Light decorations are a harbinger of Japanese winters. Illuminations ― as they are called in Japan ― are even installed in Wakayama Prefecture, in western Japan, where the climate is relatively warm throughout the year.
This time we visited an illumination event called “Festa Luce” held at the vast resort complex of Wakayama Marina City, in Wakayama Prefecture. We went to explore the highlights of this event which combines lights with sound effects to create its experience!
We also dropped into Kisei Kuroshio Onsen, a hot spring facility located inside Wakayama Marina City. Why not treat yourself to a luxurious evening, with Wakayama’s light decorations followed by a relaxing hot spring bath?
Festa Luce in Wakayama Marina City
Wakayama Marina City is about a half-hour drive from Wakayama Station. The multi-complex facility stretches across the scenic Wakanoura area of Wakayama City. The site houses various facilities to enjoy all day that can entertain you for entire days, including an amusement park, a shopping mall, and a hot spring. It’s a popular tourist spot that attracts many local residents and tourists.
We visited Wakayama Marina City, where and the illumination event Festa Luce that takes place inside. The event was held in a corner of Marina City called Porto Europa, which is an amusement park taking up a section of Marina City.
Christmas market held during the illumination event (Christmas market took place until December 25, 2019. Photo courtesy: Wakayama Marina City)
Festa Luce adds sound effects to the lights, giving the light festival a new touch that is pleasing to both the eyes and ears. The 2019 event was the third since it became a recurring event, and took place under the theme “Winter in Scandinavia, Christmas.” It opened only on weekends and holidays, and wrapped the entire Porto Europa site with dazzling lights and uplifting music. The event drew more than 100,000 visitors from around Japan in 2018. What kind of illuminations were installed this year? Let’s explore the event’s appeal.
【Festa Luce in Wakayama Marina City Basic Information】
Duration： Saturday, Sunday and Holidays, until March 1 (Sun) 2020 *Illumination event is open every day during the week of Valentine’s Day from February 8 (Sat) 〜16 (Sun)
Fee ：adults ：¥1,500 / children（older than 3-years, under junior high school age）：¥800
*for details check the official website
A visit to the illumination event “Festa Luce”
Without further delay, let’s take a look at the illumination event “Festa Luce in Wakayama Marina City.” The event venue Port Europa spreads across the center of Marina City. It’s easy to reach from Parking Lot No.1, which is near the main gate. Walk through the gate and go straight, and you’ll arrive at the venue. Porto Europa is a detailed recreation of European streets, and every sight of it is a photogenic diorama. Bring a camera, and take time to explore the landscape that evokes a trip to Europe.
The illumination area is full of must-visit spots
“Bon Voyage” sign at the “Welcome Gate”
We purchased tickets for Festa Luce at the ticket booths and received flyers. Then we headed towards the “Welcome Gate” where a ticket taker in a cute uniform tore our tickets in half and returned the stubs.
A heartwarming gift - free heating pads
Once we passed through the gate, we found a beautiful, expansive world decorated with lights. The view immediately captivated our hearts.
Heating pads were placed near the gate. The temperature on this day was 4-degrees Celsius. Wakayama is warm, but as expected, the nighttime temperature drops significantly during winter, and heating pads are a blessing on harsh cold nights. Receive your complimentary gift and explore the light decorations.
From the entrance, a big light installation could be seen straight ahead. We spotted colorful star-shaped lights as we walked towards it. We followed the upward slope.
We climbed up the slope decorated with swaying stars.
The colorful stars swayed in the wind with gentle Christmas-like music playing in the background, making for a very pretty sight. We felt our spirits rise.
At the end of the slope decorated with swaying stars, we found the castle of Porto Europa.
The view as we climbed up the slope
As we walked towards the castle, we found a reindeer that looked real. The area beyond this point was called “Winter Forest of Lights.” There were reindeer footprints made by lights and shadows nearby, and we followed them.
We followed the reindeer footprints....
... to a magical winter forest of lights.
The reindeer footprints led to a tunnel, which connected to an area with lights falling like stars. Here, we found the reindeer’s shadow. Colorful lights emerged in the dimly light ambience, creating a magical sight.
Event title displayed in lights.
The Festa Luce event name and a reindeer shadow were projected onto the bottom of the stairs. The footsteps we had been following seemed to lead here. It’s the perfect spot for photos, with the event name displayed. We recommend framing the shot with event name in the middle.
Once past the “Forest of Lights” area, we arrived at a large open space.
Massive tree and starry palm tree
A massive tree stood in front. It was almost two-stories high and was completely covered in lights.
The palm tree next to it was also decorated with lights, and people nearby were taking photos. A stepped stage was built in front of the tree, making it a recommendable photo spot.
The spectacular ”Animal Bridge”
A bridge stood beyond the area of the big tree. On that bridge which led to the amusement park zone beyond it, we found 3 reindeer much taller than humans. This spot was called the “Animal Bridge.” While we crossed the bridge taking photos, we suddenly began to hear loud music.
”Festa Luce Aurora” takes you away to a dream-like world
This is “Festa Luce Aurora.”
Mist-like smoke emerged from beneath the bridge, onto which light was projected. The path of light constantly changed course. The mist screen receiving the light projections is constantly affected by wind, and this makes the light show a unique experience every single time. This light installation was referred to as an Aurora, but I would describe it as more like an angel’s robe. Music was also played and it helped build a mystical and captivating scene.
Festa Luce Aurora
We left the bridge following the Festa Luce Aurora show and spotted a garden blooming with roses created by light. There were a dazzling 500 flowers swaying in the wind like real flowers in a very pretty display, and the way they changed color periodically made them even more lovable.
Pretty “flower forest”
After we enjoyed the array of colorful lights, we visited an area called “Amusement Park of Light,” which combines light displays with amusement park features.
Glittering “Amusement Park of Lights”
We left the vivid light displays and visited the “Amusement Park of Lights” area.
”Teleport Arch” was intertwined with lights and sound”
As we proceeded, an arch-shaped light display came into view. This area was named “Teleport Arch” and connected the illumination area with the “Amusement Park of Lights” area. The arch here is longer than 40 meters. When you start walking through the arch ― which is longer than 40 meters ― the light and sound travels faster than you, which gives you the feeling that you are teleporting. Children love this area, and run through the arch and try to catch the light.
Passing through “Teleport Arch”
We exited “Teleport Arc” and heard music. We walked in the direction of the music and found a large dome, so stepped inside right away. The dome was called “Prism Cave.” Lights move in all directions in sync with the music, making it seem as if the dome was wrapped in music. Check out the video for the exhilarating show of music and lights.
Heart skipping ”Prism Cave”
We walked further into the “Amusement Park of Lights” and found an arch shaped wall decorated with lights. The wall named “Luminous Pieces Oval Board” consisted of many cube boxes systematically lined up. The box-shaped lights changed colors intermittently, switching between a single color and an array of hues. Many people took this photogenic location as a selfie opportunity, and took pictures with the colorful lights reflected on their faces.
Luminous Pieces Oval Board is a good selfie spot
Sphere-shaped lights that were about knee-height were installed throughout the “Amusement Park of Lights.” They were very vibrant and beautiful. These colorful spheres named “Dewdrops of Light” could be seen from afar. We remembered seeing them placed by the river when we crossed the bridge, so we headed back to the riverside.
”Dewdrops of Light” seen from the bridge
When we reached the riverside, we saw that it was lined with many “Dewdrops of Light”. It was a kaleidoscope of colors even seen up close, and this made our heart skip a beat. We continued to walk along the riverside, and noticed that among the countless “Dewdrops of Light” pieces, one showed the symbol of a hand.
We gently struck it. Then music started playing as the sphere changed color. We struck the light again several times, and this caused the remaining lights to change color too. Visit this installation, and enjoy the joyful illusion, that almost feels like you’re casting a spell on the lights.
”Dewdrops of Light” changing color
■Enjoy the attractions surrounded by light decorations
The “Amusement Park of Lights” isn’t just about the illuminations; it has attractions too, such as the WAKKA ferris wheel and a swing named “Wave Swinger.”
You’ll need tickets to enjoy the rides, but if you park at the Porto Europa parking lot, you’ll receive a “One Attraction Ticket” which entitles you to one free ride. Even if you’ve been on the rides here before, the rides offer a completely different view with the beautiful light displays during this time of the year. The amusement park’s breathtaking view is available for a limited time only, so enjoy them along with the attractions.
Warm yourself in Kishu Kuroshio Onsen hotspring
The beautiful illuminations left our hearts warm, but our bodies were left cold because of the cold weather. We wanted to soak in a warm bath.
”Kishu Kuroshio Onsen” is inside Wakayama Marina City
Kishu Kuroshio Onsen (hot spring) inside Wakayama Marina City is the perfect place to visit after enjoying the illuminations. To get here, exit from the west entrance of Porto Europa, turn right and walk straight until you see the building. It’s a wonderful spot to warm your freezing body from inside out. We were drawn into the reception area by a sign displayed on the building that read “Dip into a hot spring.”
Needless to say, it’s okay to arrive arrive empty-handed. The pamphlet that came with the illumination event ticket included a discount coupon for the hot spring, that came with a towel rental. The towel service is a nice feature, because it lets you enjoy the hot spring without having to bring a towel.
Enjoy a hot spring bath after visiting the light displays
Visitors with a towel can purchase their tickets at the ticket machine. Visitors using the discount coupon (with towel rental) need to purchase tickets at the reception desk.
Large bathroom during the day (photo courtesy: Wakayama Marina City)
We headed straight to the bath. At Japanese baths, the rule says to wash yourself before entering the tub to keep it clean. Our writer likes to soak in hot springs as long as possible so she washes her hair last, after soaking in the tub. If you wash your hair first, leave it wet and stay in the open air bath for long, the cold air makes your head cold. This should be avoided, because over-cooling the head results in poor blood circulation, which may cause headaches or neck pain.
Once we finished washing, we dipped into the bath. In line with Japanese bathing etiquette, we made sure our towels stayed out of the tub, and left them at the edge of the tub.
The moment we stepped into the water, it felt very hot because our bodies were very cold. We immediately felt our bodies relax. After we took time warming ourselves, we moved to the open air bath.
The open air bath at night（photo courtesy: Wakayama Marina City）
As we opened the door leading to the outdoor bath, we saw the night sea and ships anchored in the distance. Views like this are one of the appeals of Kishu Kuroshio Onsen.
The open air bath water was slightly cooler than the indoor bath, but our bodies gradually adjusted to it and it felt very comfortable. People who are able to stay in an outdoor bath without getting dizzy are said to breathe cold air through their nose to cool the brain. If you’re the type of person that gets dizzy easily in a hot bath, try deliberately inhaling cold air while you soak in the tub.
”Owase hinoki” pieces that were floated in the bath
We picked up wooden pieces floating in the water. They had letters reading “owase-hinoki.” Owase-hinoki is a type of cypress tree grown in Wakayama’s famed Kumano-kodo ancient pilgrimage trail, which is also a World Heritage Site. Owase-hinoki pieces are placed in the baths at Kishu Kuroshio Onsen, letting bathers enjoy fragrant hinoki baths. It’s a delightful way of showcasing one of Wakayama’s famous products.
Sadly, the sky was cloudy the day we visited, but the air was clear and it made us feel refreshed. The surrounding bamboo lights added a warm feel to the open air bath, giving the bath an even more calming atmosphere.
Our cold bodies turned warm inside and out. At the end of the day, we felt relaxed -- both mind and body. The day was a fulfilling one that felt packed with fun after the illuminations and hot springs, two of winter’s seasonal pleasures.
Wakayama Marina City’s illuminations and hot spring make for a blissful moment
The light and sound installations filled our hearts with cheer and fun, and the hot spring gave our bodies warmth and healing. The Wakayama light event was a lovely space surrounded by all kinds of warmth. We hope you visit too.
Before we go, we’ll briefly touch on the Festa Luce stubs. Show them at food and beverage shops and facilities in Wakayama Prefecture, and you’ll be eligible for discounts, gifts and other great services. For more details, check out the official website Use the stubs to enjoy your Wakayama sightseeing at reasonable prices.