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Shimmering lights plentiful this holiday season

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2011-12-16

Colorful lights are twinkling and casting their glow off the night skies of Okinawa, a sign that Christmas is just around the corner. There’s no snow, of course, but holiday lights are traditional, and here, the illuminations are fantastic.

From north to south, there’s plenty to see, and most are idyllic scenes to photograph and send home or post on Facebook. The Renaissance Okinawa Resort is illuminated for the season, with a 15-meter-tall blue “Ocean Tree” that’s dominating the lobby through Christmas Day. In addition, 13 illuminated blue dolphin figurines that seem to dance across the surface of the pool, and 80,000 Christmas lights illuminating the beach area from sundown to midnight will be on display through February 29th.

Add to that the East-meets-West multi-ethnic Golden Buffet being served in the Sailfish Café on the resort’s first floor, Renaissance Okinawa Resort is ready for the holidays. The all-you-can-eat buffet is themed after the Silk Road, and features a variety of cuisines and desserts from Okinawa, Japan, and other Asian, Middle Eastern and European countries. The illuminations view is free to diners, with the weekday adult lunch ¥2,000 and ¥2,800 for dinner.

The 13th annual Itoman City Peaceful Illumination is a holiday tradition at Peace Memorial Park. Created by Okinawa Prefecture University of Arts students, the illumination fills Itoman City with fantastic beams of light. Peace Memorial Park, the site of the last fighting during the Battle of Okinawa at Mabuni in 1945, forms the backdrop for the illumination. Entry fee is ¥200 for adults and youth 15 and older. An estimated 120,000 will make the trek south to take in the splendor of more than 600,000 light bulbs in the display. There will be fireworks Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and a countdown adds to the excitement as visitors herald in the new year.

The illumination runs daily 6 p.m. ~ 10 p.m., except New Year’s Eve when it is operational until 12:30 a.m. A series of events make it more than just a bunch of light bulbs twinkling and shining. Laser shows will be staged Saturday night at 8:45 p.m., Christmas Eve at 8:30 p.m., and Christmas Day at 7:45 pm. Fireworks shows will light up the skies Christmas Day night at 9 p.m., and ringing in the New Year at midnight December 31st.

And if that isn’t enough, there will be two Peaceful Concerts, one Sunday night from 7 p.m. ~ 8:30 p.m. featuring the Ryukyu Performing Arts, and one Friday, December 23rd, an orchestra performance No. 9 from 7 p.m. ~ 8:30 p.m. Christmas Eve Ryukyu Disco and Dastamas perform on stage, while Christmas Day Zukan entertains. On New Year’s Eve, Ryu-UNIT will handle the New Year’s countdown.

Winter Elegance 2011-2012 in in place at Okinawa Outlet Mall Ashibina, complete with powder snow falling on the venue’s open space. The daily event takes place at 5 p.m., 6 pm., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. each evening. “The Lights of Hope” is the Ashibina theme this year, as tenants and mall management hope for, and extend best wishes to East Japan for revival in the aftermath of the March 11th Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.

Winter Elegance paints a “winter of fashion” for the season, which runs through March 11th, with the popular illumination expected to draw tens of thousands. The beautiful powder snow that falls each evening, together with the dramatic lights and illuminations, make Ashibina a location not to be missed.

Christmas Fantasy 2011 opens soon at Okinawa Zoo Park, complete with tons of snow. The year’s first snow will be December 23rd, the opening day of the 16th annual Okinawa Zoo Park Christmas Fantasy. The six-day holiday special event will feature a taste of real winter, as fantasy creators open a snow amusement park and shelter made of snow, where visitors can play, slip and slide with a sleigh, and also get into snowball fights. The shelter’s made of real snow.

Okinawa’s best known laser show is a part of the Christmas Fantasy, a skillful blend of lasers, fireworks, snow and soap bubbles. The million dollar hill is the perfect place for watching the Christmas Fantasy illuminations. Okinawa Zoo Park will operate the lights, snow and firework super Aurora attraction from 4 pm. ~ 9:30 p.m. each day, with events starting at 4:30 pm.

It snows in Kodomo-no Kuni daily, offering a White Christmas complete with opportunities to build snowmen and have snowball fights. The snow forecast calls for the powdery white stuff to flake down daily. Adult and high school student tickets are ¥1,700 in advance, or ¥2,000 at the gate. Children’s tickets for youngsters 4 through junior high school are ¥1,000 in advance or ¥1,200 at the gate. Tickets are available at MCCS Tours and Kadena ITT. Parking is available at Okinawa Zoo Park, Okinawa City Office and Koza Sports Park.

There are dozens of activities at the Okinawa Zoo Park, including Sakura Road, where Japanese cherry trees are lit up, a Lightning Palm Street is suitable for a tropical island Christmas, and there’s the zoo and a children’s open space. Daily performances include comics, street dancing, the snow falling shows at 5:30 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 8:40 p.m.

It’s a fun time to drive around the island, taking in the businesses who’ve transformed their properties for the holiday season. Many of the island’s resort hotels are getting into the holiday illuminations and spirit, as well, including Kanucha Bay Hotel and Villas’ holiday illumination. This year’s Kanucha Resort Stardust Fantasia is more than elegant, a stunning blend of one million lights glowing in the night, as well as a 12 meters high Christmas tree poolside. Inside, the hotel’s restaurant offers a special couples celebration for an anniversary or a surprise night.

Stardust Fantasia runs through February 14th. Advance admission is ¥1,000 per group/mini-car or car. The admission is ¥2,000 at the door for groups or large cards. The illumination is from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., except for New Year’s Eve. Guests at the hotel view the illumination free. Kanucha Bay is located in northern Okinawa, across the bay from Camp Schwab.

Hotel Nikko Alivila has swathed its primary Christmas tree with soft, gentle candle colors The illumination fills the patio, poolside and main entrance areas, offering a romantic setting for the holidays. Inside with 80,000 LED illuminations using green electrical power that’s favorable to the environment, the Patio Illumination runs through March, with even a six-meter-high twinkle tree in operation. The Hotel management says it’s proud of its green approach, which doesn’t release CO2 when producing electric power, linking reduction to limited use of fossil fuels, and plenty of sunlight and solar power.

The Beach Tower Okinawa is staging it s Christmas Illumination Fantasy through Christmas Day. The fantastic lighting throughout the hotel’s lobby, entrance and restaurant is designed to brighten the holiday experience. The Beach Tower Okinawa will have a large Christmas tree in the lobby and a good number of events across the season, including an original Christmas cake made by the hotel’s patissier, and a three-day Christmas special dinner. The lights are on daily from 5:30 pm.

Not to be outdone, the Christmas season has arrived at Mihama American Village, where the entire village is covered with Christmas lights. The youth town, ferris wheel, the movie theater and shopping area are all decked out with illuminations, including white Christmas trees made of white flowers. Look closely, as there are Santa Claus Christmas decorations and plenty of illuminations. The lights are on every evening starting at 6:30 p.m. through January 10th. Best of all, admission to the Mihama American Village area is free.

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