

NAKED Yorimode is a new form of nighttime visitation created by the creative company NAKED, INC. This marks its third installment, and this year, an interactive art installation called the "Corridor of Light" will adorn the long walkway of the important cultural property, the Daigokuden, which is usually off-limits. Colorful lantern lights will illuminate the path.

Event Overview
・Event Dates: December 1 - 25
・Hours: 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM (Last admission at 8:50 PM)
・Venue: Heian Shrine
・Admission: Starting from 1,600 yen
*Please note that admission fees may vary depending on the date.

Christmas Events in Osaka and Kobe

Osaka Christmas Market 2023 (Tennoji, Osaka)

Osaka Christmas Market 2023 (Tennoji, Osaka)

Tennoji Park is located near JR and Osaka Metro's Tennoji Station. During December, a month-long Christmas Market will be held at the recently developed square called 'Tenshiba' and the activity facility 'Tenshiba i:na.'

The location of the market is open-air, providing visitors with a sense of freedom, and the Kansai skyscraper 'Abeno Harukas' serves as a beautiful backdrop. The square features a large Christmas tree and a photo spot in the shape of the letters 'OSAKA,' perfect for capturing Instagram-worthy moments.

Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of Christmas goods such as ornaments and nutcrackers, as well as workshops highlighting candles and flower arrangements. Additionally, there will be around 17 stalls offering German-style food such as Glühwein (mulled wine), hot cocoa, sausages, soups, and more. It's the perfect place to warm up both your heart and body.

Event Overview
・Event Dates: December 1 - December 25
・Hours: 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM (Last admission at 8:30 PM)
・Venue: Tennoji Park 'Tenshiba' and 'Tenshiba i:na'
・Admission: Free
*Food and beverages are available for purchase at each spot.

Hyogo Christmas Market 2023 (Kobe, Hyogo)

Hyogo Christmas Market 2023 (Kobe, Hyogo)

Every year, a Christmas market is held in the coastal city of Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture. The market is located at the 'Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens/Ropeway' on top of a mountain, approximately 400 meters above sea level, offering a spectacular view of the city.

This year's event is bigger and better, with a 15% expansion in selling area. Visitors can purchase authentic German craftsmanship items such as smoking figurines, nutcrackers, and cuckoo clocks, as well as Christmas ornaments and Advent calendars. German gourmet delights are also available, with specially brewed Glühwein (mulled wine) and hot chocolate on offer, providing visitors with a warm beverage to enjoy while they explore.

The venue is decorated with impressive Christmas spots, including a 'Forest Christmas Tree,' a 25-meter tall Metasequoia tree adorned with 1,600 lights, a 6-meter tall 'Christmas Tower,' and a 3-meter diameter 'Giant Welcome Wreath.'

Event Overview
・Event Dates: November 11 - December 25
・Hours: 11:00 AM - 4:30 PM
*Extended hours until 8:00 PM on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and December 25th within the event period.
・Venue: Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens 'Observation Plaza'
・Admission: Starting from 1,100 yen

Forest Sound Wonder Christmas 2023 (Mt. Rokko, Hyogo)

Forest Sound Wonder Christmas 2023 (Mt. Rokko, Hyogo)

The Rokko Morinone Museum, situated atop Mount Rokko, is a landmark of Hyogo Prefecture, featuring a unique theme centered around "sound" and "nature". Its close proximity to the Shin-Kobe Station of Kobe City Subway, a mere 5-minute stroll, makes it easily accessible to visitors. A scenic ropeway ride to the 'Museum Mae' stop offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding area.

The museum's Morinone Hall, a German-style western house, is beautifully decorated with Christmas trees and German-made ornaments, creating an enchanting ambiance for the season. The theme for the Christmas event is "German Christmas", with various exhibits and events held to embrace it. The concert room plays melodies from antique music boxes and other automatic musical instruments, further adding to the romantic atmosphere.

The interiors are festively illuminated, and throughout the event duration, concerts featuring hymns and Christmas songs are held. A market selling German ornaments and Christmas-themed music boxes is also a highlight of the event. Besides, the on-site "Forest Cafe" is an excellent place to experience a "German Christmas" while savoring traditional German delicacies and unique dishes.

Event Details:
Forest Sound Wonder Christmas
・Duration: November 24 to December 25
・Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM (Last entry at 4:30 PM)
・Admission: 1,500 yen for adults (junior high school students and above), 750 yen for children (ages 4 to elementary school)

  • Rokko Morinone Museum
    • Address 4512-145, Kita-Rokko, Rokkosan-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 657-0101
    • Phone Number 078-891-1284

New Years Eve Events

"Joya-no-Kane" is a Japanese New Year's Eve tradition where Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times to symbolize the purification of the 108 human sins and to welcome the coming year. It is believed that by listening to these tolls, people can leave behind their past sins and start the new year with a clean slate, making it a spiritual and cultural event in Japan.

Taiyuji Temple/New Year's Eve Bell (Kita Ward, Osaka)

Taiyuji Temple is a historic landmark established in 821 and situated in the heart of Osaka. The bell-ringing ceremony starts at 11:45 PM and lasts until midnight. If you queue up before midnight, you are guaranteed the opportunity to ring the bell. Moreover, if you are among the first 108 people in line, you may receive a commemorative item, making it an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Event Overview
・Event Date: December 31
・Time: 11:45 PM onwards
・Venue: Taiyuzenji, "Tsurigane-do" (Bell Tower)
・Admission Fee: None

  • Taiyuji Temple
    • Address 3-7 Taiyuji-cho, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-0051
    • Phone Number 06-6311-5480
    • Hours of worship: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM (registration closes at 4:30 PM)

Chion-in Temple/New Year's Eve Bell (Higashiyama, Kyoto)

Chion-in Temple/New Year's Eve Bell (Higashiyama, Kyoto)

Every year, at Chion-in Temple in Kyoto, the Joya-no-Kane ceremony is held. This temple was founded in the year 1212 and is renowned for its huge bell, the Daisho, which was created in 1636. The bell stands at a height of 3.3 meters, has a diameter of 2.8 meters, and weighs approximately 70 tons. It has become a famous tradition to ring this enormous bell on New Year's Eve, which is also televised.

Chion-in's bell is one of Japan's three great Bonsho (temple bells) due to its larger-than-average size. Sixteen monks work together to ring the bell, chanting while striking it. Although visitors also have the opportunity to ring the bell, it is extremely popular and often results in long lines. However, even if you cannot ring the bell yourself, you can still witness the bell-ringing ceremony, making it a highly recommended event for those who wish to experience Japanese New Year's traditions.

Event Overview
・Event Date: December 31st
・Time: 10:40 PM onwards
・Venue: Chion-in, "Daishoro" (Great Bell Tower)
・Admission: None

Other Christmas, Countdown and New Year Events in Kansai

December, which marks the end of the year, is a month filled with events throughout. From unique temple rituals on New Year's Eve to Christmas, illuminations, countdowns, and more, there are plenty of events to enjoy in Japan as you welcome the new year!

*Please note that the information in this article is as of November 2023. For the latest information, please check official websites and sources.

Written by:

Shiro Tsuchida

Shiro Tsuchida

After graduating from university, Shiro worked with an advertising agency for about a year. Leveraging her experience from a journalism club she was part of during her college days, she began her career as a freelance writer. Based in the Kansai region, she capitalizes on her local insights, writing event coverage and reports spanning genres like art, music, comedy, food, and entertainment within the Kinki area. She also handles photography. Additionally, she focuses on region-specific anecdotes and deep dives into local culture and history. Currently, she regularly contributes articles to more than five media outlets.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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