Candle Night

Candle Night Winter Solstice 2005: Lantern Light @ Omotesando


22 December 2005


It was a chilly winter night for the December 22, 2005 Candle Night event. Across the street from the new Otomesando Hills construction site in the final months of opening-day preparations, soft, warm light danced along the street at this festive, bi-annual event.

Lantern Light

This winter was the fifth time for the Lighting Detectives to be involved with Candle Night, a countrywide event. Since last summer, the local event has moved from Cat Street, a small side street connecting Harajuku and Shibuya, to the more visible stage of Omotesando.

The catch-slogan for this event, “Turn off the lights and take it slow.” is a reflection of a movement to rethink our positions on the environment, energy conservation, and the modern lifestyle. The local Omotesando venue is a festive stage with individually designed lanterns taking center stage, as they are displayed and carried by volunteers up and down the street. Shopping-bag lanterns, zelkova tree motif lanterns, umbrella-shaped lanterns with reflecting light, and even necklace-inspired lanterns…all the hard work of local university students. At 8pm a special promotion video on the huge, Jingumae Intersection digital display board kicked off the evening and grabbed the attention of those unfamiliar with the event.

Zelkova Tree Light

In front of the Oriental Bazaar, glowing, zelkova tree motif lanterns were lined up at the entrance to represent the rows of flourishing trees along Omotesando. Votive candles were placed on the bars of the store shutter, spelling out “candle night,” a focal point for the display and event.

In the image of Omotesando the simplicity of the zelkova tree motif was applied to three styles of lanterns: a wall-mounted lantern, a handheld lantern, and a freestanding lantern. The wall-mounted lanterns were attached to the shutter in the form of a large zelkova tree, creating a great illuminated tapestry. The freestanding lanterns were arranged in front of the tapestry representing the rows of trees along Omotesando. Volunteers then carried the handheld lanterns up and down the street for all shoppers and pedestrians to see. Omotesando came alive with what seemed like a sea of small illuminated trees. The local Harajuku-Omotesando Community Board also was pleased with the representation of the symbolic zelkova tree in the lanterns.

What about Tokyo Tower?

Since the winter 2004 event, the candle installation in front of Yachio Bank, created from only 1-yen coins, is a call to turn off the lights of Tokyo Tower during this 2-hour event. The 30,000 1-yen coins used in the installation, represent the daily electric operational expense to illuminate Tokyo Tower. The 1-yen coins were connected in 1m x 10m strips and draped above candles, also set in candleholders made from 1-yen coins. The warm, flickering candlelight reflecting off the coins is a direct appeal to “Turn of the lights and take it slow.”

Shopping-bag Lanterns


The main lure of Omotesando is, of course, shopping. Hundreds of shops and boutiques line the boulevard and alleyways with many more famous brand names to occupy Omotesando Hills in February 2006. A shopper strolling down the street with a shopping bag in one hand has become a natural part of the daily streetscape of Omotesando. It is the age of the consumer with the ability to buy anything, anytime, anywhere. The concept of the shopping-bag lanterns is to remind us of that thrill of shopping and the importance placed on a something new.

The lanterns are inspired by a time when you were a kid and you finally got that something new on your wish list. The storekeeper placed your purchase in a shopping bag and you carried that bag with the utmost care as you made your way home. It’s a big message to convey in a small lantern, but this lantern has become a regular for the event since it’s first debut along the Cat Street venue.

It is a simple design. Candles rest inside a translucent shopping bag of varying sizes to be toted up and down the street. A twice a year design-overhaul of this lantern has breed a high quality design and a sure crowd-pleaser.

Candle Workshop


Through the collaboration of The Tree of Life and Kameyama Candles, a candle workshop was set up on the fifth floor of The Tree of Life Harajuku Store. Workshop participants wrote messages on small cards to be placed inside a candle. As the candle burns, the wax becomes transparent, revealing the enclosed message.

Participants were armed with a pen in one hand and warm thoughts of special person in their heart for this simple, but appealing workshop, as all 100 candle making sets were gone within the first hour!

This was only one two-hour event one wintry night, but exclaims like “Oh, how pretty!” from pedestrians made it all worthwhile for event staff and volunteers. We are in the works for another creating another magical Candle Night event for summer 2006. Stay close for details, it might even be better than the last!

Saiko Tanuma